The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Minority Firms Receive Fewer Katrina Clean-up Contracts

by Brendan Coyne

Oct. 6, 2005 – With only a fraction of the $1.6 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency hurricane cleanup money going to minority-owned businesses, concern is cropping up that a White House decision waiving federal affirmative action rules in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina is already fostering inequality.

The agency has granted only about 1.5 percent of emergency clean-up contract money in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast to minority-owned businesses, the Associated Press reported yesterday. Under usual federal regulations, at least 5 percent of federal contracts must be awarded to such businesses.

Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, told the AP that waiving the affirmative action rule "sends a bad message."

Federal lawmakers from both parties are seeking ways to deal with the disparities and other flaws in the post-Katrina federal contract granting process.

Monday, Congressional Black Caucus member Albert Wynn (D-Maryland) encouraged minority business owners with resources to travel to hurricane reconstruction areas as a way of securing work from subcontractors.

Citing reports that the federal clean-up and reconstruction contracts are going mostly to large, politically-connected companies at the expense of minority-owned and small businesses, two Republican Senators yesterday called for an investigation into the process.

Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Donald Manzullo (R-Illinois) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’s investigative arm, to look into how federal agencies are awarding the more than $60 billion Congress has approved for clean-up work.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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