Cook County Board Approves Changes to Strengthen its Minority And Women Owned Businesses Program
The Cook County Board today approved revisions to the County’s procurement code that will strengthen future participation of Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) and crackdown on fraudulent activity. “These changes will enhance our ability to hold contractors who skirt the law accountable, while giving worthy M/WBEs greater opportunities to do business with Cook County,” President Preckwinkle said. “This is just the latest effort my administration has undertaken to promote participation in the procurement process and give smaller businesses a seat at the table.” The changes approved by the board establish new penalties for prime contractors who fail to meet contractual M/WBE commitments. Companies that fail to meet participation goals may be required to pay the difference between their contractual goal and the amount of the goal they reached. Also, contractors who are found to have made false statements regarding their M/WBE participation or status will potentially be liable for a $2,500 fine and may even be disqualified from County contracts for up to five years. In addition, the approved changes focus on cracking down on “pass throughs” and other businesses that take advantage of M/WBE status. The ordinance seeks to increase the participation of M/WBEs by enhancing the County’s Target Market Program, which identifies qualified small businesses as potential prime contractors on select County contracts. The changes also codify the County’s goal of 35 percent M/WBE participation for bond transactions. The County’s Chief Financial Officer also will be required to submit to the County Board a detailed report outlining proposed financing initiatives and their benefits to the County, as well as a list of certified M/WBE investment firms included in the financing.