April 1 (UPI) — Vice President Kamala Harris visited Mississippi on Friday where she highlighted the importance of small businesses to the economy and touted White House efforts to spur economic development.
Harris’ speech at the Delta Center Stage in Greenville came after she visited community members who told her about the role of community lenders in providing resources when starting businesses.
During her speech, Harris said minorities are not always able to access capital and financial services “to start and grow a business or buy or renovate a home.”
“Black entrepreneurs are three times more likely to say they didn’t apply for credit for fear of being turned down by a bank,” Harris said.
“Black and Latino homeowners are rejected at a higher rate when applying for home loans from traditional financial institutions, even when they have similar credit profiles to other applicants.”
Harris added that Asian business owners, especially immigrants, “often face language barriers that limit their ability” to access these financial services.
“People who live in rural communities often don’t have access to traditional banking services of any kind. That includes many Native Americans and, here in the Mississippi Delta, many black people,” Harris said.
She said “traditional banks” were unwilling to help small businesses owned by minority groups and women or people from low-income communities.
“Community lenders, on the other hand, were created to see that vision and support it. These lenders primarily serve neglected and underserved communities,” Harris said.
“The people who run these institutions often live and work in these communities. They know the people they are lending to.”
Harris said more than 99% of businesses in rural Mississippi fall into the small business category, while praising those businesses for training and hiring local workers.
“Small business owners aren’t just business leaders, they’re community leaders. They’re civic leaders,” Harris said. “They sponsor the local softball team. They mentor and hire kids from the community. They are role models.”
During his speech, Harris again praised the efforts of President Joe Biden’s administration to provide high-speed internet services across the country.
Last month, Harris visited a Louisiana library where she promoted the $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program, created as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law last year.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act invests $110 billion to fix our nation’s roads and bridges, to help customers and employees better access small businesses. And the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act invests $65 billion dollars to ensure that every person in our country has access to affordable high-speed internet,” Harris said Friday.
“And we know part of why that’s important is, of course, today’s topic: small businesses need to reach their customers. They need to buy supplies, even manage their cash register. And all of this will be aided by having access to high-speed internet.”
Harris said the Biden administration is working with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Guzman to “expand the reach of community lenders.”
“Earlier this week, I was proud to announce that our administration is extending, expanding and enhancing the Community Advantage program so that more small businesses can benefit from it,” Harris said. “And our work doesn’t stop there.”
Harris added that the administration’s budget plan released this week includes a $5 billion funding proposal over 10 years for community lenders “to invest in construction and rehabilitation projects.”
“It will increase the number of affordable homes available for rent and purchase,” Harris said. “And it will help reduce the cost of living for families across the country.”