Harris and Yellen talk small business relief program

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Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appeared together on Tuesday to discuss how small businesses can get federal funding as the United States continues to move forward from the coronavirus pandemic. 

During the event, Harris announced the disbursement of nearly $1.25 billion for what are known as Community Development Financial Institutions, which loan money to low-income and other disadvantaged communities to help promote upward economic mobility. Those funds will go to more than 860 such community lenders, many of which are in minority-majority communities. 

Harris said the pandemic has accelerated economic inequities in the economy and it must be reimagined. 

"Small businesses are of course at the center of this reimagining," Harris said, noting small businesses are critical to the economy and job creation.

The money was made possible through the new Rapid Recovery Program, passed as part of the December COVID relief legislation and based on a bill by then-Senator Harris along with Senators Mark Warner of Virginia, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as Representative Maxine Waters of California. Warner and Waters were both in attendance for today's event.

Through the Rapid Recovery Program, the nearly $1.25 billion will help enable CDFIs to help their customers and communities through the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It is the rapid-response relief part of a larger $12 billion in funding for community and minority financial institutions. Another $9 billion will provide indirect capital investments to financial institutions, while $1.75 billion will go into a minority lending program later in the year.

"This is just the beginning," Yellen said. Yellen said that every dollar channeled into community lenders injects $8 in private investments. She also noted that the $12 billion being provided to the community lenders is the most funds that have gone through these institutions since their creation in the 1990s.

Warner said during his remarks the spending was the government "putting its money where its mouth is" to support minority-owned businesses. 

Making sure the smallest businesses get the financial support they need to weather the pandemic and recover has been a major focus for both the vice president and Treasury secretary and their staffs have been working together to implement the new program in overlooked communities.

At the same time, Harris' first event upon taking office was with small business owners. Less than a month into the administration, Harris and Yellen appeared together for an event with local Black chambers of commerce. Another private engagement was held in the vice president's West Wing office in late March. The vice president and Treasury secretary have also met with small business owners from across the country on multiple occasions.

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