Minority, women-owned construction firms struggle to pay employees, face layoffs: survey

Half of MWBE group’s firms fear bankruptcy

Mar.March 26, 2020 04:20 PM
Construction workers in New York City on March 26, 2020 (Credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

Construction workers in New York City on March 26, 2020 (Credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

Many minority and women-owned construction companies say they are struggling to pay their employees and anticipate layoffs over the next few weeks and months, according to a new survey.

The Minority & Women Contractors & Developers Association, a New York-based nonprofit organization, asked its members this week how they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Of the group’s 84 members, 71 responded — nearly all of whom indicated that they are having difficulty making payroll. More than 50 of the firms said they expect to lay off some employees in the coming months and weeks, and half said they fear bankruptcy as a real possibility.

“Even pre-pandemic, these are existential issues that our members face,” said Kenneth Thomas, co-Managing director of the MWCDA. “Our members, by and large, are undercapitalized in the first place.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated Thursday that he may limit the types of construction that are considered “essential,” meaning that some project sites will likely have to close down.

City Council members and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have repeatedly called for a halt in non-essential construction — for instance, work that isn’t related to infrastructure, healthcare facilities or emergency repairs. Concerns have mounted as workers have contracted Covid-19 and complaints have surfaced relating to the difficulty innate in social distancing on a cramped construction site.

New York wouldn’t be alone in restricting certain types of construction. Earlier this month, Boston halted all construction throughout the city. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee clarified on Thursday that residential and commercial construction must stop for two weeks, according to Bloomberg.

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