Remarks by Vice President Harris at Greater Washington Inclusive Growth Announcement
11:14 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everyone. Good morning. You know, it’s so wonderful — we all love homecomings, don’t we? (Laughter.) And this is a homecoming for me to be on this stage at Cramton Auditorium at Howard University.
Dr. Frederick, I want to thank you for always warmly welcoming us to this incredible place. In this very auditorium, I have memories of so many moments in my life, including the day that I was here in the back of the room for freshman orientation. (Laughter.) And in many ways, including my family, this is where it all started.
So, thank you, all, very much. It’s wonderful to be here with you all today.
Ellis Carr, thank you for that introduction and for your extraordinary leadership. We had some time, all of us, backstage to talk about the work that you all are doing, and I cannot thank you enough.
And Wayne Frederick, I want to just thank you again for all that you do to lead this venerable institution. You know, there’s so much about Howard University and all of our universities, our colleges, our community colleges that really do highlight what this is about, what this topic is about — which is creating a place and an environment where the talent of our nation can be nurtured and supported and encouraged.
That really is the essence of what we’re doing today, and that’s what we’re talking about today.
And this, of course, is an institution that since its founding, has worked to advance — as we are doing, all of us, today — inclusion, growth, and equity in our country.
Today, we are, of course, joined by the Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo — thank you for your work, Madam Secretary; and the Administrator of our Small Business Administration, Isabel Guzman. And thank you. You know, I’ve known Isabel’s work — I’m going to say the Administrator’s work since her work in California, and you have a longstanding track record of supporting and encouraging community strength and growth. And so, I thank you for that.
And we are, of course, honored to be joined as well by a number of extraordinary leaders from the Greater Washington Partnership — leaders who have dedicated themselves to advancing economic development and economic opportunity for all our communities.
So, thank you all for your leadership and for being here today.
I believe America is a nation that is driven by the ambition and aspirations of her people. And our economy, to a great extent, therefore is driven by the ambition and aspiration of our small businesses.
Small-business owners work morning and night to transform an idea into a reality. And that energy, of course, drives our entire nation forward. It creates jobs. It drives innovation. It accelerates economic growth.
And in America today, too many small businesses and too many entrepreneurs are also being left behind.
So, to start and grow a business, as we all know, entrepreneurs with these incredible ideas, with ambition and aspiration — well, to actually put it into effect, they need capital. Capital to buy inventory, to rent a storefront, to pay their employees. They need financial services to help run the daily operations of their business and to invest in the future.
But far too many entrepreneurs are unable to access this essential support.
Consider: Black entrepreneurs are three times more likely to report that they did not apply for credit for fear of being turned away by a bank.
Black and Latino entrepreneurs are rejected at a much higher rate when applying for small-business loans from traditional financial institutions, even when they have credit profiles similar to other applicants.
People who live in rural areas, including many Native Americans, often lack access to traditional banking services of any kind.
And many Asian American business owners, in particular immigrant business owners, face language barriers that limit their opportunity and ability to access capital and banking services.
And let us acknowledge that when we think of the importance, the relevance, and the strength of traditional banks, we must also acknowledge that they’ve not always necessarily seen the vision of small-business owners who are women, small-business owners of color, rural small-business owners, and small-business owners who serve low-income communities.
Community lenders, on the other hand, were created to see that vision. Community lenders, known as CDFIs and MDIs, predominantly serve overlooked and underserved communities.
The people who run these institutions — and here’s where the magic lies — the people, Senator, who run these institutions — because we’ve worked together; Senator Cardin is right here in the front row — often live and work in those communities.
I’m going to repeat that: The people who run these institutions often live and work in those very communities. They know the people they are lending too. They understand their needs and their challenges and their strengths. And so, when they make a loan, they personally feel the positive impact of that loan. They feel it firsthand because they’re there. And so, community lenders can often see the potential that others might overlook.
Last year, for example — and I’ve been traveling the country meeting with our incredible small-business owners, but I’ll share with you one story because it is also in the place where I was born: Oakland, California.
But, last year, I met with a small-business owner. Her name is Reign, and she owns a catering company in Oakland, California. And when she started out — she was telling me about how she needed a van. And so, she went to a traditional bank and filled out an application for a loan, and she was rejected.
And she told me about a word that she heard then that I have heard many small-business owners tell me they were presented with as something that was supposed to describe themselves that they had never heard before. That word is “unbankable.” I’ve heard so many small-business owners tell me they were told, as though this is their identity, that they were “unbankable.”
