Sens. Cano, Quezada Call for Compliance With Minority-Owned Contract Laws in Surge Hospital Decommissioning
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano and Sen. Ana B. Quezada are calling upon Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to ensure that the state complies with minority contracting laws as it decommissions two field hospitals set up to handle coronavirus patients.
“The coronavirus pandemic has hurt all sectors of our economy, particularly small businesses. Meanwhile, the illness itself has disproportionately affected minority communities. It is always important to follow the laws that require the state to include minority contractors, but at this time it is even more critical, economically and morally,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket). “Hiring minority-owned businesses – which also tend to hire more minority employees—will save some of the most at-risk small businesses and jobs, helping our communities weather this storm. It’s a smart way to makes sure our state resources do the most good.”
The State Properties Committee is set to meet tomorrow morning to take steps toward decommissioning the surge hospitals that were set up in the spring at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence and at a former Lowe’s in North Kingstown to handle patients if local hospitals became overwhelmed. That scenario, fortunately, did not play out. The state plans to leave the third surge hospital in Cranston set up for now, in case its use becomes necessary.
The two senators pointed out that Rhode Island spent $34 million to construct and equip the three field hospitals, and not a single dollar went to a minority-owned Rhode Island company. By law, 10 percent of all state construction and service contracts must be awarded to minority-owned companies that have completed a rigorous state certification process, but as an emergency measure, those contracts were exempt from the requirement.
Senator Quezada and Senator Cano said the state must do better to comply with the letter and the spirit of the law as the hospitals are decommissioned.
“There are hundreds of minority-owned business enterprises on the state’s master list of vendors, and they deserve to be considered for these valuable contracts. We have the 10-percent law for a reason. Rhode Island is a place where inclusivity is valued. Our state dollars must be spent in a way that reflects those values and lifts up communities that have, historically, often been left out,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).