New York just became the biggest city to make LGBT-owned businesses eligible for billions in government contracts for minority entrepreneurs

LGBT-owned businesses will now be officially recognized by New York City as minority-owned businesses, qualifying them for resources like mentorship and consulting – and, significantly, as suppliers for government contracts.

In conjunction with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), New York City’s Department of Small Business Services will fast-track LGBT businesses into its certification programs.

Those certification programs were already open to minority and women-owned businesses, as well as historically economically and socially disadvantaged individuals.

The city has a 10 year goal to award $25 billion in contracts to those certified businesses by 2025. An August press release said that the city is on track to award 30% of all contracts to minority and women-owned businesses in 2021. The city awarded $964 million in contracts during the first three quarters of 2020.

Now, those opportunities will be open to majority LBGT-owned businesses certified with NGLCC.

Justin Nelson, the president and cofounder of NGLCC, said New York has been a priority for the group for nearly 10 years. The group saw victories on the other side of the Hudson in Hoboken and Jersey City, but they just couldn’t get across the finish line in NYC – until today.

“This is, without a doubt, a major win for LGBT businesses, a major win for NGLCC,” he said. He added that it’s “one of the most diverse cities in the world saying, ‘You know what, yes, we want to be inclusive, not just in our policies, but in our practices.'”

In 2019, New York City spent $96 billion; while not all of that will go to small businesses, Nelson said “there are literally billions of dollars of opportunity that have been opened up now to LGBT businesses that weren’t there yesterday.”

“Equity of access and inclusion are at the core of the work we do at SBS,” Jonnel Doris, commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services, said in a statement. “A diverse vendor pool makes a stronger New York City, and we are excited to maximize the inclusion of LGBTQ certified firms into the City’s certification process. We look forward to our continued partnership with the NGLCC.”

A recent survey by the NGLCC found that nearly 59% of LGBT businesses fear shutting down due to COVID if they don’t receive any additional funds, according to Nelson.

Marti Cummings, a gig worker and drag artist who is running for New York City Council, told Insider that “any opportunity to help women owned businesses, BIPOC owned businesses. and LGBTQIA+ businesses is a positive.”

“To be able to welcome LGBTQIA+ businesses into this fold is really important, because our marginalized communities need a seat at the table and need their voices to be heard,” they said about the new certification program.

As a drag artist, Cummings primarily works and performs at small businesses. They said that three of the venues they used to work at have closed during the pandemic, and ensuring the futures of remaining LGBT-owned businesses is crucial.

“We really need to put in the work to save these spaces and these institutions that are so vital to the safety of queer people,” they said. Cummings said that measures like canceling rent, mortgages, and taxing the wealthy could also provide needed relief to businesses in the short-term.

In the meantime, LGBT-owned businesses who want to take advantage of the new program need to be certified with the NGLCC (or get certification), and register with the small business services (SBS) database.

“I love local business. I just think it is the heartbeat of our city,” Cummings said. “And we have such a long road of recovery ahead from this pandemic, but if we all work together as a community block by block, we will get through this. We have to keep holding on. We have to keep fighting for our city, state, and federal government to do the work, to help the people who are suffering, because they work for us.”

*story by Business Insider