So, Reign, not being deterred by a word — (laughter) –went to a community lender. And that lender, of course, saw her vision to build a catering company that made fresh, local, and sustainable food, cooked with love and served with care. And they, of course, gave Reign that loan to buy that van.
And, today, Reign runs one of the most successful catering businesses in Oakland. She has catered for clients from the mayor to the Golden State Warriors — yes — (laughs) — from Google to Stanford University.
So, Reign’s story is just one of so many.
Since I took office, I have consulted with some of the most active community lenders in our nation. And I have seen the tremendous difference that these lenders are making in communities across our country.
Latino communities in urban neighborhoods — like Columbia Heights, right here in Washington, D.C. — and rural communities across the country — like those in Oregon, like Native communities in South Dakota, and Black communities in the Mississippi Delta.
In fact, I’m heading to Mississippi on Friday to be with Bill Bynum.
Expanding our nation’s investment in community lenders has been a priority of mine and ours for years. In fact, when I was Senator, together my colleague, the great senator from Maryland, and so many others — we helped secure $12 billion for community lenders as part of a COVID-19 relief bill.
And now, with extraordinary partners such as the Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen; Secretary Raimondo; Administrator Guzman, our administration is working to broaden the reach of community lenders.
And that brings me to one of the reasons that I’m here today, which is to share with you the development of all of this work.
In 2011, the Small Business Administration launched the Community Advantage pilot loan program. It was a pilot. Through this program, the SBA partially guarantees loans made by community lenders.
It allows community lenders to make more investments in underserved communities and to make entrepreneurs loans that others might have deemed too risky — entrepreneurs like Reign.
Since its founding, the Community Advantage program has helped launch businesses, create jobs, and drive innovation across our nation.
Originally, the program was scheduled to expire this fall. But today, I am proud to announce that we are extending the Community Advantage program until 2024. (Applause.) And we are expanding it so we will expand the number of lenders in the program and increase the amount of money that they can lend. So, this, of course, means that more small businesses will be able to benefit from the program.
And, of course, our work collectively is not going to stop there. Since the President and I took office, we have held roundtables, listening sessions, and one-on-one consultations with business owners and community leaners [sic] — leaders.
I was saying to the folks who are in the front row here that, you know, the experience that I’ve had, I know we all have, is, our small-business owners — they’re not only leaders in business: They are civic leaders. They are community leaders. They are the ones who sponsor the local softball league. They are the ones who mentor and hire people from the community. They’re the role models. Right?
So, when we talk about extending and expanding this program, all of that we have in mind.
And to better understand, then, how programs like these can serve our best communities, in terms of the best and the brightest, this is the work that we are doing.
And today, informed by all of those conversations, we are announcing a number of improvements also — because we heard from folks when we had these meetings — so, a number of improvements to the Community Advantage program.
So, for example, we are simplifying program requirements so lenders can devote more of their resources to serving their borrowers and spend less time on the paperwork. Let’s get rid of some of that bureaucracy. (Applause.) There’s the lender section. (Laughter.)
And we are updating program rules to allow those people who are borrowing to restructure their debt if they fall behind on payments.
You know, during the pandemic, community lenders demonstrated again and again how much good they do in their communities. So these reforms are intended to make it easier for more lenders to connect with more small businesses who need to borrow or make a loan. And this, of course, will unleash economic opportunity in communities around our country.
So, the bottom line is this: When small-business owners have the support they need, they create jobs. When small-business owners have the support they need, they drive innovation and inspire innovation. And they grow, as a result of all of that, our entire economy.
When we talk about how we are doing as a nation and the strength of our nation; and we look to, as a measure of that, the strength of our economy, then we must ask: How are our small businesses doing, and are we doing enough for them?
Because after all, the answer to all of that will lead us to also understanding: When they do well, it benefits us all.
And so, let us continue to all work together to address the inequities that stand in the way of the ambition and the aspirations of our communities.
Let us continue in the mission of encouraging the ambition and the aspiration. And that brings me, of course, before I conclude my comments, to the mission of the Greater Washington Partnership.
The $4.7 billion investment announced today, over $600 million of which will go to community lenders, is a major step forward not only for the Capital region and the people of this region, but, by example, the role modeling you are doing will benefit people around the country.
It is truly a model. And it is a model that can and should be replicated around our nation.
Our collective goal is to create an economy in which every person, wherever they live, has the opportunity to succeed and to thrive.
Thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 11:30 A.M. EDT