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The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District ( MWRD ) Board of Commissioners unanimously approved policies to assist LGBT-owned and -operated business enterprises ( LGBTBE ) as well as those owned and operated by persons with disabilities ( BEPD ) July 16 during the commissioner's monthly meeting.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nine-to-zero vote took place virtually. MWRD President Kari K. Steele, Vice President Barbara J. McGowan and commissioners Frank Avila, Cameron Davis, Kimberly Neely Du Buclet, Marcelino Garcia, Josina Morita, Debra Shore and Mariyana T. Spyropoulos were in attendance.

The vote was the result of about a year's worth of work by Shore and Garcia to include LGBT and people with disabilities small business owners to the list of groups that already includes people of color, women and veterans.

According to the MWRD press release sent to this publication, LGBTBE and BEPD small businesses "will have the opportunity to attend MWRD vendor fairs, events, meetings and other activities that foster business opportunities."

Additionally, the policies state that MWRD will reach out to LGBTBE's and BEPD's and collect data on them as well as explore a certification process for these small business vendors with the district. The MWRD serves 10 million people daily and encompasses 882 square miles of Cook County.

"As a public agency, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has an obligation to ensure equity and fairness in all of its operations, including procurement," said Shore in the press release sent to this publication. "This policy will improve outreach to the LGBT business community, and it will give us the information we need to ensure that all businesses have a chance to compete on a level playing field."

"Today's action by the MWRD Board of Commissioners marks a continuation of MWRD policies toward inclusion and opportunity," said Garcia in the press release sent to this publication. "We are not only establishing new LGBTBE and BEPD policies, but we are also setting up the framework for data collection to ensure we can build a solid policy that creates future generations of opportunity for small business owners looking to join us in protecting our water environment."

"The LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois is incredibly proud of the leadership shown by President Kari Steele and the MWRD," said LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois Director Jerome' Holston in an email statement to this publication. "With their unanimous vote, this simple yet significant move expands access to business opportunities for both LGBTQ+ and disabled owned businesses. As small businesses continue to bounce back from COVID-19, we are excited to partner with MWRD and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce in implementing a successful program, and working to create a process that will create equity and transparency in MWRD's outreach and spending in diverse communities across Cook County.

"Thank you to Commissioners Marcelino Garcia and Debra Shore for their courage and willingness to stand up for LGBTBE and BEPD business owners. Additionally, thank you to our members Roxanna Daniels, Allison Stutts and Richard Sypniewski for their advocacy efforts in championing the many diverse voices that make up the LGBTQ+ business community."

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