Hundreds of federal agencies grant funds to states and local governments that are then utilized by those governments to procure goods and services. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires governments to provide equal opportunity for minorities (later extended to women) in the public procurement process. Yet, only two federal agencies require the grantees or sub-grantees (states and local government) to have a program to ensure that minority and women owned businesses (MWBEs) have equal opportunity of obtaining the federally-funded state or local contracts or sub-contracts: the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The USDOT first required states and local governments to set a 10% Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goal with the passage of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982. Later USDOT expanded the requirement to aviation and transit grantees and also allowed grantees to set their own goals based on local firm availability. After passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act, the EPA began requiring grantees to set DBE Fair Share goals.
Several federal agencies provide millions of dollars each year to states and local governments, much of which is spent through the procurement of goods and services, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health & Human Services, Labor, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. For example, each year thousands of universities, school districts, and charter schools receive federal grants or sub-grants from the Department of Education. These grantees are told to comply with the equal opportunity contracting provisions of the Civil Rights Act, yet they are given no guidelines or resources. Nor is there any monitoring or accountability of performance on this provision.
When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) passed, many clamored for making sure the contracts went out to diverse communities and tracking the funding stream. Yet aside from USDOT and EPA funds, there was no infrastructure to do this. It is time for all federal agencies, using uniform program guidelines and uniform certification processes, to require all grantees and sub-grantees to comply with the 1964 Civil Rights Act by setting goals, including outreach to diverse businesses, and setting up an infrastructure through state/local MWBE offices or USDOT-funded DBE offices. And I can help them do that.