Minority-owned businesses say they're paying the price for a decision by Congress and the Bush administration to waive certain rules for Hurricane Katrina recovery contracts.
The result has been far more no-bid contracts going to businesses that have an existing relationship with the government. For example, instead of receiving the 5 percent normally required of federal contract work, minority-owned businesses have received about 1.5 percent of the $1.6 billion awarded by FEMA.
The Department of Labor and FEMA each have said that they suspended affirmative action rules for first-time government contractors doing Katrina work to reduce paperwork and to speed emergency aid.
But the Army Corps of Engineers gave 16 percent of its $637 million in Katrina contracts to minority-owned companies, according to agency records. Hmmm.
Isn't it possible that the Republican-led Congress, Labor Department and FEMA are buying into the spin that you can't have a fair and fast bidding for Katrina contracts?
That may be decided by the Government Accountability Office. On Oct. 4, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL) asked the GAO to investigate whether small and minority-owned businesses have been given a fair opportunity to compete for Katrina contracts.
The waiver on affirmative action rules coincided with a suspension of a "prevailing wage" law that black lawmakers and business people believe will hurt the disproportionately large number of black hourly workers.
Harry Alford, the president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, told the Associated Press that the waivers are sending are a bad message. "What they're basically saying to the minority in New Orleans is: 'We'll make it harder for you to find a job. And if you do, we'll make sure you get paid less.'"
This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush's B.S.