Feb 5, 2021
Kamala Harris & Janet Yellen Meeting with Black Chambers of Congress Transcript February 5
Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with the Black Chambers of Congress on February 5, 2021 to discuss the American Rescue Plan (COVID-19 relief). Read the full transcript of the briefing event here.
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Ron Busby: (00:00)
Thank you, everyone, for joining us this afternoon. I am truly honored to be with you as we have the opportunity to celebrate Black history, but also to talk about the current conditions of Black people, as well as to talk about how we engage and go forward for the future of this country, as it relates to Black America. I, again, am the president of the United States Black Chamber. We represent 146 Black chambers located throughout 42 states, including Canada and six countries in Africa, with a membership base of over 380,000 Black owned businesses, but we are the voice of over 2.6 million Black owned businesses.
Ron Busby: (01:20)
The U.S. Black Chamber is founded on our five key pillars, and the first one is advocacy. And this afternoon we’re demonstrating our relationships, as well as the strength that we have that differentiates us from any other Black civil rights or any other chamber of commerce. This is what the U.S. Black Chamber is about. And you’ll hear it from both the vice president, as well as the secretary of treasury, to bring comments as well as concerns as it relates to our issues, specifically Black owned businesses. And one of those primary concerns is access to capital, and we all know it is a tremendous burden for Black business owners, as well as Black homeowners and communities to get affordable and accessible capital.
Ron Busby: (02:06)
Our third one is contracting, and we are going to discuss with this administration about opportunities to do business with the federal government, as well as use their bully pulpit to make sure that corporate America is doing its role, as well. And lastly, as a Black collective, you have all heard the story about we have a trillion dollars of spending power. Our responsibility is to keep that trillions of dollars in our community to ensure that we have sustainability, not just through these difficult times, but to thrive after we get out.
Ron Busby: (02:41)
The next one is really about entrepreneurial training, and as chamber leaders and business owners across the country, I was really surprised when we heard that 68% of Black businesses failed during the COVID period of time because they did not look for expert advice. We, as chamber leaders and business leaders across the country, have those relationships, have the acumen and skill, and we will make sure that we develop those businesses across the country.
Ron Busby: (03:09)
And then last is chamber development, and I’m happy to have over 140 chambers join us this afternoon to talk about the New American Recovery Plan. It is really the details, and always the details, as well as the implementation of programs like this. It is our opportunity today to talk about how this can be succinct, as well as intentional for Black owned businesses, Black communities, and most importantly, Black families. This piece of legislation has been rolled out. The great thing about Black chambers is that we are located in both Republican as well as Democratic states, but we carry the voice of our constituents, our members, and the voters in those communities. And so I am happy to have you here to discuss the New American Recovery Plan, and I’m also happy to have four of my chamber leaders here to provide great questions and give insight to some of the concerns that they see locally, as well as around the country.
Ron Busby: (04:14)
So without further ado, I’d like to first introduce the new secretary of treasury, the first female, as well as our good friend, Dr. Secretary Janet Yellen. Thank you.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (04:42)
Vice President Kamala Harris: (04:42)
You can speak into that camera.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (04:42)
Thank you, Ron, and thank you all for joining us. I know the members of the Black Chambers of Commerce have been very engaged in helping us respond to this economic crisis, and I’m looking forward to our conversation. I’ve been an economist for a long time, and one of the areas where I focused my attention is on racial disparities in economic outcomes. It was probably because I started studying economics during the civil rights movement. I took my first course around 1963. I was a freshman in college. And if you looked at the economic data back then, the average Black family possessed roughly 15% of the wealth of the average white family. That’s more than a six to one difference, and it’s stark, but perhaps it isn’t surprising. Jim Crow Laws were still in effect in many places.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (05:45)
What is surprising, though, is that it is now more than half a century later, and that six to one number has barely budged. Today, African-Americans remain unemployed at roughly twice the rate of white Americans. And that number hasn’t really changed in 50 years, either. It’s as close to a constant as you come in economic data. Indeed, if you somehow transported my freshman economics professor to 2021, and you only showed him the employment and wealth numbers, he would have had a hard time guessing that the country has passed the Civil Rights Act or that we elected our first Black president or our first Black vice president.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (06:37)
