SEQ Addresses MWBE Inequality at Townhall
BY JADA VANDERPOOL
On Tuesday night, Queens entrepreneurs, district leaders and activist and founder of The Black Institute Bertha Lewis blasted New York City and state economic leaders and depository banks at a town hall forum on discriminatory practices against Minority and Women Owned Businesses.
Amid recent reports from City Comptroller Scott Stringer, of the city’s poor job on giving contracts to MWBEs in late September, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his goal to award city contracts to 30 percent of MWBEs by 2021. Yet the announcement may be too late and far too few.
“I think they can do more than 50 percent if they put their minds to it,” state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said at Tuesday’s forum. Other elected leaders present were Council members Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), Donavan Richards (D-Laurelton), I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park).
According to the Empire State’s Development 2010 New York Disparity case, overall, in New York’s marketplace, MWBE availability in construction was 22.74 percent, MWBE availability in CRS procurement was 24.3 percent, availability in services procurement was an estimated 37.04 percent, and in commodities, just 27.05 percent.
In conclusion, the report found that many African-American and other MWBE businesses face “large and statistically significant disadvantages in the market for small business credit.”
In TBI’s latest 2016 report “Access Denied,” MWBE’s still face lack of access to capital, challenges in administrative support, systematic exclusion from public bids.
“If you do not have access to capital, then you can’t pay employees, you can’t take on a significant amount of jobs, and far too many of our MWBE’s do not have that access,” said Crowley. “We need to hold our banks and financial institutions accountable.”
“I organized ACORN (The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), and people thirty years ago who sent their sons and daughters to college, who came out, did the right thing and want to become business people, and yet because of their ethnicity and race, discrimination is still there,” said Lewis.
The Survey of Small Businesses and Finances states that a firm has a higher chance of being denied when it is owned by a minority “by matter of magnitude.”
The report also states that less than five percent of businesses are MWBEs. Blacks, Hispanics and women start businesses with half of the money as Whites.
Miller referred to an article that stated that for the first time in history, Queens is the first major county where Blacks make more than Whites, but the state of the businesses and operations in the neighborhoods of higher income differ.
“There is a problem when the economics ad earnings are consistent with the services and opportunities, and that’s what we’re here to talk about,” said Miller.
“You’re not going to come in and take advantage, you’re not going to control our land and we not benefit from it.”
TBI constructed a list of demands to encourage the increase of thriving MWBEs. The five policy demands are to: 1) Direct 1 percent of New York City Pension Fund investments toward M/WBEs in New York City, 2) Direct 1 percent of New York State Pension Fund investments towards M/WBEs across New York State, 3) Create $1.6 billion of fair-rate loans to M/WBEs from New York Depository Banks, 4) Diversify New York City and State depository institutions, 5) Establish M/WBE requirements in State and Federal Community Reinvestment Acts and 6) Establish a New York State Public Bank.
“Nobody really thinks about the strivers, and that’s fine, low wage workers, no employment minimum wage, these are important,” said Lewis. “But the members who I organized thirty years ago, their sons and grandsons and daughters wanting to do the right thing are still being discriminated against.”
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