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Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on Tuesday requiring all city agencies to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer and use minority- and women-owned businesses to procure goods and services valued up to $500,000 in an effort to help them survive the economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“MWBs are critical to the very fabric of New York City,” said Maggie Austin, senior adviser and director of the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Enterprises, who joined the mayor during his morning press conference. “They contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of each and every single neighborhood in the city and they represent the future of business and the future of this city.”

Austin stressed the urgency of focusing on supporting businesses owned by marginalized groups by citing shocking findings from an analysis from Professor Robert Fairlie from the University of California Santa Cruz on the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. According to the analysis, 40 percent of Black business owners said they were not working during the month of April compared to only 17 percent of white business-owners.

The mayor also announced that the city’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity is launching three new initiatives to further boost MWBEs. A talent matching program the city will identify viable contracting opportunities, work with businesses to navigate the contracting process, and help them better market their business and services.

The program will also conduct outreach to “anchor” institutions to make sure that they are tapping into the talent pool of MWBEs by including them in their procurement process, according to Executive Director of the City’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity Sideya Sherman, also at the press conference.

Sherman added that historically many entrepreneurs of color have lacked access to networks essential for creating connections that businesses need in order to grow and achieve long-term success. To help fill this gap, the New York City Department of Small Business Services is offering a new pro-bono consulting and mentoring network to MWBEs.

“These programs will provide minority businesses with access to business leaders who have expertise and can provide the business and operational and the financial and technical assistance they need to grow and attain their business and to adapt to the challenging environment we have with COVID-19,” Sherman told reporters.

This story originally appeared on amny.com

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