Remarks by Vice President Harris on Historic Investments in Economic Development in Underserved Communities
Delta Center Stage
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Good afternoon. (Applause.) Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Please have a seat. Good — it’s so good to be with you all. Good afternoon. Good afternoon.
Ms. Joyce, I want to thank you for that introduction. You know, I had the honor of visiting her shop earlier today. And it took me back. I shared with her — you know, my mother would make our clothes often. She would make — I remember in particular a couple of very fancy dresses she made. And going to the shop, I saw those fancy dresses that Ms. Joyce was making, and I thought — it really took me back.
And I know what it means to have a place like that in the community where you can go and where families go and where it is intergenerational, in terms of the families that are impacted by the work that happens in places like that.
So, I want to thank you for allowing me to visit with you today and to visit your store.
Mayor Errick Simmons, where are you? I know you’re here. There you are. I want to thank you for welcoming us — so warmly welcoming us. The mayor met me on the tarmac as I landed, and I thank you for the warm welcome and your role of leadership.
It is good to be in this beautiful place. And so good to be here, of course, with Chairman Bennie Thompson — where is he? (Applause.) I will tell you, he is a true champion for the people of this state. And I didn’t dare make this trip plan without checking in with Bennie Thompson — (laughter) — to seek his advice and approval. (Laughter.)
But I will tell you, in all seriousness, I have seen him, over the years, during the time that we have worked together, in the halls of the Capital, in these very ornate rooms in our United States Capital — sometimes when the camera is on, sometimes when the cameras are off — and he is the same person always. He is always fighting for the people of Mississippi. Always. (Applause.)
And I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him twice this week because — or last week, actually — because we were at the White House when the Pre- — together when the President signed into law the Emmett Till Antilynching Act — (applause) — yes — which was a step toward finishing some unfinished business.
Also here with us today is the great Bill Bynum, the CEO of Hope Credit Union. (Applause.) And Mr. Bynum, as you know, has helped connect so many people in Mississippi and across the South with opportunity and, yes, with hope to be all they can be.
And I shared with a couple of folks earlier — I did check in with him actually after we first came into office, because this has been a very longstanding area of focus and priority for me, which is to support our small businesses. And I’d been hearing for years about work of Bill Bynum and so checked in with him at the very beginning.
And he told me at the very beginning, during the height of the restriction — COVID — so we couldn’t really travel — and he said, “Well, Madam Vice President, if you really want to see what’s going on, you come to the Mississippi Delta.” So here I am. (Applause.) So here I am.
And so, Greenville is a city that knows so much and, in particular, knows resilience. In 1927, the waters of the Mississippi rose and covered every square foot of this city for three months. And when the water receded, the people of Greenville cleaned up and moved back in.
Over the past two years, like so many communities around our nation, you have faced incredible challenges. And you have met those incredible challenges with incredible strength.
Greenville is a place built by the ambition and the aspiration of its people. (Applause.) As an extension of the fact that America is a place that was built by the ambition and aspiration of its people. America is a nation built by people who see what can be, unburdened by what has been.
People with the ambition and the aspiration to transform dreams into reality: to buy a house, to get an education, to start a business, to leave something behind for the next generation. That energy drives our entire nation forward, and it creates jobs, it accelerates innovation, it strengthens our communities, it expands our economy, and it makes our nation more globally competitive.
And as you know, turning ambition and aspiration into action often requires capital — capital to start and grow a business or buy or renovate a home.
And it requires financial services — services like checking and savings accounts, credit cards and lines of credit, financial information and good advice.
As you know well, not everyone in our country, sadly, can access this essential support.
Consider this: 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 homeowners are rejected at a higher rate when applying for home loans from traditional financial institutions, even when they have credit profiles similar to other applicants. Many Asian American business owners, in particular immigrant business owners, face language barriers that limit their ability to access capital and banking services.
And people who live in rural communities often lack access to traditional banking services of any kind. This includes many Native Americans and, here in the Mississippi Delta, many Black folks.
And so, let us acknowledge also that while they play an important role in the growth of our economy, traditional banks have not always seen the vision of small-business owners of color, small-business owners who are women, small-business owners who live in rural areas, and small-business owners who serve low-income communities.
Community lenders, on the other hand, were created to see that vision and to support it. These lenders predominantly serve overlooked and underserved communities. The people who run these institutions often live and work in those communities. They know the people to whom they are lending. They understand the community, their needs, their challenges, and their strengths.
