One positive aspect of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that Meeks fought for is the inclusion of $12 billion for community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority designated institutions (MDIs).
That stimulus bill includes $9 billion for the Emergency Capital Investment Program, which is administered by the Department of Treasury, and $3 billion to provide grants and other aid through a CDFI fund. Meeks said lawmakers learned through the first round of PPP that primarily big businesses had access to the program, but not smaller businesses.
“When you look at community development, a local project,” he said, “the ones that could make sure deals are done are local CDFIs and MDIs.”
For example, Meeks pointed to the work of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a local CDFI that is playing a key role in developing downtown Jamaica.
“If you put the money in their hands, it makes all the difference in the world,” he added. “It makes a difference for people on the ground who understand local groups, local organizations and local people.”
Greater Jamaica Development Corporation is one of the partners involved in the $13 billion redevelopment of John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Although Meeks noted that the project overall has been delayed due to the pandemic, he praised the Port Authority for bringing together organiztions in southeast Queens and striving to meet the 30 percent minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) and local hiring targets.
“When you look at the jobs that will be created in the long run as a result of this development, it is a very positive effect,” said Meeks, who co-chairs the JFK Advisory Council.
On the legislative side, the congressman has also advocated for his corporate diversity bill, which would require public companies to publish data on the racial, ethnic and gender compositions of their board of directors and executive officers.
The corporations would also have to disclose requirements on the adoption of any policy, plan or strategy to promote diversity. Meeks said bringing more diversity to corporate boards means better outreach and more job opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds.
“You want to make sure that the days of having people excluded are over,” he said.
He added that with public dollars going to these firms, investors have a right to know the makeup of the company’s leadership and use that as a factor.
“You can’t resolve those issues if you don’t know what the facts are,” he added. “It tells you who is doing what.”