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. 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 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.”

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.

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