April 06, 2023

Congressman Castro Introduces Legislation to Expand Federal Transit Contracting Opportunities for Women and Minority-Owned Businesses

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) led six members of Congress in introducing the Expanding Opportunities for Diverse Entrepreneurs Act, legislation that would expand the reach of the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, which works to provide small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals (including women and minorities) a fair opportunity to compete for federally funded transportation contracts.

“As billions of dollars in infrastructure funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act reaches communities, Congress needs to exercise our oversight responsibility to make sure federal contracting dollars are equitably distributed to entrepreneurs from all backgrounds,” said Congressman Castro. “The Expanding Opportunities for Diverse Entrepreneurs Act will improve accountability in the DBE program, increase opportunities for historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs, and create good-paying jobs in San Antonio and across the country.”

The Expanding Opportunities for Diverse Entrepreneurs Act is co-sponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee (CA-12), Nannette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Jesus G. "Chuy" Garcia (IL-04), Gwen Moore (WI-04), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC). The legislation is endorsed by the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) and Latinos In Transit, which works to promote the advancement and development of Latinos and other minorities in transportation.

"COMTO is pleased to offer support to Rep. Joaquin Castro's legislative efforts to ensure transparency, uniformity, and efficiency to the DBE program and to facilitate access to opportunities for small, disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses," said April Rai, President/CEO of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

“Latino-owned businesses are among the fastest-growing across the United States but struggle to acquire the resources and support to compete for equitable federal contracts. Latinos in Transit is proud to support the Expanding Opportunities for Diverse Entrepreneurs Act, and we are grateful for Congressman Castro's commitment to unlock fair economic opportunities for women and minority-owned small businesses in the transportation industry," said Alva Carrasco, President of the Board of Directors of Latinos In Transit.

Specifically, the Expanding Opportunities for Diverse Entrepreneurs Act would:

  1. Require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to publish the Uniform Report of DBE Commitments and Award Payments online.
  2. Require DBE Liaison Officers to report to DOT on their outreach, training, and educational efforts to DBE firms and community organizations to advise them of contracting opportunities.
  3. Require DOT to report annually to Congress on the DBE program.

Last month, Castro introduced the Transparency in Government Contracts Act, legislation co-sponsored by 26 House Democrats that would support Congressional oversight over the equitable distribution of federal contracts. Together, the Transparency in Government Contracts Act and the Expanding Opportunities for Diverse Entrepreneurs Act build on his longstanding efforts to expand contracting opportunities for minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses. In 2021, he called on San Antonio’s public entities to expand diverse contracting opportunities after his office collected data showing that collectively, less than 20 percent of contracts with San Antonio public entities were going to minority or women-owned firms. The following year, he secured more than half a million dollars in federal funding for the HUB Government Contracting Academy at the University of Texas San Antonio, which helps Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) win and complete government contracts.  Castro is also closely involved with an ongoing project led by the Aspen Latino Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative, Drexel University, and the San Antonio Area Foundation to develop a procurement playbook with best practices for diversifying public contracting.

The bill text for the Expanding Opportunities for Diverse Entrepreneurs Act can be viewed here.