Instead, he might actually notice signs that the country had headed in the opposite direction, especially after 2008. During the last recession, the highest white unemployment rate ever reached was 9.2%, but Black unemployment was trapped above 10% for five years, and it peaked earlier, reaching almost 17%, and recovered slower than unemployment for almost any other group. And that is what economic crises do. They hit people of color harder and longer. They push our country away from our values, toward more inequality.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (07:23)
And I’m worried that the current crisis will do this again. In fact, I know it will, unless we act. During the early days of the pandemic, African-Americans with the first to lose their small businesses. They were the first to lose their jobs. And we’ve seen early data that suggests Black workers will be the last rehired when the economy opens back up. That’s why the American Rescue Plan is badly needed, to make sure that this pandemic isn’t another generational setback for racial equality, and better yet, to finally start building an economy that works for everyone.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (08:08)
I know this is a goal the vice president cares deeply about, too. In fact, it was the first thing she asked me to work on with her. When she swore me in as secretary, we spoke, and she asked me about providing more capital to community development financial institutions and minority depository institutions. These CDFIs and MDIs are so important, because they serve communities that the wider financial system traditionally hasn’t served well, especially communities of color. They give loans to people to buy homes and start businesses. Madam Vice President, I am very glad to be working with you on these issues and to be here with you today. And let me turn things over to you.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (08:58)
Thank you, Secretary Yellen, and greetings to everyone. I’m looking on this big screen at all of you. I see so many friends, and I see a screen full of national leaders. And so I want to thank you all for the time that you are giving to this conversation. Ron Busby, I thank you for bringing us together, my Oakland brother, but I just want to thank everyone. And let me just say, the secretary mentioned the conversation that she and I had when I swore her in, but we had a conversation before that, Madam Secretary, and it was during the time, it was before she was actually nominated and the process was in place. And we had a conversation about how she was thinking of the job.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (09:42)
And she’s the one who brought up racial disparities with me. And so I can tell you that we are very fortunate with all that she brings to this position in terms of her experience, her expertise, her knowledge, her so profoundly respected knowledge around how our economy works and how we can make it work. We’re very fortunate to have you serve as the secretary, and we thank you for this commitment that you have made to our country.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (10:11)
So thank you all. And this is a conversation we are going to be having a lot. Yes, this is February. It is Black History Month, but I think as we all are concerned, Black History Month is every month. And so this conversation is not only for today. It is part of an ongoing conversation we intend to have with you, as the leaders that you are. And you know, frankly, when I think about who you are and your members, in terms of the chambers, who they are, we’re talking, yes, about business leaders, but what we also know is that those business leaders are often also community leaders, civic leaders, and opinion leaders. And so the role of responsibility is transcendent in terms of the impact it has on the community. The role and the responsibility includes being part of the fabric of the community, contributing to the culture of the community, contributing to the growth and the pride of the community in which you work and where you are established.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (11:17)
And so that is the lens through which the president and I and the secretary are thinking about your role of leadership, and the partnership that we have, and we’ll continue to grow. But yeah, I did basically a rough assessment. And when we look at our Black businesses in our country, they range. We are talking about software companies. We’re talking about healthcare companies. Yes, we’re also talking about the beauty shop and the barbershop, but we are also talking about healthcare. We are also talking about childcare. We’re also talking about manufacturing, because Black businesses, of course, are engaged in the business of keeping America running. And so in every sector, these businesses are present. And that is how we think of, then, the role that you play, but also our responsibility to support you in all of those sectors.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (12:11)
And during this pandemic, as the secretary has said, this has been rough. We have all seen estimates that as many as 40 to 50% of Black businesses have closed, perhaps permanently. Nationally, we know small businesses, of which the majority of Black businesses are, employ 50% of America’s workforce, either because that worker is a small business owner or works for a small business. So when we’re talking about the impact on the overall economy and country, it’s profound, and our research also has shown that in the pandemic, and this is something that is a lived experience for many of you and your members, the PPP program was not accessible to so many of our Black owned businesses. And it had to do with the multiple…
