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Source : Contractor News
December 22, 2022
Author : Patty Allen
Compared to other states in America, Idaho only has one state agency with a program devoted to increasing the percentage of government contracts bestowed to businesses run by women, minorities, and veterans.
The federally mandated Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program of the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has specific standards for what proportion of each construction project must be granted to registered firms owned by groups considered to be disadvantaged. However, it only applies to initiatives receiving federal funding.
The DBE program at the ITD started in 1982. Operating the program within the state allows the ITD to obtain federal transportation funding. It also includes broad objectives that the organization must accomplish to award contracts and objectives for specific federally funded projects, such as carrying out good faith effort outreach. ITD's current goal is to give 10% of its contracts to underserved companies.
ITD bases its objectives for disadvantaged company contracts on disparity assessments carried out every five years. These studies are intended to determine if contracts awarded to women- and minority-owned firms differ from those granted to other businesses. It also sheds light on how much work each kind of business should endure, given the population and availability in each state.
Only seven of the firms now designated as disadvantaged enterprises received contracts during the most recently studied period, according to a BoiseDev review of five years of contracting data. Therefore, the state agency currently needs to catch up to its objectives. In addition, just four companies received half the money given to subcontractors under the disadvantaged company program over five years. The other 600 contracts were given to these businesses in smaller subcontracts.
ITD fell short of its objective, and just 6.4% of its contract dollars on federal projects were given to DBEs in the most recent reporting period, according to a routine status report on the DBE program submitted by the department at the end of November. The progress report states that of the $35 million granted to underprivileged enterprises, 82% went to companies run by white individuals. Latino-owned firms received contracts for $5.3 million during this period, whereas Native Americans received contracts worth only $8,569 on average.
For some, this initiative addresses decades of racism, sexism, and other impediments that have made it more challenging for these groups to amass money compared to their white male, non-veteran counterparts. But for others, the scheme adds more expense and red bureaucracy while unfairly rewarding a tiny number of company owners with big government contracts.
According to Jessika Phillips, ITD’s Office of Civil Rights program manager, “The State of Idaho has a largely white population, so that is what we see with the majority of our construction projects, but we still want to move forward into representing the population demographics in the state as a whole. “We’re trying to bring those minorities and those females up to be more representative of the state’s population.”