The Biden-Harris Administration overturns the 40-year ban on local hire!

On Thursday, April 4, 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration released “substantial updates” to the Office of Management and Budget’s Guidance for Federal Financial Assistance. The guidance overturns the 40-year ban on local hire, and for those of us who were part of Gamaliel’s transportation campaign (i.e., Transportation Equity Network or TEN) between 2004 and 2015 and organizing to secure local hire, this is a huge victory!

Many of you will remember that Gamaliel received funding from the Ford Foundation as part of a one-year pilot project announced in 2015 by then Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, (Obama-Biden Administration). The pilot was limited to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) funded projects in an effort to secure evidentiary support for lifting the ban on local hire.

Our experience in several of our affiliate communities, most notably in Kansas City, Missouri, demonstrated significant results when local jurisdictions allowed for local hire:

  • More people of color and women actually secured jobs on city constructions project, when compared with the period before the ordinance was passed (in Kansas City) because appropriate goals were set for hiring minorities, women, and DBEs, and a concrete program was developed to build the pipeline and support contractors in achieving the goals;
  • The pool of trained workers increased due to extensive community education and outreach and coordination with local workforce and job-preparedness centers that connected workers to job opportunities and dedicated retention programs that supported workers once they were on the job;
  • Because the ordinance(s) included a reporting requirement, contractors and the city become more accountable to the community;
  • The organizing work to secure the local workforce ordinance resulted in deeper relationship between labor, contractors, community organizations, training programs, the City, and other stakeholders; and
  • The competitive bid process was fair and transparent.

With a change in Administration following the 2016 election, the federal commitment to updating the local hire policy and overturning the ban died. A number of our affiliates, though, as well as partners like Jobs to Move America, continued the campaign which has resulted in the new guidance.

The new guidance includes many of our priorities through the years, including:

  • Returning decisions about local contracting criteria to state and local governments receiving federal funds;
  • Allowing for targeted hiring in disadvantaged communities, including workers who have been historically left out of higher- wage infrastructure, service and other jobs created by public contracting;
  • Lifting the ban on geographic preference so states and localities can prioritize workers and small businesses in their communities; and 
  • Promoting job quality and equity by allowing recipients of federal funds to reward bidders for job quality metrics such as wages and benefits.

As I write this piece, I remember with gratitude so many of our leaders and organizers whose efforts brought us to this moment. Let’s celebrate the victory, and then let’s make sure that the decision-makers in our communities know about the updated guidance and the opportunity to transform our regions through robust local hire policies.

Good work, Gamaliel!

Cynthia Owen Jarrold
Sr. Advisor for Funding Strategies and External Affairs

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