Vice President Kamala Harris: (13:03)
… of our black owned businesses. And it had to do with the multitude of issues, which included that those businesses were not necessarily engaged with the big banks. Didn’t necessarily have the familiar or the consistent relationship, if not any relationship, with a banker who could then call somebody up and say, “Ms. Smith, this thing is coming down and this is how you apply for it.” But what we know is those relationships do exist. And so for whom those relationships are intact, they got the benefit. And for whom those relationships are not intact, they did not get the benefit of the PPP. So the president and I together with the secretary have been looking at how we can do better, knowing the mistakes that were made and improve on what we need to do to bring relief to the businesses of our country, to help our economy grow.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (13:56)
So we are thinking of it in two ways, as a general matter. There is the piece of it that is about what we need to do to get control of the public health component crisis of the pandemic. And so I’m going to talk for a minute about vaccines. And it is about getting our businesses back up and running. Understanding those two points are inextricably linked. That one of the reasons we got into the catastrophe, the most recent catastrophe, I’m going to put aside preexisting issues, but the most recent catastrophe around our black businesses is because also we need to get control of the pandemic. So on the subject of the pandemic, we have crafted and the president has proposed the American Rescue Plan. And a large part of that plan is focused on vaccinations. And so for example, we are putting in $400 billion to have a vaccine distribution plan that is going to include, for example, in Oakland, California, at Oakland Coliseum and in Los Angeles, California at the Cal State LA, the first federally supported along with the state, vaccine distribution center.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (15:17)
We’re very excited about that. That’s going to be up and running, we believe, by February 15th. And this is the first time that the federal government has come in, sadly, since the pandemic started to support states to do the vaccine distribution piece. But that’s going to be up and running. So part of what we’re going to ask is for your assistance and support for that component, not only of the American Rescue Plan, but what we need to do to actually make it work, meaning getting folks to go and get vaccinated. Because it’s good to have a vaccine, but if folks don’t get vaccinated, it won’t save the lives we intend to save. We also have a part that is basically about bringing the economy back to full employment and doing that in a way that we understand that black workers see the biggest wage gains when the economy is at full employment.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (16:06)
So the way we are going to do that is, yes, by the vaccinations, but also we need to reopen schools and reopen them safely. So that is part of our American Rescue Plan. Also, we made a commitment for $2,000 of relief to families. There was a down payment on that in the previous bill of $600 and we intend, with this next bill, the American Rescue Plan, to have $1,400 checks going out to those folks who are most in need by way of relief. To help them get through this moment of crisis so that at the end of it, they can get back up and recover in the way that we intend. And also more specifically for our businesses, we are also creating a specific package of relief that is about $15 billion. This did not exist in previous bills, in the relief bills. $15 billion going to grant programs, not loans, grants, targeted at our smallest businesses of which the majority of black businesses are and targeted at our black and brown and minority owned businesses.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (17:13)
So this is some of the work we are doing, in addition to, as the secretary said, what we are doing around the CDFIs, the community development financial institutions. And as a point of personal pride, that was one of the last things I worked on when I was in the Senate together with Senator Cory Booker, Senator Mark Warner and others. And the idea is basically to put more capital, to infuse more resources into our community banks, knowing that those are the ones that have the relationships with our businesses and are best equipped to support them, not only by way of grants and loans, but also by way of helping them grow their businesses, helping and surrounding them with the infrastructure of skills and resources they need to sustain a business.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (18:03)
So these are some of the areas of focus. And my last point would be this, back in May I actually spoke with the California Black Chambers about the Paycheck Protection Program and the concern about the existing lines at lending banks and folks getting turned away. And so let us just say that we believe and the president believes this very strongly. If relief is not available to everyone who needs it, then we are not doing enough. And so part of the spirit behind the American Rescue Plan is to broaden the folks who are actually receiving the relief they need. And with that, I look forward to our conversation. Again, I want to thank all of you for what you do every day. And we look forward to this partnership as we go forward.
