NYC’s minority- and women-owned businesses still falling short in obtaining city contracts, pols say

Minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) in the Big Apple are not only not getting enough city contracts, but also didn’t get enough of the pandemic financial relief made available, City Council members reported Monday.

Council members Julie Won, Chair, Committee on Contracts; Julie Menin, Chair, Committee on Small Business; and Francisco Moya, Chair, Subcommittee on COVID Recovery and Resiliency held the April 4 meeting focused on the state of M/WBEs in the city as part of the overall economic recovery.

During the hearing, the impact of COVID-19 on M/WBEs (Minority and Women owned Business Enterprise) and Introduction 14, a bill that would require the Division of Economic and Financial Opportunity with the Department of Small Business Services and the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services to use the most recent data available when considering revisions to citywide M/WBE participation goals, as well as supporting minority and women owned businesses.

“From the small business committee perspective, I am interested in a productive conversation on how we can jumpstart the recovery of minority owned businesses and increase utilization rates of M/WBEs,” said council member Julie Menin. “Minority owned businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the economic devastation caused by the pandemic. According to national data, Black owned businesses were more than twice as likely to close than White owned businesses.”

According to Menin, a controller survey from June of 2020 found that 25% of M/WBE members surveyed said they did not apply for federal or city funding during the pandemic because of restrictive application criteria needed to qualify for aid.

The council members agreed this seemingly discriminatory process for aid or funding relief was grounds for revisions to the citywide M/WBE participation goal. Furthermore, council member Julie Won insisted and indicated that many city agencies were not meeting their pledge to hire or sponsor at least 30% of women or minority owned businesses and services.

“[We are] still falling short of the 30% M/WBE contracting goal,” said council member Won. “Only a handful of city agencies are shouldering the load for the administration’s responsibility for M/WBE contracting. Much more remains to be done to ensure mayoral agencies are also working the 30% utilization goal.

Council members also announced during the hearing that they would be working to edit and amend certain aspects of the M/WBE protocol to partner with more city agencies in order to strategically identify possible contracting areas that have a high number of M/WBE firms, build out and maintain a list of prequalified firms and get contracts in the pipeline that utilize these qualified lists in order to further support M/WBE.

“Transparency and sharing data on those disparities and in our efforts to close them, are pillars of the city’s M/WBE program philosophy,” said SBS Deputy Commissioner Dynishal Gross. “The data we rely on and share should be as current as possible. The city is committed to making New York a more equitable and inclusive place for M/WBEs to operate. We know that working closely with the council is critical to achieving this shared goal.”

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