The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was a hot topic of discussion today at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden hosted a White House conference where at least 125 state officials and governors shared ideas and best practices for implementation of the legislation. There were also presentations by cabinet secretaries and administration officials.
“We’ve asked a lot of the American people, a great deal of the American people, in supporting this effort,” Biden said at the meeting. “And so this is a different deal. This is not your usual federal grant going to states. And I want to be blunt with you, off-script here: The fact of the matter is all that is legal is not acceptable. Let me say it again. Just because it may be legal, it is not acceptable — some of it.”
On Capitol Hill, the House small business committee also held a hearing on contracting and technology to explore contracting opportunities for small and veteran-owned businesses under the stimulus plan. Representatives from key federal agencies such as the Small Business Administration and the Department of Transportation are slated to testify about their efforts to ensure that these businesses receive their fair share of contracts. Entrepreneurs will also be given opportunities to share their issues and concerns.
Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus’s economic recovery task force, will be watching closely to see what develops at each event. According to Cleaver, the CBC fought to ensure that agencies could not waive the use of disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs), a category under which many minority-owned businesses fall, as happened with TARP legislation. Contracts awarded under the stimulus plan must include minority and women contractors.
“There must be a DBE component for all contracts and we’re going to have the most stringent compliance of any piece of legislation in history. The FBI, inspectors general, and agency inspectors are going to be crawling all over these projects,” said Cleaver. “Anyone working in opposition of the written goals does so at their own peril.”