Connecticut LGBTQ community says it's shut out in competition for state contracts, set-aside programs for minority- and women-owned businesses – Hartford Courant

An LGBT business group is urging that its community be designated a minority eligible to compete for set-aside state contracts. (Courant file photo) (John Woike)
A Connecticut business group is asking that LGBTQ-owned businesses be designated minority enterprises eligible for state contract set-asides, but it will have to wait until a study on whether disparities hinder access is completed this year.
John Pica-Sneeden, executive director of the Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Chamber, said he spoke with Gov. Ned Lamont shortly after he took office in January 2019 advising the governor that the LGBTQ community is not recognized as a minority.
“We don’t have a seat at the table,” he said. “We do not have the opportunity to put in a bid for state contracts, to even be considered.”
John Pica-Sneeden, executive director of the Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Chamber, said he spoke with Gov. Ned Lamont shortly after he took office in January 2019 advising the governor that the LGBTQ community is not recognized as a minority. (Courant file photo) (Michael McAndrews / Hartford Courant)
The state set-aside program guarantees that competitive bidding and other contracting will give qualified “but underutilized small businesses” in Connecticut the opportunity to win state contracts, according to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
Set-asides — 25% for small businesses and 25% of those small businesses for enterprises owned by women, ethnic minorities and individuals with disabilities — are intended to establish “greater inclusion of historically disadvantaged persons in state-funded public works contracts,” the state agency said.
“The program, in turn, contributes to the state’s economic development by allowing dollars to be turned over within the state and keeping state dollars in local small businesses,” CHRO said in testimony to the legislature in 2021.
Pica-Sneeden said eligible LGBT businesses would be certified as an LGBTQ business if 51% of a company is owned by someone in the LGBTQ community.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Administrative Services referred questions to information posted on the agency’s website about a disparity study authorized in state law in 2021. The study was not launched until this year, according to DAS.
“Ensuring equitable outcomes is paramount to the Lamont administration’s work whether it be in education, workforce training, economic development or access to assistance or contracting,” DAS Commissioner Michelle Gilman said in a blog post in April.
“Equity in contracting is more important than ever as we work to recover from the pandemic and we see an influx of projects with the passage of the federal bipartisan infrastructure package.”
To make informed policy decisions about strengthening state contracting programs, the study will determine if “unintentional institutional, procedural or financial barriers” stand in the way of state contracting. She cited the DAS’s Supplier Diversity Program, also known as a “set-aside program,” that helps small businesses and minority businesses identify development opportunities.
Overall, the study will review state contracting practices and conduct a quantitative analysis to determine whether women and minority-owned businesses are underutilized in state contracting compared with the impact and role of small and minority businesses in Connecticut’s economy.
State Rep. Harry Arora, R-Greenwich, was among 28 House members to oppose the legislation. He said he’s a “big supporter” of set-aside programs that he said help expand the economy. But he does not believe set-aside programs are effective because they do not include all groups, such as the LGBTQ community.
“The disparity analysis had nothing in there,” he said. “Let’s flesh this out make and sure it’s done well on a competitive basis. There was nothing in the legislation to make that happen.”
But Sal Luciano, who then was president of the Connecticut AFLCIO, told lawmakers he supported the study.
“Inequities are deep-rooted in Connecticut. Long standing social and economic disparities have been built into state and budgets, policies and procedures for generations,” Luciano told the Labor & Public Employees Committee in testimony, “The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and deepened these inequities, especially in the areas of public Pre-K-12 and higher education, health care access, mental health access, housing, and workforce development. There is no better time than now to begin addressing these disparities. “
Stephen Singer can be reached at ssinger@courant.com.
Copyright © 2021, Hartford Courant
Copyright © 2021, Hartford Courant

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