Padilla Introduces Legislation to Help Underserved Businesses Compete for Transportation Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As billions of dollars are released through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced a pair of bills that would help minority- and women-owned businesses compete for contracts to develop and build federal infrastructure projects. The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Expansion Act and the Accelerating Small Business Growth Act would help agencies work toward President Biden’s ambitious new goal of increasing the share of federal contracts going to small, disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent by 2025, which would translate to an additional $100 billion for these businesses.

The bills would raise the annual funding cap of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Program, replicate the program at the Federal Transit Agency (FTA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and create a grant program to help transportation agencies work with underserved businesses looking to improve growth and competitiveness for contracts. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is cosponsoring the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Expansion Act.

“Small businesses, particularly those that are minority- and women-owned, hold enormous potential to bolster our economy, but they have historically faced disproportionate barriers to succeed in America,” said Senator Padilla. “The unprecedented investment in American infrastructure from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law over the next decade provides a major opportunity to create good-paying jobs that uplift disadvantaged communities. These bills would provide the resources to help women and minority entrepreneurs develop self-sufficiency in competing for federal contracts, helping to build prosperity in communities that have too often been left behind.”

“Small businesses, especially those in under-resourced communities, face unique barriers to contract and procurement opportunities that hinder sustainable growth and widen inequities in the contracting marketplace,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority. “We are thrilled to support U.S. Senator Alex Padilla’s ‘Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Expansion Act’ and ‘Accelerating Small Business Growth Act.’ Both pieces of legislation prioritize disadvantaged businesses, investing in efforts to create equitable competition and promoting diverse economic development initiatives. These efforts will guide small businesses in under-resourced communities when navigating the procurement system and support necessary reform.”

“Over the next several years, communities of all sizes and backgrounds will see the billions of dollars in investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law transform their neighborhoods, making them more interconnected, sustainable, and equitable,” said Ross van Dongen, Director of Infrastructure and Intergovernmental Affairs, Accelerator for America Action. “To maximize this impact, it is essential that small- and medium-sized businesses and developers that call these communities home are able to compete for these transformational contracts. These bills will aid in leveling the playing field for DBE firms and companies vying for work made possible by the BIL, allowing them to grow and bring more of their community with them.”

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Expansion Act would increase the annual funding cap for the FHWA’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Program from $10 million to $25 million. This program provides training, assistance, and services to minority- and women-owned businesses to train them to viably compete for federally assisted highway project contracts, but Congress has not raised the annual funding cap for this program since 1973. The legislation would also establish Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Programs at the FAA and FTA. The bill is being led in the House by Representative Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.-33).

The Accelerating Small Business Growth Act would create a grant program to fund transportation agency programs to help underserved businesses grow and compete on an equal basis for contracts and subcontracts in federally funded transportation projects. Agencies that receive funding through this program would be required to submit reports to the Department of Transportation evaluating the effectiveness of their activities, which would help inform future federal procurement policymaking. This bill would authorize $5 million per year from Fiscal Years 2024-2026 for the grant program. The bill is being led in the House by Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.-34).

Full text of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Expansion Act can be found here.

Full text of the Accelerating Small Business Growth Act can be found here.

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