A proposed law would require Monroe County to consider minority and women-owned business when it awards contracts.
“We know that when you have minority businesses, over 70% of employees are people of color,” said Legislator Ernest Flager-Mitchell, who introduced the legislation Oct. 26 on behalf of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus. “That gives folks an opportunity to be able to work on behalf of their family so they can have a good living wage. That’s what the whole purpose of this is.”
The bill is called Gantt’s Law for Utilization of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses. A public hearing must be held before the proposal can be brought before the full legislature. Flagler-Mitchell said he hoped the bill could pass by the end of the year.
“This is history,” he said. “Never has Monroe County had a law that said you have to look for minority and women businesses to do county projects.”
Federal and state laws require that minority and women-owned enterprises be considered for taxpayer contracts.
The proposed Monroe County law would go beyond what the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus said has been good-faith efforts. The law would require guidelines for what constitutes a minority or women-owned business, create a directory of those businesses and expand the use of those businesses in all areas of county procurement.
Reporting guidelines would be set up and goals would be set for the use of minority and women-owned businesses.
Flagler-Mitchell said many minority business owners have told them they don’t know how to apply for county contracts, and so annual training would be held to help them over the administrative hurdles.
The law would guard against the businesses being used as pass-throughs, or facades, said Vince Felder, who stood with Black and Asian Democratic Caucus members Flagler-Mitchell, Sabrina LaMar and Frank Keophetlasy as the proposal was introduced. Calvin Lee Jr. was unable to attend.
Felder said the checking personnel records and following up once the contract is awarded are ways to make sure the work is being done as the contract stipulates.
The proposal continues efforts to ensure equity in county government.
County Executive Adam Bello moved to create the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
In July, Flagler-Mitchell and Republican Matthew Terp co-sponsored legislation for the Diversity Action Plan. The legislation required each county agency to have a diversity plan for hiring, promoting professional development, having a welcoming and inclusive workplace, set diversity goals and monitor progress.
Gantt’s Law, named for late state Assemblyman David Gantt who also served in the county legislature, would further codify those efforts.
“We want to make sure when we’re long gone from here, this is something the county should always look at,” Flagler-Mitchell said.