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Mayor Bowser Announces Request for Proposals for Disparity Study on Use of Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses in DC Government Contracting

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to conduct a District-wide study to examine the availability and utilization of minority-and women-owned businesses under DC procurement and contracting activities. The RFP seeks a consultant team to design and execute a disparity study examining four years of contracting data (Fiscal Year 2017 – Fiscal Year 2020). The study is funded by legislation introduced by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, Chairman of the Committee on Business and Economic Development.

“Since the start of my administration, we have been intentional about leveraging the District’s contracting and procurement process to better support our small and local businesses. But we know we can do even better to put equity at the forefront. Local businesses are the backbone of our economy, and I’m proud that each year we have been able to set and surpass spending goals that reflect our commitment to local entrepreneurs,” said Mayor Bowser. “The goal of this study is to understand how we can give more underrepresented entrepreneurs – Washingtonians who take big risks to create jobs and opportunities for our community – a fair shot.”

The Disparity Study Request for Proposals will be open for 50 days until Tuesday, January 5, 2021. The results and outcome of the study will help the District assess whether there is disparity in its contracting with businesses owned by people of color and women compared to the availability of such firms. The consultant team will perform a comprehensive, effective, and legally supportable and enforceable disparity study that meets the judicial test for constitutional “strict scrutiny.”

“Our minority-owned small businesses are suffering the brunt of the COVID-19 induced recession and we must do everything in our power to support them,” said Councilmember McDuffie. “I funded a disparity study in Fiscal Year 2021, understanding that it is a necessary step to create a true Minority Business Enterprise program, a desperately needed tool to keep the District moving forward as leaders for racial equity and economic inclusion.”

“This study is about ensuring that our city's prosperity is inclusive for underrepresented entrepreneurs, including people of color and women,” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio. “I look forward to the outcome, which will allow us to continue the work of making economic development more equitable and diverse.”

The solicitation is a set-aside for Certified Business Enterprises (CBEs) or Joint Ventures (JVs) that include a CBE as a partner. A Joint Venture is an association of two or more businesses temporarily formed to carry out a single business activity or project for profit in which they combine their property, capital, efforts, skill, and knowledge. The association, which is limited in scope and duration, must be certified by the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD). More information is available here.

On Tuesday, December 1, 2020, at 2 pm, DMPED and the DSLBD will host a Disparity Study Public Information Session to provide an overview of what a disparity study is and the objectives of the District’s disparity study. Registration will open at dmped.dc.gov by Friday, November 20. In addition to the public information session, a formal Pre-Proposal Conference for prospective offerors to answer any RFP-specific questions will be held virtually on Friday, December 4 at 3:30 pm. The conference will provide a structured opportunity for the District to accept technical questions from offerors on the solicitation, as well as clarify the contents of the solicitation. Details will be posted to dmped.dc.gov by Friday, November 20.

The disparity study is the latest effort by the Bowser Administration to advance equity in procurement processes. In October, Mayor Bowser introduced the “Supporting Local Business Enterprises Amendment Act of 2020” to strengthen the CBE program and increase access to opportunities for the District’s small and local business community. In January, DLSBD released the Disparity Report: Framework and Recommendations, which outlined the steps the District would take to successfully complete a disparity study. Following this report, the District created an interagency working group consisting of DMPED, the Office of the City Administrator (OCA), DSLBD, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), the Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP) and the Department of General Services (DGS) that addressed the data limitations identified in the report. In July, the Bowser Administration announced a new strategy for enhancing equity and making DC’s prosperity more inclusive: an equity inclusion prioritization in forthcoming RFPs that will increase access to real estate development opportunities for entities or organizations that are owned or majority controlled by individuals determined to be part of a socially disadvantaged population.