In early February, the Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate and Congress grappled with competing versions of an unprecedented "stimulus" package, as some would call it, the administration's Recovery and Reinvestment plan for the troubled economy.
By the middle of February, President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion bill, of which about 74 percent will be spent in the next 18 months.
Expectations are high even as questions remain about how the bill will impact the economy.
That's not the only uncertainty facing the new Obama administration, as it pursues assuming leadership and authority over policy, legislation, and the agencies of the federal government.
Where does all this leave the country, the economy? For the moment it appears that notwithstanding the notion that politics had evolved into a "post partisanship" stage, partisanship seems healthy and at times in recent days even robust.
Meanwhile, the states, in dire budgetary circumstances themselves, are demanding the squabbling end in Washington. Small and minority business enterprises face their own set of challenges. Will small business and the minority business enterprise economy be a part of TARP II as has been promised, and what are the specifics? When will Treasury unfreeze the credit markets?
Will the stimulus package in particular re-energize the Small Business Administration by bringing back the 50 percent of staff that was cut over the last eight years and provide contracting opportunities and capital for enterprise financing?
Perhaps one of the most painful excisions for many, from the Recovery legislation during negotiations with three Republican senators, was cutting assistance to public school construction.
Says Harriet Michel, president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in New York: "Everything right now is anecdotal," but she observes, "we're hearing stories – lots of stories – and they aren't good."
But the horizon is not all troubling. According to Don P. Alessi, national minority business development coordinator for Comerica, the No. 1 diversity supplier development program in the nation, "We're continuing to adhere to the goals we established before the recession regarding supplier diversity." Comerica obtained the No. 1 spot among a stellar group of companies with outstanding diversity supplier programs, published in this issue.
That's the picture in February: lots of concerns and some sunny spots here and there.
The question remains, and it could take months to find the answer, whether the "stimulus" package will, in fact, be all that the administration and lawmakers promise.
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