This week the US Senate averted an attempt to eliminate funding for the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program for transportation construction, an affirmative action program for women and minorities. A last minute amendment to the Department of Transportation/HUD appropriations bill, introduced by Rep Tim Walberg (R-MI), wiping out funding for the DBE program passed the House without even a voice vote.
In a procedural move, the Democratic leadership prevented such an amendment from coming to the Senate floor. A large coalition of women’s rights and civil rights organizations, worked to alert senators of the serious impact of cutting the DBE funding which the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights described as “one of the federal government’s most successful small business development programs, and has helped to expand competition and create opportunities for tens of thousands of new businesses in the construction market.”
Similar funding cuts in California resulting from the passage of Proposition 209 resulted in more than 50 percent reduction in transportation construction contracts to women and minority-owned businesses over a ten year period according to the Discrimination Research Center.