Black Caucus Calls for More Diversity in Bailouts

Ben Evans, AP, March 30, 2009

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Monday criticized the lack of minority participation in the government’s financial bailouts and suggested that President Barack Obama isn’t doing much better than his predecessor to ensure diversity.

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“What I heard today from the administration seemed to be a continuation of the status quo,” Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., said at a news conference outside the event. “It is time that we wake up.”

Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., noted that no women were in the group of bank leaders who met with Obama last week and warned that the country could end up relying on the same people who created the need for a rescue if it doesn’t branch out.

Fattah and others said they were optimistic that the administration would focus more on diversity moving forward. But they noted that the money is being spent quickly and said minority accountants, banks, financial advisers and law firms will be left out almost entirely without immediate changes.

For example, the lawmakers said the government will begin hiring financial firms in early April to manage the latest program for buying up bad assets from troubled banks. Firms must have management portfolios worth at least $10 billion to apply, they said, making the program off-limits not just to minority-owned companies but also to other small businesses.

One suggestion the lawmakers said they would pursue is adding incentives for larger firms to partner with minority businesses.

“We are not going to sit by and allow billions of dollars to be dumped into this economy and have the same old players being advantaged by it,” said Rep. Maxine Water, D-Calif. “We are tired of being overlooked.”

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