Ron Busby: (18:53)
Thank you, Madam Vice President. And being from Oakland, it is wonderful to be able to carry that message. Our chamber of the year last year was actually the Oakland African-American Chamber of Commerce. And they won that prestigious award based upon the efforts that they created during 2020. They actually raised, from donations, a million dollars and awarded grants to local black owned businesses up to $800,000 of those funds to make sure that black businesses that could not get what was needed from traditional, as well as CDFIs had the opportunity to continue to prosper. I’d like to invite Cathy Adams who’s the President and CEO of the California African-American, I’m sorry, the Oakland African-American Chamber of Commerce for our first question.
Cathy Adams: (19:45)
Thank you so much, Ron and Madam Vice President Kamala Harris. As president of Oakland African-American Chamber of Commerce and also a business owner, my question is how can we ensure the provisions outlined within the American Rescue Plan reach black businesses, black communities, and black families?
Vice President Kamala Harris: (20:10)
Thank you, Cathy. And it’s so good to see you. It is so good to see you. So I will tell you, the president, and he and I have been spending a lot of time together before we got sworn in on January 20th and since. And I will tell you, he has such a deep commitment to equity. Really, he brings it up all the time. He challenges the team to make sure that we are keeping in mind that there’s a big difference between equality and equity, right? Which is that, well, everyone can get an equal amount, but if you don’t start out in the same place, you don’t end up in the same place. Equity suggests that we take into account that people start out in different places and we want everyone to have equal access to opportunity. So this is a very big principle as it relates to this issue and so many others in the way that the president thinks, specifically.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (21:13)
So $400 billion is directed, in our American Rescue Plan, to stop the pandemic and in particular around the health piece. And so again, I’ll say that the piece that’s about the vaccination centers and the federal vaccination centers is a very big deal. We are putting that money into these vaccination centers and mobile vaccination sites. Because one of the things that we realized, and we all know this, is that when we’re talking about folks who live in rural communities, when we’re talking about folks who don’t have access to transportation, they don’t have a car, they should not be left out. And so we are creating these federally supported large vaccination sites to places like the Oakland Coliseum where people know how to get there and there are good transit routes to get there, public transit routes, but also mobile vaccine centers.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (22:04)
And that’s going to have a huge impact on, again, equitable distribution of the vaccine, ensuring that black folks, brown folks, those who have been left out and have been disproportionately contracting COVID and dying from it, that they have equal access to the help that they need to save lives and to save lives of their families and their communities. We’re also investing over $1 trillion of the American Rescue Plan in families. And so that’s going to be about what I said that the commitment was the $2,000, the 600 already happened, the $1,400 checks. It’s also about an extension of unemployment insurance, so that we’re going to extend the additional $400 a month. And here’s the thing that you probably know, between November and December of 2020, so just a couple months ago, 82,000 black workers lost their jobs. 82,000. Part of the assistance for families is going to be about an extension of the moratoriums on evictions, right?
