Boston Mayor Kim Janey on Wednesday announced a series of initiatives to address inequities in city contracting.
The moves include a new fund, the Boston Contracting Opportunity Fund, to give small businesses grants of up to $15,000 so they can become more competitive when applying for city contracts.
"When it comes to city contracts, business owners of color are too often overlooked and underrepresented," Janey said at a news conference, citing a recent city study that found that under 1% of city spending on goods and services went to Black- and Latinx-owned small businesses.
Boston is working to correct that with actions that range from "new bidding opportunities to capacity-building grants to virtual networking and new measures to hold ourselves accountable," Janey said.
A pilot program will offer "a diverse array of businesses" the opportunity to make improvements at Malcolm X Park in Roxbury. The city put together a five-person supplier diversity team and hired its first director of strategic procurement that will work across city departments, Janey said.
The city will hold two webinars next week, to be posted later on Facebook, and a contracting opportunity fair on April 28, where business owners can meet department buyers and find out what opportunities they have.
Quincy Miller, president of Eastern Bank and a co-chair of Janey's mayoral transition team, said at the news conference that offering contracts to businesses is key to supporting them, so they can make the money they need to grow.
"Without the contracts, without the revenues, our women-owned and our minority-owned businesses have no opportunity to scale, and that's why this commitment is critical to our overall success," he said.
The Boston Contracting Opportunity Fund will be open for applications from Thursday, April 15 through Monday, May 17.
Celina Barrios-Millner, Janey's new chief of equity and inclusion, also appeared at the news conference.
Janey's predecessor, Marty Walsh, who stepped down to become the Biden administration's secretary of labor, issued an executive order in February aiming for a quarter of city spending on contracts to go to women- and minority-owned businesses. Barrios-Millner led the efforts behind that order.
Janey has also emphasized equity since taking office last month.
On Tuesday, Janey and Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez unveiled the Boston Public Health Commission's "Hope" campaign, a new multilingual public awareness push, at an afternoon press conference at City Hall.
“This campaign was created to speak to the heart of what has been missing in our lives and what can be better, if we get vaccinated," Janey said. "Every dose of the COVID-19 vaccine brings us one step closer to putting this pandemic behind us. Every dose gives us new hope for brighter days ahead."
She encouraged every Bostonian to get vaccinated when it is their turn. Until then, she said, they should stay vigilant by wearing masks in public, washing their hands, keeping their distance and continuing to get tested regularly.
The new public awareness campaign features ads with a diverse group of people who speak a variety of languages and aims to build trust with communities of color and others disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“An equitable response and recovery from this pandemic means we must break down barriers so that every Bostonian not only has access to the vaccine but also has the information needed to make an informed decision about getting it,” said Marty Martinez, the city's chief of health and human services. “This vaccine gives us hope as we continue to battle this virus and look forward to life after COVID. The best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community is to get the vaccine when it is available to you.”
Janey, who officially announced her campaign for a full term as mayor Tuesday, unveiled a new campaign Monday to promote an equitable recovery for the city's tourism and hospitality industries as well as small businesses which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike past travel and tourism promotions, highlighting places like Fenway Park and Faneuil Hall, this effort has a different focus.
"The all inclusive Boston campaign boldly puts our people and our neighborhoods front and center for the very first time," the mayor said.
The city continues to see an increasing positivity rate, which as of Thursday stood at 4.8%, up from 4.2%. That translates into over 216 cases per day, Janey noted.
Janey said she continues to monitor coronavirus activity across six key metrics: daily positive cases, daily percent of positive cases, community COVID tests, COVID related emergency room visits, available ICU and medical surgical beds and ICU bed occupancy.