A study completed in November last year but made public on Tuesday drew a harsh response from RIBBAthe Rhode Island Black Business Association Thursday. The State of Rhode Island paid Mason Tillman Associates half a million dollars to complete Disparity studywhich finds evidence of discrimination against black and women-owned businesses by the state.
Under Rhode Island General Law 37-14.1, minority business enterprises (MBE) and female business enterprises (WBE) must be targeted to participate in all procurement and construction projects and must receive a minimum of ten percent of the total procurement or project value. The disparities report found statistically significant disparities in the awarding of procurement and construction contracts.
“Why did it take them so long [to release the Disparity Report]“, asked the executive director of RIBBA Lisa Ranlin. “Are you just protecting your political interests? … Are you simply protecting your desire for higher positions?
“The other thing I have to note is that the people who did this study are nowhere this year to answer questions…because they turned in the report last year,” said Lisa Ranlin. “The state, when they shared the report recently, they didn’t answer any questions. They actually disabled the chat function. Questions had to be submitted by email.
the National Bureau of Economic Research (NUMBER) disorganized estimates that between February and April, the number of black businesses nationwide declined by 41%, the largest change of any racial group included in the study. On the other hand, the study estimates that the number of white companies has experienced a drop in activity of 17% over the same period.
During the pandemic, the former Governor of Rhode Island Gina Raimondo suspended the MBE/WBE law. “34 million dollars was spent to build the makeshift hospital for COVID-19[feminineaucun dollar n’est allé aux entreprises commerciales des minorités et aux entreprises commerciales féminines.
Un projet de loi qui priverait le gouverneur de la possibilité de renoncer à la loi MBE / WBE en cas d’urgence a été adopté par l’Assemblée générale, mais n’a pas encore été signé par le gouverneur Daniel Mckeea déclaré Lisa Ranglin.
In response to the disparities report, RIBBA has compiled a list of solutions:
- Establish a contract compliance office outside government to monitor and enforce MBE commitments
- Mandate When a prime contractor fails to meet the goal of awarding 10% of the prime contract to an M/WBE, that prime contractor must submit good faith documentation showing efforts to engage and hire minorities or women , a requirement that has existed since 1996
- Investigate complaints of non-compliance and develop corrective action plans as needed
- Implementation of MBE/WBE monitoring of complete data on subcontracts awarded by project managers
- Increase the procurement participation target for Black and Latino contractors to reflect the growing minority population in RI
- The state must set up and financially support organizations that support black businesses so they too can grow and prosper
- Issue an executive order to establish preference in state contracts where black and brown people are the predominant group to be served or when contracts are cited in a neighborhood where the population is 20% or more in the minority
- Commit at least 20% of funding to economic development for Black and Brown communities
- Intentionally work with organizations led by Black and Latino leaders
- Increase loan funds available through Black and Latino organizations
- Establish clear lines of authority with the Attorney General’s office or other legal entity to ensure enforcement
- Implement a salary audit system for use by prime vendors and their subcontractors to independently report payments from prime vendors to subcontractors on government contracts.
At a press conference on the north steps of the Rhode Island State House, Lisa Ranglin didn’t mince words. “Let me say, big and bold, Rhode Island gets an F – you hear right an F – total F – when it comes to following their own law …
“This law has been in effect since 1986 – and guess what? We have just learned that they have complied with this law twice – 2018 and 2019.”
Former State Senator Harold Metts sponsored MBE legislation as a new member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 1986.
“You don’t know how frustrating it is for me – all this time has passed and still very little progress has been made,” Metts said.
“The State of Rhode Island spent $500,000 to study something we already knew,” the state representative said. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell. “We knew there was discrimination when it came to hiring black and brown businesses and minorities. We didn’t need studies to tell us that…”
“The reports have been made. The recommendations have been made. We know the details. We know what needs to be done – and it’s time for big, bold action,” said Mary Ann Matthewsexecutive director of the Multicultural Innovation Center. “It’s just political will.”
“I have been accused, for the past 30 years in Rhode Island, of supporting special interest groups and I am here to say that I am guilty of the charges,” said Jim Vincentpresident of the NAACP Providence Branch. “And those special interest groups are the black and brown communities of Rhode Island.
“There must be an independent compliance office, with the power to sign off on all purchasing and supplier checks that go out [the State House] carries.”
“We talk about economic equity and the possibility of creating wealth within our communities,” said Mark Fisher of Black Lives Matter. “And it starts with minority businesses and women’s businesses…”
When the MBE legislation was passed, there was backlash, said Casby Harrisona lawyer with Harrison Law Associates. “It’s too much. It’s reverse discrimination. It’s an assumption that it’s even necessary. And a national organization has challenged the constitutionality of the state’s minority company status,” says the attorney Harrison “They were suing the state of Rhode Island, saying it was unconstitutional, it hurt the majority community – it’s not fair – it’s not justified.”
Attorney Harrison was one of the attorneys who successfully defended the law’s constitutionality, but three years later the United States Supreme Court ruled that statistical proof of discrimination was necessary to prove the need for such laws.
“So there was a study of economic disparities conducted by the state of Rhode Island in the early ’90s, and guess what it found?” asked attorney Harrison. “He found the same thing as the economic disparity study we’re talking about today.”
“This governor has a unique opportunity to right this wrong. He is a candidate for re-election. We need him to step in,” Lisa Ranglin said, returning to the mic. “We are absolutely sick and tired – sick and tired of the crumbs.”
Governor Daniel McKee released the following statement:
“As the Governor said at his weekly press conference, he is fully committed to increasing diversity and minority business participation in the public procurement process and knows it will take an intentional strategy to achieve this.
“In addition, we plan to announce a new Director of Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity next week.
“The review of the disparities study, which includes spending data from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2017 and was commissioned by the previous administration, is still ongoing.
“This work requires that all stakeholders have a voice, which is why the Department of Administration and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity (ODEO) held study briefings last week, including one specifically for stakeholders and another for all certified MBEs in Rhode Island. ODEO will continue to consult and seek feedback from stakeholders to determine what can be done to improve the MBE program, make it more accessible to the MBE community, and increase usage.“