Just because a cause is worthy of public funding doesn’t mean a majority of voters would necessarily give it a thumbs-up. Enter budget earmarks — provisions inserted into a budget that direct funds to a designated organization or entity without requiring the recipient to be approved through any merit-based or competitive funds allocation process. Election years seem to bring out the best in bringing home the bacon for constituents (or potential constituents), regardless of party. In a May 26 press release from State Senator Adam Hinds, after Rural School Aid and funding for the Berkshire Flyer, a hefty $250,000 for the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce seems to be the grandest single line item tacked on to the Commonwealth’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget.
According to the release, Hinds noted that “Approximately $1.7 Trillion are generated annually by LGBTQ+ owned businesses.”
U.S. News and World Report pegs the Massachusetts Gross State Product at just under $6 Billion, so astute readers would be justified in scratching their head over that colossal estimation.
This staggering sum appears to be based on a 2016 report by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which has not, as far as can be determined, been verified by the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or any other number-crunching government body. If based in fact, though, this report, with its glaring $1.7 trillion figure, would seem to be Exhibit A in the argument for why the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce should receive state funding at such extravagant levels. If LGBTQ-owned businesses are that much of an economic powerhouse, Mass. taxpayers should jump at the opportunity to promote the fortunes of these wealth generators — to the tune of a quarter of a million smackeroos, right?
Not so fast. The Office of Policy Analysis and Development within the U.S. Department of Commerce reported in September, 2021, that minority-owned business enterprise (MBEs), in the last year for which data is available, only generated $1.7 trillion in revenue nationwide, when all 9.2 million employer and non employer (classifiable) MBEs were combined. Setting aside the $1.7 trillion coincidence, common sense suggests that all the minority-owned businesses combined, from Pembroke, Maine to the Puuwai, Hawaii, are going to out-generate LGBTQ-owned businesses.
The NGLCC seems to have arrived at that number by averaging the revenue of their members and projecting out to a cumulative total based on an estimated number of LGBTQ-owned businesses in the United States, which, again, has not been independently verified, as far as I can tell.
The report, however, acknowledges that the range of yearly revenues of its members begins at $1,707 (under $2K per year) to $180,000,000. With a range like that, containing, likely, some obviously extreme outliers at the top of the scale, using the average is not sound methodology. A median, which would be slightly more helpful, is not provided.
In a December 7, 2021 Daily Hampshire Gazette piece, Grace Moreno, head of the Massachusetts LGTB Chamber of Commerce, was quoted as saying that an estimated 21,000 LGBT-owned businesses operated in Massachusetts. No source data was offered to back up that figure. The organization boasts fewer than 400 member businesses. Similarly, the entire National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce represents fewer than 1,000 businesses (per their most recent published figures).
“Our chamber wants to find those 21,000 businesses,” Moreno told the Gazette.
The Greylock Glass, in a May 27 e-mail, contacted the organization, which was established in 2018, to ask them if they have encountered some obstacle preventing them from locating more than 387 LGBT-owned businesses in Massachusetts. We asked also how, specifically, the organization plans on using this $250,000, and how they project this taxpayer investment will benefit the Commonwealth. Split between the six staff listed on the organization’s website, this slab of pork would work out to a $41, 666 serving per person.
The Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce has not responded to our request for comment.
The office of Sen. Adam Hinds has also not returned our request for comment, which was sent by e-mail the same day.