RI Legislative Black and Latino Caucus calls for accountability and a commitment to minority owned businesses after report details years of non-compliance

 

STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Black and Latino Caucus, chaired by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), is calling for a commitment from the governor to uphold state law by awarding 10 percent of state contracts to minority and women owned Rhode Island businesses.

The call from the Caucus is in response to a recently released report compiled by the Department of Administration (DOA) concerning the state’s compliance of the law requiring businesses on the state’s Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) list to be awarded 10 percent of all state contracts.

Currently, there are 769 businesses on the MBE list.  The report can be found here: http://odeo.ri.gov/disparity-study/.

“The data we were presented with was concerning, frustrating and extremely disappointing.  The fact is that the state was breaking the law for many years and there has been no accountability for failing our minority and women owned Rhode Island businesses.  Although many of us were already well aware of this unfair reality, now that the data has been crystalized in an official report, perhaps now people will pay attention to what we have all been saying for years.  The state needs to do better and it needs to follow the law,” said members of the Caucus.

The Caucus notes that over the last six years, the state has complied with the law only two times, in 2018 with 14.69 percent and in 2019 with 13.09 percent MBE participation.  The Caucus was particularly disappointed with the numbers from 2015 at 4.07 percent; 2016 at 6.33 percent; and in 2017 at 7.71 percent. 

The report states that there has been no enforcement action or penalties for non-compliance during the studied years.

For the year of 2020, MBE’s had a participation rate in state contracts of 7.86 percent.  Although the Caucus recognizes the difficulties of the pandemic, they also point to the fact that the 10 percent requirement was waived during the state of emergency.  This led to Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) to introduce legislation (2021-S 0549A / 2021-H 5746A) which prohibits the waiving of rules and regulations relating to minority-owned businesses involved with state contracts during periods such as a declared state of emergency.  The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has become law.

The Caucus also highlights from the report that of the 10 percent of state contracts that are supposed to go the MBE list, white-women owned businesses are four times more likely to secure a state contract and Portuguese-owned businesses were two times more likely to secure these contracts compared to minority-owned businesses.  The Caucus sees these facts as evidence that minority-owned businesses are being excluded even from the law that was created to support and protect their businesses.

“This information is revealing and the Caucus looks forward to reviewing the report’s recommendations to rectify this problem.  Our hard working minority and women owned businesses deserve better and we will continue to advocate on their behalf to ensure that the 10 percent state law is enforced and followed.  In order to do this, we are looking for a commitment from the governor and administration officials that this law of fairness will be respected in order to help the minority and women owned businesses of Rhode Island, especially after the devastation of the pandemic,” concluded the Caucus.

The Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus (RILBLC) represents and advocates for the interests of disadvantaged people throughout the State of Rhode Island. It seeks to increase a diverse participation and representation in all levels of government. The goal is to close, and ultimately to eliminate, disparities that still exist between white and non-white Americans in every aspect of life.

 

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