For an Equitable Recovery, We Need to Democratize Access to Federal Contracting

Dear Atlas users,

As evidenced by our most recent rent debt analysis, low-income people of color continue to suffer from the devastating impacts of the pandemic even as other aspects of the economy return to ‘normal.’ The majority of federal rental assistance has yet to reach those who need it, and a new report from The Housing Initiative at Penn found that other housing access programs like Housing Choice Vouchers reach just one in five low-income renter households who are eligible. With federal, state, and local governments working to pass policies to rebuild our economy, the Atlas team continues to equip advocates with necessary data and analysis to push for a just and equitable recovery. Here are some updates:

New Analysis Finds Fewer and Fewer Small Businesses Are Getting Federal Contracts

The federal government is the nation’s largest purchaser of goods and services, but our new analysis reveals that the number of small businesses doing business with the federal government has plummeted over the past decade: about 40 percent fewer small businesses fulfilled federal contracts in 2020 compared with 2010. We also found that while people of color own 29 percent of all American businesses, entrepreneurs of color receive less than 12 percent of federal government contracting dollars. Federal contracts are highly concentrated in just a few congressional districts, mostly in the DC metro area, that are home to less than 4 percent of the total population. A critical solution is within reach through the infrastructure package before Congress, but is at risk of being removed. Policymakers are negotiating the inclusion of a groundbreaking set of programs that would direct $2.4 billion to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other people-of-color-serving institutions to uplift the next generation of small businesses owners.

Updated Rent Debt Dashboard and Analysis Finds Mounting Debt for Low-Income Renters of Color

The share of renters with debt has not declined since April. Our updated Rent Debt Dashboard and analysis show that nearly 6 million renters remain in debt, and the majority of them are low-income people of color. Just 11 percent of federal rental relief funds have been distributed; our new map shows that many of the cities and counties with the lowest distribution of relief funds have large populations of low-income renters. Finally, we found that Black renters disproportionately expect to be evicted by October: 58 percent of Black tenants with rent debt say they are very or somewhat likely to be evicted, compared with 45 percent of their White counterparts. The dashboard continues to fuel community advocacy for debt cancellation and rent assistance. Recently, California-based Raise the Roof coalition cited our work in their presentation to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, while Housing4Hoosiers provided recommendations to Indiana’s Emergency Rental Assistance program using our data.

You’re Invited! The Power of Place: Addressing Structural Racism in the Workforce and Economy

On September 29, Atlas team member Abbie Langston will speak on a panel on racial equity and the workforce system at the Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Forum alongside our partners at the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and local partners on our Advancing Workforce Equity project. The conversation will touch on structural racism in the world of work and highlight solutions that workforce systems, communities, employers, and training providers are implementing to improve career outcomes for students and young workers of color. Join us by registering here.

Fact Sheets Reveal Continued Housing Insecurity in Mid-Hudson Valley

Earlier this month, we produced a series of fact sheets on renters in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley in partnership with For the Many, to support their advocacy for policies to protect renters from unfair evictions and predatory landlords. We found that housing insecurity is a region-wide issue. More than half of renter households in the Mid-Hudson Valley are rent-burdened, and Black and Latinx renters are especially impacted. In New Paltz, for example, nearly all Black renter households are rent-burdened. You can download fact sheets here for the following places: Ulster County, Beacon, Kingston, Newburgh, New Paltz, and Poughkeepsie.

In the News

This month, our Rent Debt Dashboard work was featured in the New York Times, CBS News, Bloomberg, Oklahoma Watch, Minnesota Post, Tampa Bay Times, The Hill, and Law360. Our work on California rideshare driver benefits under Prop 22 was featured in Jacobin and Dissent Magazine. See a complete list of news coverage here.

- The National Equity Atlas team at PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI)