Legislators Hear Testimony about Challenges MWBEs Face in Securing Public Contracts

 

Legislators Hear Testimony about Challenges MWBEs Face in Securing Public Contracts

 

Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity hearing follows release of the New Jersey Disparity Study earlier this year

 

(TRENTON) – The Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity today heard from business leaders and other stakeholders who addressed obstacles facing women, persons of color and veterans in securing government contracts.

 

Today’s hearing was the latest in a series of listening sessions legislators held to gain insight and feedback following the release of the New Jersey Disparity Study earlier this year. The study, which examined contracting opportunities related to goods and services, professional services, and construction, determined that disparities exist for minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) seeking government contracting opportunities. The study can be found here.

 

“We are on the cusp of a pivotal moment in our state’s journey towards equity and justice. With the release of the long-awaited disparity study, we now have a clearer understanding of the systemic inequities that persist in the allocation of government contracts,” said Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity. “The study’s findings provide valuable insights into the challenges and barriers that have hindered equitable access to opportunities for far too long. Together, we have the power to change the paradigm and create a community where every individual, regardless of race or ethnicity, has an equal opportunity to thrive.”

 

A copy of Assemblyman Wimberly’s opening statement can be found at the bottom of this press release.

 

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, Chair of the Assembly Community Development and Women’s Affairs Committee, testified at today’s hearing. She noted that her committee heard testimony last week from business owners who worked as prime- and sub-prime contractors in construction, goods and services, and professional services. The Assemblywoman mentioned that the MWBEs spoke about the challenges they faced, including onerous paperwork, calls by prime contractors for work that the MWBEs could not do, just to “check a box,” and forced waivers for prompt payment.

 

“MWBEs employ individuals locally, who will spend within their communities and throughout New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic), who is also Chair of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. “Our MWBEs are not looking for a social hand out but an economic opportunity to work and deliver. It is up to us to deepen our work and create target procurement awards for state contracts in all areas. This is a Legislative Black Caucus priority for this session.”

 

In this video below, Assemblyman Wimberly explains the need to find solutions to address disparity in contracting.

 

 

 

 

The full text of Assemblyman Wimberly’s opening statement:

 

Good morning. Thank you for your time in attending what will be a very active joint committee surrounding the release of the administration’s disparity study.

 

I first want to mention Senator Ron Rice, who fought hard for equity and equality on this joint committee, the disparity study shows we still have much work to do.

 

We are on the cusp of a pivotal moment in our state’s journey towards equity and justice. With the release of the long-awaited disparity study conducted by Mason Tillman Associates through the Office of Governor Murphy, we now have a clearer understanding of the systemic inequities that persist in the allocation of government contracts.

 

This report, a culmination of meticulous research and analysis, leaves no room for doubt about the depth of profound disparities faced by minority-owned businesses in our state. Its findings provide valuable insights into the challenges and barriers that have hindered equitable access to opportunities for far too long. And as much as it confirms the truth of what is a painful reality for Black New Jerseyans and minorities at large it brings statistical evidence into the awarding of government contracts across various ethnic and gender groups. It is time to improve it.

 

For those of us who have a personal stake in this issue, as someone who has sons who are entrepreneurs, students who are advocates, aspiring lawmakers, and all of our neighbors who are marked as marginalized people in pursuit of a just life, the findings hit close to home. We understand the profound impact these disparities have on the livelihoods and opportunities of individuals and families.

 

As you’ll hear throughout the day the numbers are indeed startling. From construction to professional services to goods and services, the disparities persist across all categories, leaving minority-owned businesses severely underrepresented and underutilized. According to the study, minority-owned businesses in our state have collectively lost billions of dollars in potential government contracts. For example, Black Americans, who represent 9.19% of available construction businesses, received only 0.14% of the dollars on construction contracts valued over $65,000 to $5.71 million. This potentially cost these businesses $209 million. Similar disparities are observed for Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans and women amounting to a total loss of an estimated more than $813 million across these groups.

 

The statistics presented in the report are not just numbers; they represent the lived experiences and aspirations of countless individuals and families in our community. They underscore the urgent need for action to address these disparities which have a domino effect on employment, homeownership, poverty rates, healthcare, education and the economic fragility of our overall community infrastructure.

 

As we prepare to invite testimony, let us approach it with openness, empathy, and a shared commitment to justice. Let us use this moment as a catalyst for change, rallying together to advocate for legislative solutions that address the root causes of these disparities and pave the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future.

 

We will have a package of bills, we will introduce in the near future, as OLS is working on.

 

Together, we have the power to change the paradigm and create a community where every individual, regardless of race or ethnicity, has an equal opportunity to thrive. Thank you for being present. Let’s proceed with inviting each of you to share your testimony.

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