Vice President Kamala Harris: (23:07)
And what we know is that almost 10% of black renters in the United States said they would be evicted in March. So this is a huge piece of it because, of course, if we’re talking about business owners or the customers of those businesses and in those communities, the first order of business is people need to have a roof over their head if they’re going to be able to be productive at all. So this is a big piece. Money is going for the schools to reopen. And the money is looking at a number of issues to reopen schools safely. And that includes making sure that there’s the personal protective equipment that is available for the teachers, for the staff, the folks who work in the cafeteria, the school bus drivers, everybody, right? It’s also about making sure that we have the resources in our public schools around plexiglass and those things that are needed in the infrastructure, the physical infrastructure of the school to ensure that the students and the teachers and all staff are safe.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (24:03)
And then we are also extending the EITC, the child tax credit. And that’s something that I’m really excited about. And that, Cathy, when we get that part of this passed in our bill, will lift up half of America’s children who are in poverty. This child tax credit, half, can you imagine half of the children who are living in poverty right now will be lifted out of poverty by this one piece. It’s so important as you can imagine. And then the $15 billion in grants as opposed to loans for small businesses. So those are some of the things that we’ll do.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (24:46)
Maybe I could-
Vice President Kamala Harris: (24:47)
And please, Secretary Yellen.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (24:49)
I just want to follow up by emphasizing that it is foremost in our thinking, we recognize this economic crisis. It’s affected America, but it hasn’t affected all communities equally. And both the health impacts and the economic impacts have been disproportionately large for the black community. And there are long-standing inequities that existed in our society before the pandemic, but this pandemic has just compounded all the problems that existed. So the American Rescue Plan that the vice-president described, it was really designed with that in mind. That yes, it’s providing support to all Americans who are suffering economically or health-wise because of the crisis, but it will ensure that the communities that have really borne the brunt, the greatest pain are going to get the relief that they need.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (26:00)
Ron, hold on. One more thing, including by the way-
Vice President Kamala Harris: (26:02)
Brian, hold on. One more thing… Including by the way.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (26:04)
As you can tell, we’re very excited about this plan. There’s so there’s a lot of good stuff in it, including federal support for behavioral health. Right? One of the things we’ve not been talking enough about in this pandemic has been the impact on mental health. And the way the president and I, and all of us, think about healthcare is that health care isn’t just about the body from the neck down. It’s also about the body from the neck up. And there’s been a lot of undiagnosed and untreated trauma, a lot of depression and all of those things. And in particular, when we’re talking about minority communities, Black and Brown communities. So there is a significant component of what we’re doing in this plan that is also about mental health and behavioral health and giving support to those services.
Ron Busby: (26:53)
So I know you were up late last night from my understanding, there was a vote this morning at 5:00 AM.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (26:59)
Ron Busby: (26:59)
So I know you probably feel a little bit of stress as well. But because of a state representative in Georgia, we had the votes to get it across. And so we’ve invited the Atlanta Black Chamber of Commerce to have some questions. I know how important they were to not just convincing America, but to change the whole complex of Red States now versus Blue States. And so, honored to have Melvin Coleman from the Atlanta Black Chamber of Commerce ask our next question.
Melvin Coleman: (27:31)
Thank you, Ron. Hello, Madam Vice President. Hello, Madam Secretary. My question is, the American Rescue Plan includes a $15 billion grant program to provide financing to more than one million of the hardest hit small businesses. How is the administration prepared to equitably deploy these grants to the businesses most underserved and overlooked by traditional capital access pathways?
Vice President Kamala Harris: (28:09)
So, I’ll start. And then I’m going to…
Secretary Janet Yellen: (28:11)
Vice President Kamala Harris: (28:12)
Greetings Mr. Coleman and thank you to everyone in Atlanta and Georgia. Yes, Mr. Busby, I was there voting at five o’clock this morning.
Ron Busby: (28:24)
Thank you for that vote.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (28:25)
No, but let me tell you, it was it enjoyable to be there and I got some time with the two new senators from Georgia while I was there to check on them. So I had a little bit of time with Reverend Warnock, I had a little bit of time with Senator Ossoff. And so thank you for sending them to the United States Senate.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (28:46)
I will say that, first, it’s really important to recognize the advocacy that so many of our business leaders, you and the Black chambers, did around the need to understand that in addition to the PPP, we needed to have grants. And your advocacy in that way had a lot of influence in this new component, this new approach, which is in the American Rescue Plan to put $15 billion into the grants. Which are obviously, they don’t need to be paid back, and people need to qualify for them, but it really is about creating support for communities that have been devastated and so hard hit.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (29:31)
And so the plan was structured in a way that it’s, again, it’s about equity. And also understanding that in many ways the PPP was structured and certainly was implemented in a way that helped big businesses, but our smaller businesses also need help. Black owned businesses, the average Black owned business has 10 or fewer employees. Right? And so we recognize that’s a different dynamic. And the grant program is also about not only saving businesses that are on the edge through no fault of their own, but giving them the support to not only survive but thrive. And I’ll pass it to the secretary.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (30:14)
Yeah, thanks so much. I just want to add that we understand that in addition to the grant money, businesses need outreach, technical assistance to understand what’s available to them, how to take advantage of it. A lot of businesses rely on sophisticated lawyers and accountants and small businesses often, they don’t have that those resources. And so there’s money here and an effort will be made to make sure we provide outreach and technical assistance.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (30:53)
And we want to make these programs really accessible. So we hope we can work with you and other partners to try to really reach businesses where they are. So the smallest businesses with the greatest needs can get the support that they require. So we’re very focused on implementation and wanting to avoid 55 page applications and expensive accounting firms to be able to apply for this aid.