When they make a loan, they often personally feel its impact because, of course, they are there, linked with the community. And so, community lenders often see the potential that others might overlook.
Potential like Hope Credit Union saw in Ms. Joyce. Hope Credit Union loaned Joyce just over $10,000, an amount too small for most traditional banks to bother lending. But it was an amount that was transformative for Ms. Joyce and for Greenville. (Applause.)
Across our nation, small businesses are engines of economic prosperity. And this is especially true in rural areas and in Mississippi, where over 99 percent of all businesses are small businesses.
Rural small businesses train and hire local workers. They provide essential products and services to customers that they often see on a daily basis and face to face. And they know and understand, and they help ensure residents have the opportunities they need to remain in the places they love.
And these businesses do not just create prosperity, they also build community. So often — in my experience and, I’m sure, yours — small-business owners are not only leaders in
business, they are community leaders. They are civic leaders. They sponsor the local softball team. They mentor and hire young people from the community. They are role models. And now, as we all know well, rural small businesses also face unique challenges that businesses in urban areas sometimes do not.
For example, many operate in communities that do not have access to affordable or accessible high-speed Internet or in communities where the roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair.
So, our administration is dealing with that too. And we have made, we are proud to say — again, thanks to the Congressman and so many others — historic investments to address these challenges.
For example, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $110 billion to repair our nation’s roads and bridges, to help customers and employees better access small businesses. And the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $65 billion to ensure that every person in our nation has access to affordable high-speed Internet. (Applause.)
And we know that part of why that is important is, of course, the subject today: Small businesses need to reach their customers. They need to buy supplies, even run their cash register. And all of that will be helped by having access to high-speed Internet.
And so, we are fighting every day to ensure that small businesses have access to capital and the banking services they need to thrive. And that is why we are all here today.
Mississippi has one of the highest concentrations of community lenders of any state in our nation — (applause) — with more than 100 CDFIs — these Community Development Financial Institutions — holding assets of over $35 billion.
Those institutions have helped so many small-business owners, like Joyce, start, grow, and protect their small business. And they deserve more support.
So, like many of the lenders here with us today, expanding our nation’s investment in these institutions has been a priority of mine for years. When I was senator, I helped secure $12 billion for community lenders as part of a COVID-19 relief bill — because we clearly know from Joyce’s story the connection there.
Of the approximately $10 billion that has already been allocated from that investment, more has gone to community lenders in Mississippi than to lenders in any other state. Yes. (Applause.)
And now, our administration is working with our partners — the Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, and the Administrator of the SBA, Isabella Guzman — to broaden the reach of community lenders.
So I’m going to offer a couple of examples. Back in 2011, the Small Business Administration launched what was called the Community Advantage pilot loan program. Through this program, the SBA partially guarantees loans made by community lenders. It allows community lenders to make more investems [sic] — more investments in underserved communities and to make loans to entrepreneurs that others have deemed too risky.
Earlier this week, I was proud to announce that our administration is extending, expanding, and improving the Community Advantage program so that more small businesses will be able to benefit. And our work does not stop there.
Families across the nation are feeling the rising cost of housing. Now, there are many reasons homes are becoming more expensive to buy and to rent. Here is one of the most significant: Our country simply does not have enough houses. That is why in the budget that our administration released this week, we proposed $5 billion in funding over 10 years for community lenders to invest in construction and rehabilitation projects.
That will increase the number of affordable homes available to rent and to buy. And it will help to lower the cost of living of families throughout our country.
And I’ll end with this: You know, when the pundits —
you know, in the evening news — they talk — when they talk about economic opportunity — right? — and they’re asked their opinion about economic opportunity, have you ever noticed that they will often refer to Wall Street or Silicon Valley?
Well, from my perspective, I think they should be talking about places like Greenville. (Applause.) (Laughs.) Right? Because, you know, this is a place that can help us take the temperature of how we’re doing and because this is a place that is filled with people with talent and tenacity and vision — people who, when given the opportunity, will build something extraordinary.
And there are communities like Greenville across the South and across our nation — reservoirs of ambition and aspiration just waiting to be tapped. That is why we invest in community lenders. And that is why we will keep working to build an economy that includes everyone. And that is why we will keep working to ensure that every person in our nation, no matter where they live or who they are, has an opportunity not only to succeed but to thrive.
Because when we do, we’re very clear, we lift up communities like Greenville and we lift up our small businesses, and all of America benefits.
Thank you all very much. Take care. Thank you. (Applause.)