March 30, 2024 Blog

Maximizing Dollars for Good

How Local Governments Use Procurement to Advance Job Quality and Equity

Part of RFA’s Good Jobs & Equity Blog Series

By Kelsey Berkowitz

Though the U.S. economy seems to be doing well on a macro-level, income inequality remains a considerable issue. Unemployment among Black workers remains higher than for white workers, large racial wealth gaps persist, and uneven access to career paths limit opportunity for many workers (apprenticeships remain overwhelmingly white and male, for example). In response, state and local government leaders are searching for ways to build inclusive economies where all community members can thrive, particularly with new funding available from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS & Science Act.

A growing number of these state and local governments are turning to procurement budgets—the dollars available to purchase goods and services—to boost job quality, equity and economic mobility. Governments can use procurement practices to directly fund projects focused on job quality/equity, to prioritize diversity and high-quality jobs within the organizations they financially support, or to incentivize good jobs through the procurement process itself. This blog features two governments trying just such an approach: Washington County in Oregon, and the City of Chicago.

Washington County, Oregon

As part of the Good Jobs & Equity Project, Washington County is implementing Washington County Means Progress (WCMP), a multi-pronged initiative to promote purchasing from small BIPOC-owned businesses, improve government work experiences for young professionals of color, and foster organizational culture change through DEI training and tools. As part of WCMP, Washington County’s Economic Development Department is assessing the level of diversity in the County’s vendor pool, identifying barriers BIPOC-owned businesses face in winning County contracts, and examining how the County can remove those barriers and create more wealth-building opportunities for BIPOC business owners. To learn more about how Washington County is working across departments and incorporating the input of community and small business owners into WCMP, listen to Results for America’s Data@Work podcast episode on the project.


City of Chicago

In February 2023, Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) used American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to launch SPRING Forward (Selected Pre-Release for Intensive Navigation Support Going Forward), a new pilot program that will provide employment and housing support to residents returning from incarceration. The employment side of the program will serve 300 returning residents over two years, connecting them to stable, high-quality employment and wraparound supportive services. One hundred forty returning residents will receive rental assistance subsidies and housing navigation support over two years. DFSS also included language in the SPRING Forward Requests for Proposals (RFPs) requiring service providers to focus on job quality for both returning residents and employees of the service providers.

Through SPRING Forward, DFSS is working to meet the multidimensional challenge of reentry with a multidimensional solution, something DFSS hadn’t been able to do previously due to funding restrictions. Leveraging the flexibility of ARP funding and designing the SPRING Forward program required unusually deep cross-agency collaboration with the Chicago Department of Housing, the Mayor’s Office, the Cook County Department of Corrections, and the Illinois Department of Corrections. For more on SPRING Forward and its unique RFP process, listen to this episode of Results for America’s Data@Work podcast.

Washington County and the City of Chicago are both using grants and contracts to promote high quality jobs and equitable access to economic opportunity. Through our State and Local Workforce Fellowship, RFA stands ready to assist state and local governments across the country in using procurement as a tool to build an inclusive economy in which all community members can thrive.

Procurement is one of the Five Levers of Change Results for America has identified that state and local governments can use to advance job quality and equity and boost economic mobility in their communities, the others being HR Practices, Policy, Empowerment, and Education & Enforcement. To learn more about the five Levers and how to use them, visit our Job Quality Playbook. Read the previous blogs in the series:

How to Make a Better Job: Our New Blog Series

Worker Empowerment Is Important for Job Quality. It’s Also Good for Business

The Unique Business Incentive Program Taking On Atlanta’s Economic Gaps

➡️ Want more information on RFA’s job quality initiatives? Contact [email protected].



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