Ron Busby: (31:30)
What we heard across the country was that the stimulus package, better known as the Payroll Protection Plan was really not designed for Black owned businesses. Of the 2.6 million Black businesses that we have, 2.5 million have no employees. And so when you create a program that’s based on payroll versus based on need, you’re leaving out a large percentage of the Black owned businesses. I know in Louisiana, particularly, many of the businesses did not have an opportunity to participate in either, the EIDL Program or the Payroll Protection Program. And I have asked Kelisha Garrett to join us from the Louisiana coalition of African-American Chambers, where she sits as the Vice President of Operations. Ms. Garrett.
Kelisha Garrett: (32:22)
Good afternoon, Vice President Harrison and Secretary Yellen. In addition to the 15 billion in grants and 35 billion in the state, local and tribal small business programs included in the plan, what are other ways that this new plan will provide supplementary support to existing small business initiatives like the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (32:44)
Thank you, Ms. Garrett. So first of all, from the December bill… We’re going to actually give you the website and I’m looking for it right now. I think it’s sba. gov is the website? But we want to make sure that people know to go there, to apply for what currently exists in the PPP program.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (33:11)
But we have to make it better in a number of ways. One, we intend to support the SBA for distribution of the support for the small businesses by having navigators. So that’s one of the things that did not exist before. Right? And having navigators who help our small businesses. So, as the secretary said, they don’t have to fill out 50 page reports that don’t apply to their business model.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (33:40)
I’ll never forget, a small business in California reached out to my office at the beginning of the pandemic and she said, “Look, they want me to fill out this form. And they want me to tell them about my,” she has a salon. She said, “They want me to give them all the names of my vendors.” She said, “Well, I go to the beauty supply store to get all my stuff.” And so we need to understand who the businesses are and their business model, and then make it accessible to them because they are no less a small business owner than anybody else. Right? And so that’s where the navigator comes into play. And then also helping the SBA with what they need to do more to provide technical assistance to our small businesses. And not only technical assistance to help people take the benefit of these relief plans, but technical assistance.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (34:38)
Because now in the midst of this crisis, one of the opportunities we have seen and small businesses have seen is how they can adopt technology to talk with their clients and to move their products. Right? And so let’s seed the opportunity presented in this moment to give them even more technical assistance, to think about how they can grow their business now in a way that uses technology to perform their business. And it is one of our highest priorities, all of that being said, to fix the assistance piece of the PPP program and I’ll pass it to the secretary.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (35:15)
Thanks so much [inaudible 00:35:19] Vice President. So I would first say, in thinking about implementing the PPP program, we’re really learning lessons from the failures of the first round and taking many steps to try to ensure that the smallest businesses get access to these funds first and the ones that were left out in the first round get first preference now.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (35:46)
I also want to point out that beyond the PPP program, there are other programs we think can be very helpful to Black businesses. The recently passed legislation contains $12 billion of funds to invest in CDFIs and Minority Depository Institutions. The legislation, the bill that you were so instrumental… It’s very exciting that this has been included.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (36:18)
I’ve been meeting with mayors and small business owners around the country over the last week or two. And they’ve told me, and I know from my own experience, that CDFIs and Minority Depository Institutions can and do play a crucial role in getting capital to businesses who need it.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (36:40)
And we’re seeing this as a unique opportunity to support institutions that can support small businesses in your communities. And not only in response to the pandemic, but will strengthen permanently these institutions to make a contribution. The other thing I just want to mention is that beyond PPP and the grants program that’s in the American Rescue Plan, there are other tax credits that could be very helpful to small businesses. For example, small businesses can also take advantage of an employee retention tax credit and paid leave tax credits. And so we’re really committed to providing information to small businesses so they can navigate this process and to try to make sure that businesses receive every dollar they’re entitled to.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (37:42)
Ron Busby: (37:44)
Thank you so much to both of you. Our last question comes from our chairman, Mr. Charles O’Neal, who’s also the president of the Texas African-American Chamber of Commerce, where they represent 25 Black Chambers. Mr. O’Neal.
