A bill to let New York City expand opportunity for Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises is awaiting final approval from Albany.

Under a bill passed overwhelmingly by the New York State Legislature, the city could spend up to $150,000 on contracts with MWBEs who offer goods and services without requiring them to first go through a long and formal RFP and bidding process.

The city’s current discretionary limit is $20,000 and the increase to $150,000 for goods and services almost matches the state’s $200,000 limit.

A second provision of the bill would allow the city to consider a firm’s status as an MWBE when using the best value procurement method. Using this method lets the city judge a bidder's record of complying with existing labor standards, maintaining harmonious labor relations, and protecting the health and safety of workers.

“At the end of the day, this is an economic development program and a jobs program,” Jonnel Doris, the Director of the City’s Office of MWBEs, told The Bond Buyer. “We want MWBEs to have a fair shot in doing business with the city.”

Jonnel Doris, Director of the New York City’s Office of MWBEs
Jonnel Doris is director of the New York City’s Office of MWBEs.

Doris is responsible for identifying strategic policy guidance, programs, services and accountability mechanisms to increase the number of awards to qualified MWBEs. He also works with city agencies and advises the mayor and administration.

Earlier this year, the state Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 115 to 15 while the Senate vote for it was unanimous at 63 to 0. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has until Dec. 29 to sign the bill into law.

As the legislation pertains to a city program, there is no fiscal impact to the state.

Earlier this year Mayor Bill de Blasio created the Contract Financing Loan Fund, which lets MWBEs apply for low-interest contract financing loans of up to $500,000. The mayor is also aiming to double the number of MWBEs certified by the Department of Small Business Services to 9,000 from 4,500 by 2019.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Chip Barnett

The fiscal impact of the new legislation is apparent. In fiscal year 2016, the total value of contracts under the current $20,000 discretionary cap was $109 million.

If, however, in fiscal 2016 the city had had discretion for contracts of up to $150,000, the total value of contracts under that threshold would have been $257 million and MWBEs would have had access to those contracts through discretionary spending.

“This bill will expand opportunity to those in communities that may have been marginalized in the past,” Doris said, “and the more we can open up and make it easier for MWBEs to succeed, the more we can grow those opportunities for those in our community.”

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