At Hearing With Commerce Secretary Raimondo, Rush Slams Effectiveness of Minority Business Development Agency; "This Is An Agency That Can't Justify Its Existence"
WASHINGTON — Today, at a Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce hearing on the Department of Commerce budget with Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), a senior member of the committee, slammed the ineffectiveness of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and its failure to reach minority businesses and entrepreneurs in the 1st District and across the country. The MBDA, established in 1969 by President Richard Nixon, is an agency within the Commerce Department tasked with promoting the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses.
“This is an agency that can’t justify its existence, especially in terms of the results that it has achieved for the American people,” Rep. Rush said. “It’s an agency that languishes in the dark, most minority businesses are not even aware that it exists. It has absolutely no relationship with the majority of entrepreneurs that are located in my district, and I think, in districts that are similarly situated in our nation.”
“I humbly submit to you that it should be scrapped,” said Rush, “that we should replace it with something that’s much more viable, up-to-date, and much more robust, and lastly, much more effective.” At the hearing, Secretary Raimondo said she shared Rep. Rush’s concerns about the agency, and that she would “love to come visit with you on that so we have more time to discuss it.”
A full transcript of Rush’s remarks and Q&A with Secretary Raimondo at the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce hearing titled “The Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Commerce Budget” is below.
RUSH: Madam Secretary, I certainly welcome you to this hearing. You mentioned, in your opening statement, the Minority Business Development Agency, which I think — since its inception — has been a woeful failure, woefully inadequate. And in my humble opinion, it needs to be scrapped because it has failed to accomplish even a modicum of what I thought was its original vision. You mentioned funding for the MBDA in your opening statement. What is the budgetary increase, in the President’s budget, for this agency?
RAIMONDO: He calls for a $22 million dollar increase.
RUSH: A $22 million dollar increase. What is the mission of the MBDA, in your opinion?
RAIMONDO: First of all, I agree with you, by the way, that it needs to be elevated and expanded so we have more money to do more grant-making, etc. The mission is to help minority-owned businesses to have access to capital, access to technical assistance, so that they can definitely grow and be successful.
RUSH: Well Madam Secretary, again, in my opinion, this is an agency that can’t justify its existence, especially in terms of the results that it has achieved for the American people. And as you can tell, I am highly critical of it. It is an agency that languishes in the dark, most minority businesses are not even aware that it exists. It has absolutely no relationship with the majority of entrepreneurs that are located in my district, and I think, in districts that are similarly situated in our nation. What can be done, in your opinion, to strengthen to robustness and the reach of the MBDA in these very same communities that have been, obviously, exposed to all who can see, that doesn’t exist as a result of this pandemic. So, what can be done, in your opinion, to strengthen it?
RAIMONDO: Yeah. So let me just say this, I share your concern. And when I first was learning about the job, I was kind of shocked to realize that MBDA is the only agency in the entire federal government specifically designed to provide grant funding to minority-owned businesses above one million dollars in revenue, and it is such a small, you know, department. So, what the President calls for in the budget is first, to elevate it, so that there is an Assistant Secretary that is properly staffed, you know, I think that elevation would be critical — a proper Assistant Secretary, affirmed by the Senate, with proper staff—
RUSH: Madam Secretary, on that, has there been an individual nominated and confirmed by the Senate at this point in time?
RAIMONDO: No, because now, this position is not high enough. So no, there is not.
RUSH: So, in the future, as we sit here in this introductory hearing before this committee, then the forecast for us, as Members of Congress, is that it is a bleak forecast from my perspective. Do you share that perspective?
RAIMONDO: I do. I share that it should be elevated and better funded.
RUSH: Okay. Well, I humbly submit to you that it should be scrapped. That you don’t put new wine into old wineskins. You recreate a robust agency that will accomplish the mission that you and I share, that it will enhance the participation and the success of minority-owned businesses. I take the position that it should be scrapped, erased from memory, and that we should replace it with something that is much more viable, up-to-date, and much more robust, and lastly, much more effective. Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.
RAIMONDO: Can I just say, I would love to come visit with you on that and so we have more time to discuss it.
RUSH: You are welcome. The light is always on.
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