Business owners, lawmakers want to remove cap on net worth for MWBEs

Gazette photo by Bryce Eckwall
Sen. Sanders addresses the press about the need for an elimination of the net worth cap on MWBEs. MWBEs and legislators are calling for Gov. Cuomo to sign into law a bill that lifts the personal net worth cap on MWBE which they say unfairly hinders their growth.


Several minority- and women-owned business owners from across the state were in Albany Tuesday asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill they say would make their enterprises more competitive.

The bill, A.2819/S.3018, would eliminate a $3.5 million cap on the personal net worth from the certification process for MWBEs. Under current law, those applying to be recognized as a minority- or woman-owned business enterprise must have a personal net worth of under $3.5 million.

Executive law says the state must “make a good faith effort” to find minority and women owned businesses to bid on contracts, however, the proprietors of minority and women owned businesses say the current law limits their ability to grow by placing a cap on the net worth of the business owners themselves.

This means that the only contracts these businesses are able to bid on are those with profit margins that would keep them under that $3.5 million threshold, unfairly limiting the growth potential of these particular businesses by making growth a threat to their designation as a minority or woman owned business, which is what put them in the running for the contracts in the first place.

“I am holding a bill that eliminates the personal net worth cap,” said the bill’s primary sponsor in the Assembly, Rodneyse Bichotte. “This bill has been supported unanimously on the Senate side and has been supported on the Assembly side.”

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Patty Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, and passed both houses in June.

Assemblywoman Bichotte, D-Brooklyn, was joined by Senator James Sanders before a hearing in Albany Tuesday on this issue.

“I would argue that what we are really talking about today is can America be America for everybody?” Sanders said. “Simply put, will we have an even playing field where everyone can compete and the best firm wins the contract?”

“I would argue that anything less is a hindrance to this system of capitalism that we have,” Sanders added. “Anything that obstructs the forward motion of the empire state is something we need to look into.”

Senator Sanders, D-Queens, also stressed the importance of budget hearings in promoting parity in the state contract bidding process.

“We need to know, are we heading in the right direction, and if we’re not, what are the things stopping us,” the senator said. “If a cap on how much of our net worth is holding us back and there is no need for this cap, then logic says we need to get rid of it.”

The National Association of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, chaired by Frank Garcia, urged the governor to sign this legislation in the interest of keeping New York state’s economy competitive.

“It’s important we don’t penalize minority businesses for being successful,” said Garcia. “If a fortune 500 company had a cap, they wouldn’t grow.”

“We’ve done as much as we can as advocates,” added Garcia. “It’s up to the governor to show that he really cares about minority businesses and he’s not going to kill the growth of minority businesses in New York state.”