Rep. Payne, Jr. Wants More Diversity in the Businesses that Build American Infrastructure

July 21, 2021
Press Release

Media Contact:  Patrick Wright   --  Patrick.Wright@mail.house.gov

Washington, D.C. — Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. wants more minority and women-owned businesses to compete and earn federal contracts to build America’s roads and bridges.  Rep. Payne, Jr., Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and asked him to take the steps necessary to support a disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program within the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  A DBE program helps increase the participation of minority and women-owned businesses in federally-funded state and local transportation projects.  The letter was co-led by Rep. Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) and signed by 58 Members of Congress, including all the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

“Minority businesses have been denied access to federal contracts for too long,” said Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.  “We need to make sure these minority and women-owned businesses get the opportunity to help build critical American infrastructure nationwide.  These federal contracts are great ways to increase the wealth of minority communities and establish a more diverse federal workforce.  I am proud to lead this letter with Rep. Strickland and encourage the creation of this disadvantaged business enterprise program with the full support of the Congressional Black Caucus.”

“As Congress makes much-needed investments in our nation’s infrastructure to revive our economy and create millions of jobs, we have to ensure that we are building an economy that works for all,” said Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland. “I’m proud to join my friend and colleague, Congressman Payne, Jr., in leading this effort to urge the completion of long overdue equity efforts at the Federal Railroad Administration, which were obstructed by the previous Administration. Taking steps now to end historic discrimination against minority businesses in the rail industry and in federally-funded transportation contracts will only strengthen our nation’s ability to build back better.”

In the letter, Rep. Payne, Jr. wrote that establishing a “DBE program at FRA would be a significant step toward rectifying historic discrimination against DBEs in the rail industry. We will only truly succeed as a nation when we have a level playing field for all qualified businesses seeking opportunities for federally-funded transportation contracts.”  Rep. Payne, Jr. asked Secretary Buttigieg to complete a study of possible discrimination in how federal transportation contracts are awarded in the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Once the study is complete, Congress can authorize the creation of a DBE program in the FRA.

The full letter is below.

July 21, 2021

 

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590

 

Re: Docket No. DOT-OST-2021-0056

Dear Secretary Buttigieg:

We appreciate this Administration’s commitment to advancing equity for disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) in the transportation sector. However, the lack of a DBE program at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT) is a pressing issue that must be addressed in the immediate future.

Establishing a DBE program at FRA would be a significant step toward rectifying historic discrimination against DBEs in the rail industry. We will only truly succeed as a nation when we have a level playing field for all qualified businesses seeking opportunities for federally-funded transportation contracts.

To establish the necessary legal predicate to create a DBE program at FRA, a disparity study must be completed to present evidence of discrimination against minority businesses. Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-94), DOT was required to complete a disparity study of publicly-funded intercity rail passenger transportation projects.

Shamefully, it has been nearly six years since the enactment of that legislation and the study has yet to be completed, due to various delays and obstruction by the previous Administration. It is now estimated that the study will be complete by the end of 2021. Any further delay would be unacceptable and allow ongoing discrimination against DBEs to continue unabated and unprioritized by the federal government.

We strongly urge you to work with FRA to ensure that the disparity study is completed in a timely manner and the results are promptly transmitted to Congress.

We look forward to working with you and the Administration to ensure a fair shot for all businesses seeking contracting opportunities with DOT.

Sincerely,                                          

Donald M. Payne, Jr.                                                              Marilyn Strickland

Member of Congress                                                              Member of Congress

Chairman                                                                                Vice Chair

Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines,                                 Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines,

and Hazardous Materials                                                       and Hazardous Materials

 

     Eleanor Holmes Norton                                                                  Gwen Moore

     Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress

 

     Nikema Williams                                                                           Karen Bass

     Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress

 

     Eddie Bernice Johnson                                                                  Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr.

     Member of Congress                                                                     Member of Congress

 

     André Carson                                                                                  Bonnie Watson Coleman

     Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress

 

     Terri A. Sewell                                                                               Barbara Lee

     Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress

 

     Bennie G. Thompson                                                                      Dwight Evans

     Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress

 

     Mondaire Jones                                                                               Frederica S. Wilson

     Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress        

     Alma S. Adams, Ph.D.                                                                    Anthony G. Brown

     Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress

     Kweisi Mfume                                                                                Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.

     Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress

    Bobby L. Rush                                                                                 Lauren Underwood

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

   

    Troy A. Carter, Sr.                                                                           A. Donald McEachin

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Danny K. Davis                                                                               G. K. Butterfield

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

                                                     

    Robin L. Kelly                                                                                 Al Lawson

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Stacey E. Plaskett                                                                            Maxine Waters

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Ritchie Torres                                                                                  Jahana Hayes

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    James E. Clyburn                                                                             Joyce Beatty

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress        

 

    Brenda L. Lawrence                                                                        Val B. Demings

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Steven Horsford                                                                              David Scott

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Emanuel Cleaver, II                                                                         Joe Neguse

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Yvette D. Clarke                                                                             Al Green

    Member of Congress                                                                      Member of Congress

 

   Gregory W. Meeks                                                                           Ayanna Pressley

   Member of Congress                                                                        Member of Congress

 

   Marc A. Veasey                                                                                Cori Bush

   Member of Congress                                                                        Member of Congress

 

   Lisa Blunt Rochester                                                                        Antonio Delgado

   Member of Congress                                                                        Member of Congress

 

   Colin Z. Allred                                                                                 Robert C. “Bobby” Scott

   Member of Congress                                                                        Member of Congress

 

 

   Frank Pallone, Jr.                                                                              Sheila Jackson Lee

   Member of Congress                                                                        Member of Congress        

 

    Jefferson Van Drew                                                                         Hakeem Jeffries

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D.                                                                   Ilhan Omar

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Josh Gottheimer                                                                               Albio Sires

    Member of Congress                                                                       Member of Congress

 

    Tom Malinowski                                                                             

    Member of Congress