Through the initiative, which began in 1980 and was most recently reapproved in 2015, funds are allocated to projects contracted by states to be completed by “firms owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual,” according to the program’s website.

At least 10{d93457022679712214ff8a8035fa266341f9634f2c93d5e609b1bbb089e8c446} of federal dollars available for transportation-related projects must be spent with those disadvantaged businesses. A spokesperson for IDOT said in an email that in 2019, it reached a DBE Program participation mark of 17.07{d93457022679712214ff8a8035fa266341f9634f2c93d5e609b1bbb089e8c446}. He added that is the largest percentage it achieved in six years and was in increase of 2 percentage points from the year prior.

“One of my core principles is making our workforce representative of the community IDOT serves,” Omer Osman, Illinois’ acting transportation secretary, said in a written statement. “Transportation truly has the ability to help Illinois realize the full potential of our communities and residents.”

State Sen. Cristina Castro, a Democrat from Elgin, said she is “proud” the coalition of state transportation departments created the diversity committee.

“COVID-19 and the recent protests have shined a light on the struggles people of color face on a daily basis, so it’s encouraging to see state agencies across the Midwest taking initiative to look inward and self-evaluate to see where they fall short on issues of diversity,” she said in a written statement.

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