- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
As Congress looks to pass a second stimulus, groups that represent small, minority and women-owned businesses are eager to assess how much their companies have benefited from the $787 billion infusion of cash pushed through by the Obama administration 11 months ago.
A report by the Kirwan Institute, which studies race and ethnicity at Ohio State University, has been tracking the dollars and found that 34 percent of the $39 billion direct federal contracts awarded last year went to small businesses — 7.6 percent of those are owned by women, 3.5 percent by Hispanics and 2.5 percent by African Americans.
The picture is hazy because nearly 80 percent of stimulus funds have flowed through state and local governments, making them harder to track than direct federal spending. State and local laws saying how much government spending must be set aside for minority-owned businesses vary widely.
John Powell, executive director of the institute, which has researched the location of schools, health care and transportation in relation to populations from various demographic groups, said the amount of direct federal spending was low. He said the government should be using the recession and accompanied increases in spending to fix longstanding disparities that existed before the downturn.
“Crises present an opportunity, and in large part this opportunity has been wasted,” Powell said. “We are stimulating the status quo. If we were far behind before, we are going to be even further behind.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has been concerned about the disproportionate effect the economic slump has had on minority communities, agreed. “We thought once it [the stimulus] left Washington and went to the states it would be fairly distributed with the civil rights laws enforced and equal employment opportunity contract compliance, but that did not happen,” he said.
Read entire story on the Washington Post.