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Author: Antoine Thompson      Published: 3/15/2024  GWRCCC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 15, 2024

Washington, D.C.

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines whimpering and complaining;

you make progress by implementing ideas.”

— Shirley Chisholm, First Black Congresswoman; Presidential Candidate

The Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition (GWRCCC) is respectfully requesting that mandatory, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) 40% equity contracting goals are included in US DOT-Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) infrastructure programs utilizing Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act funding to prevent the prolonged past and present impact of economic, discriminatory harms against historically disadvantaged small businesses.

The National Electric Vehicles Infrastructure (NEVI) Program was created as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), enacted as the Infrastructure and Jobs Act (Public Law 11-58) (November 15, 2021), which contains significant funding for electric vehicle charging stations infrastructure. In order to achieve US DOT-FHWA’s long-term goals, the equitable deployment of electric vehicles infrastructure is required.

 

Alarmingly, the Congressional exclusion of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) mandated goals for Bipartisan Infrastructure Law NEVI Programs $5 billion, Discretionary Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grant Programs $2.5 billion and Low and No Emission Transit Bus Programs $5.6 billion funded projects, discriminates intentionally against disadvantaged business enterprises US DOT Title 49, Parts 23 and 26, of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) and violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The DBE program was reauthorized by Congress most recently in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Pub. L. 117–58 November 15, 2021, 135 Stat. 429 (23 U.S.C. 101 note, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)). The Act describes Congress’ findings regarding the continued need for the DBE program due to the discrimination and related barriers that pose significant obstacles for minority and women-owned businesses seeking federally assisted surface transportation work. https://highways.dot.gov/newsroom/usdot-announces-two-new-actions-advance-economic-opportunity-disadvantaged-workers-and

The procurement and infrastructure of Direct Current Fast Chargers and solar powered systems are sanctioned in the US DOT-Federal Highway Administration in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding under section 11109 surface transportation block grants. However, in Section 11101 (e) (3) of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Congress provides that the DBE Program applies to the amounts made available for any program under Division A (other than section 14004), division C and 23 U.S.C.

The Congressional approval, specifically targets the sole exclusion of a class of disadvantaged small businesses already recognized by Congress approval of US DOT DBE Title 49, Parts 23 and 26, of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) as a class past and present discriminated against in US DOT surface transportation work contract awards. The continuation of the Congressional approval means DBE are handcuffed from benefiting and creating wealth from $13.1 billion appropriated for US DOT-Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) surface transportation work in parity with non-disadvantaged businesses.

The Congressional, intentional absence of DBE 40% goals in US DOT’s funding is in public policy opposition with President Biden’s E.O. 13985 Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government 86 FR 7009 (Jan. 20, 2021) and E.O. 14008 Justice40 Initiative Workforce Development Training for Underserved Stakeholders. https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20220818

Noteworthy, E.O. 13985 failed to establish mandatory DBE 40% equity contracting goals to benefit historically, disadvantaged small businesses. The failure negatively sustains economical discriminatory harm to DBEs that provide the following essential goods and services for the NEVI Programs $5 billion, Discretionary Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grant Programs $2.5 billion and Low and No Emission Transit Bus Programs $5.6 billion which equates to $13 billion funded projects to advance racial contracting access, equity, parity and inclusion. The essential goods/services are as follows:

Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC) manufacturers and resellers, DCFC design build and construction infrastructure, installation and maintenance contractors, solar powered systems manufacturers and resellers, solar powered systems manufacturers and resellers, solar powered systems design build and construction infrastructure, installation and maintenance contractors, general construction contracting, civil construction contracting, civil engineering and architect design, electrical utility coordination, infrastructure development and consulting, pre-site and post-site inspections, medium & high voltage equipment supplies, program management, procurement, project accounting and payroll, facilities operations and maintenance services, property management, project financing and temporary staffing.

US DOT Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees that no person shall on the grounds of race, color, or national origin be excluded from participation, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in any program, activity or service provided or funded by the federal government. The absence of mandated DBE 40% equity contracting goals will continue to result in the suppression of their small businesses and workforce development growth. This hinders capacity building and wealth creation in parity with non-disadvantaged businesses benefiting from $13.1 billion in federal US DOT contracting awards.

In response to these concerns, Antoine M. Thompson, CEO/Executive Director of GWRCCC, emphasized the importance of advocating for inclusion and equity in federal contracting. He stated: “we are deeply concerned about the Congressional exclusion of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) mandated goals in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law NEVI Programs. This exclusion perpetuates discrimination against historically disadvantaged small businesses and undermines efforts to achieve equity and parity in federal contracting. By advocating for the inclusion of mandatory DBE 40% equity contracting goals, we strive to ensure that all businesses have a fair opportunity to participate and benefit from the significant funding allocated for clean transportation infrastructure projects. It is imperative that we uphold principles of racial equity and inclusion to create a more just and sustainable future for all.”

The Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition (GWRCCC) requests that the United States House, Senate, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Caucus and the Congressional Women’s Caucus make this matter a priority to further increase equitable solutions on behalf of disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) certified by the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT).