By Moses Kuwema
New York City Council member and Majority Whip Fernando Cabrera has demanded for equity in contracting for businesses in lower income communities.
Cabrera's remarks come in the wake of the unveiling of the preliminary 2022 budget by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday, amid revenue shortfalls following the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on the city and it's economy.
“Today’s release of the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget confirmed many of our worst fears. The budget situation over the next four years is dire, including the city’s employment and hiring situation," said Cabrera who represents the Bronx's 14 District and is also aspiring for the borough president of the Bronx.
"I’m particularly concerned about the impact of these projections on local businesses in communities of color, especially our restaurants, many of which have been forced to close and might never re-open without help.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been only two companies contracted by the city to distribute food. This is outrageous, unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.
"Restaurants in black, brown and Asian communities should have been actively engaged in the city’s emergency food program.
"These restaurants know what foods to prepare for their clients and desperately needed the income that could have come from city contracts.
"Instead, they were excluded, ignored, businesses closed and jobs disappeared. I have submitted legislation to require all city agencies that issue contracts for COVID-19 related services to report monthly, by Council District, the number of contracts issued to MWBEs as a proportion of total contracts disaggregated by race and ethnicity."
Cabrera also cited the continuing digital divide between low income and affluent communities, which disproportionately impacted students in communities of color, who struggled to participate in online learning.
“Today the mayor mentioned expanding WiFi in shelters. We need this but it’s not enough," he said.
"Lots of kids who don’t live in shelters don’t have access to WiFi because their families can’t afford it. Real broadband equity must be inclusive of everyone who cannot afford it.”
“The next several fiscal years will be painful. We must be innovative in order to meet our fiduciary responsibilities while continuing to provide critical programs and services for vulnerable New Yorkers.
"We must also be vigilant in the months and years ahead and hold city agencies accountable. Businesses in communities that are disproportionately impacted must receive a proportionately higher number of city contracts. It’s the only equitable thing to do” said Cabrera.