By Matthew Lavietes
NEW YORK, Jan 20 (Openly) - New York City has opened $25 billion worth of contracts to bids from LGBT+-owned businesses as part of a pledge to widen access to a raft of benefits already offered to other minorities, from women to Black entrepreneurs.
The city made the change on Tuesday, allowing LGBT+ business owners to compete for a host of contracts ring-fenced for minorities, as well as access to mentors and learning.
"When it comes to establishing and growing businesses, LGBTQ entrepreneurs face many significant and manifold challenges," New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, who heads its LGBT Caucus, said in a statement.
"I am pleased that these business owners who were once excluded from sorely-needed contracting and procurement opportunities will be able to participate."
The measure was enacted by the city's Department of Small Business Services in conjunction with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).
Businesses owned by women, Latinos, Native American or Black entrepreneurs were already eligible for the programs, in addition to economically disadvantaged New Yorkers.
Under the change, LGBT+ business owners will win access to $25 billion in city contracts that New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio promised minority-owned businesses in 2015 through 2025.
The mayor's office said in August that it was on track to reach its goal of awarding 30% of contracts to minority-owned businesses by 2021. It said that $964 million in contracts were awarded during the first three quarters of 2020.
It follows similar changes granted to LGBT+ businesses in Los Angeles, Nashville and Philadelphia, as well as in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. New York and New Jersey are advancing statewide bills to follow suit.
But New York City is easily the largest U.S. city to act.
"We hope this resolution in NYC will encourage more cities to proactively include the LGBT community for the optimum social and economic health of their cities," NGLCC chief executive Chance Mitchell said in a statement.
"Progressive and inclusive leadership, like that of New York City, will ensure greater access to the American Dream for every American."
The designation comes as many business owners struggle to weather the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and fear all-out closure absent fresh help.
The U.S. government re-opened its small-business pandemic aid program this month, with $284 billion in new funds.
Almost 59% of LGBT+ business owners say they fear collapse without funding to ride out the pandemic, according to an NGLCC survey, risking a combined $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy.
(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes, editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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