This month, Rep. Wheatley discusses legislation to help minority-owned businesses by counteracting systemic barriers such as lack of access to finances.
Photo: Office of Rep. Wheatley
It’s no secret minority-owned businesses have faced an uphill battle from the beginning. Throw in the impacts of a global pandemic, and the odds are even more heavily stacked against their favor. With a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant, it is clear the pandemic is not over, and neither are the challenges so many of our local businesses continue to face.
The reality is, systemic barriers—like a lack of the financial resources that are consistently available to white businesses—are obstacles Black business owners faced well before COVID-19 came along, and these struggles have just intensified because of it.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found small business ownership in the United States dropped between February and April of last year, but Black ownership fell 41%—the greatest decline among all racial groups. Minority-owned businesses are not only facing financial struggles, but they also face disparity when it comes to being selected for work. We’ve heard from 63 different testifiers during five public hearings regarding the impediments that small and minority-owned businesses face relating to obtaining a fair share of the state work funded by taxpayer dollars.
But much-needed help could soon be on the way. I’m proud to stand next to the Wolf Administration as they introduce legislation to create the Pennsylvania Participation Program for Construction and Design Professional Services. This would develop race and gender-neutral measures to facilitate the participation of all firms in the commonwealth’s procurement activities, create a directory of small businesses and diverse businesses, and ensure these businesses are solicited on procurements for which they may be suited, among other provisions.
This legislation will make it so that small, minority-owned businesses aren’t pushed to the bottom of the list when the commonwealth seeks companies to complete any construction and/or design projects. This legislation will make sure all companies are considered by the commonwealth, regardless of size or who the owner is. That’s the way it should be.
I’ve long been a champion for small business inclusion. I’ve chaired the House Select Committee on Minority Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (MWDBE) and appointed a seven member select committee to investigate the awarding of commonwealth contracts, and to ascertain the degree to which non-traditionally owned businesses have been awarded contracts by the commonwealth in contracting and procurement activities. That’s why I support the Administration’s efforts to rid our state of these exclusionary practices.
With what we are seeing from the pandemic and its impacts on minority-owned businesses, now more than ever we must open business opportunities.