Massachusetts Fails Minority Contractors (Again)

Economic Justice, Racial Justice


Lawyers for Civil Rights condemns the Baker Administration’s blatant misrepresentation of state contracting numbers with minority-owned businesses in Massachusetts. Recent reporting by WGBH reveals that in 2020, the Commonwealth spent just $301 million in direct contracts with minority-owned businesses out of $4.8 billion total spending — about 2% of state contracting. When further disaggregated by race, the state only expended 0.2% on Black-owned businesses. 

These facts run contrary to the Supplier Diversity Office’s recent report stating that the Commonwealth exceeded its goal of 8% of contracting with minority-owned businesses. The Baker Administration’s misleading and inflated numbers improperly rely on state support for minority-led non-profit organizations. While engagement with minority-led non-profit organizations should continue, the conflation of revenue-generating businesses and non-profit entities is highly problematic. It is yet another attempt by the Baker Administration to cover up its anemic record on minority procurement. Just last year, the Baker Administration was caught improperly inflating these same procurement numbers — crediting spending to seemingly non-existent businesses in other states. 

“Recent Census data confirms that sustained growth in minority communities played a key role in buoying our Commonwealth’s growth,” said Priya Lane, BizGrow Director at Lawyers for Civil Rights. “Yet, state procurement remains entangled in a white “old-boys network” that does not reflect our communities. At this point, the Baker Administration is willfully refusing to meaningfully engage with minority-owned businesses. The time for excuses is over.” 

“Over the last 18 months, in the absence of comprehensive state support for small businesses, LCR and our pro bono partners have channeled millions of dollars’ worth of free legal help to businesses struggling amidst shutdowns and complex reopening guidelines,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights. “State contracts present a viable and sustainable opportunity to stabilize minority-owned businesses while securing much-needed services and products for the Commonwealth. Sadly, news reports confirm that minority-owned businesses have been systematically excluded by the state when they are needed the most.” 

As many features of the pandemic become endemic, procurement opportunities are critical to promote the economic revitalization of low-income and minority communities. The Baker Administration must re-double efforts to diversify its contractors. This is particularly important as our economy continues to transform in response to the pandemic — and as communities of color experience an uneven recovery. The exclusion of minority-owned businesses from state contracting opportunities exacerbates and compounds the pandemic injury. 

Lawyers for Civil Rights provides free legal support and technical assistance to small businesses in minority and low-income communities. As part of this life-changing work, LCR has long championed public contracting for minority-owned businesses. The organization recently filed a Title VI Complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice concerning the City of Boston’s discriminatory procurement policies. LCR is also actively advocating on behalf of minority-owned businesses improperly excluded from the development of Polar Park in Worcester. LCR will continue monitoring state procurement and holding the Baker Administration accountable for greater transparency and diversity in public contracts.