Congressional subcommittee looks into why $66B of infrastructure funds won’t target minority contractors

The Federal Railroad Administration, unlike DOT, doesn’t have an established program to award contracts to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.

Part of the promise of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure act recently signed by President Joe Biden is that it will be inclusive of minority and women-owned businesses.

For example, the act establishes a Minority Business Development Agency within the Department of Commerce charged with helping non-majority companies get access to contracts, capital and grants.

In addition, the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) programs already in place at the DOT and the Federal Transit Administration create goals for non-majority business participation in federal contracts. Those existing programs will ensure that at least part of the $110 billion dedicated to roads and bridges, as well as the $39 billion carved out for public transit, are awarded to businesses led by women and people of color.

But the $66 billion set aside for passenger and freight rail in the act doesn’t fall under those same requirements. Unlike DOT and FTA, the Federal Railroad Administration doesn’t have an existing DBE program, which means those dollars could follow the same path as past infrastructure projects where a relatively small number of large, established prime contractors got most, if not all, of allocated government funds.

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