Charles O’Neal: (37:59)
Thank you, Ron. Madam Vice President and Secretary Yellen, if you don’t mind my taking just the liberty to add on behalf of the entire board of directors of USBC and the thousands of women to men committed to aspirational goals of black businesses across the country. Thank you for this opportunity to engage the administration in a productive discussion.
Charles O’Neal: (38:18)
Given the preparation undertaken in the formulation of the American Rescue Plan, I’m certain that you and Secretary Yellen have already begun planning for what’s next. We know that black owned businesses suffer from pre-existing conditions. So what can we expect from the administration in terms of ongoing, targeted support for the businesses we represent?
Vice President Kamala Harris: (38:42)
That’s an excellent point, Mr. O’Neal, and thank you for your leadership. So, we need to get this rescue plan passed. And the reason I was in the Senate now as the President of the Senate to break the tie, was so we can get that moving along to get that relief-
Vice President Kamala Harris: (39:03)
… so we can get that moving along to get that relief to families and to small businesses as quickly as possible to deal with the immediate issues; including what cannot be overlooked, even since December, when the last package was passed, almost 100,000 people have died. Right? When we think about this moment we’re in, the way I think of it, and you’ll appreciate this from Texas, I think of it is like a hurricane, right? Sometimes we tend to think, “Okay, we now need to clean up after the hurricane.” No, we’re still in the hurricane, and it’s picking up speed. Right? That as much as anything is the motivation and the spirit behind the rescue plan, which is people are hurting right now. Back to the housing piece, back to the child poverty piece, back to the piece we’re seeing all over the country, including as you know in Texas where people are in lines in their car, standing in lines for hours and hours because their families are hungry.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (40:05)
There is that, but one of the things that the president is very committed to is a very deep part of his commitment to the future of our country is an investment in infrastructure and the creation of jobs. Look to that in the horizon, in the not too far distant future. Right? How does that relate to small businesses? Well, in so many ways. I mean, again, understanding that let’s not engage in any kind of myths about who Black businesses are. Black businesses are every business, right? Including manufacturing, including contractors and construction companies, including all of those businesses that will benefit from an investment in America’s infrastructure, be that roads or bridges.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (40:51)
But also one of the pieces that we are committed to is broadband now, which relates to everything from not only the disparities along racial lines in rural America and urban America, around our children having access to broadband and the internet when they’re missing critical stages of their education, but also for our, again, for our businesses, because those businesses who do not have access to broadband cannot thrive in this environment, in this year of our Lord, 2021, without that infrastructure in place, and that is part of our great commitment.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (41:28)
These are the kinds of things that are on the horizon, but really, infrastructure, infrastructure, jobs, jobs, jobs. In that way, our businesses will benefit. I think, in a very significant way.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (41:41)
Madame Secretary, if you want to add anything?
Secretary Janet Yellen: (41:42)
Thanks so much. I would just add that in addition to the direct support that we hope to provide to small business, and I have already emphasized implementation of the programs, some of which rest with treasury that we’re very focused on implementing them in a way these programs are accessible and there’s technical assistance and outreach. But beyond that, it’s important that you see the larger parts, some of the larger parts of the American Rescue Plan, as also helping small businesses in local communities, because the direct payments, the larger child-tax credit to households, the assistance for unemployed workers, and the package importantly includes money that will help state and local governments that are just strapped for funds, make sure that they can keep teachers, firefighters, policemen, first responders on the job. All of these things really also work to benefit small businesses in local communities, keeping people on the job and making sure that members of the community have money to spend to support local businesses.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (43:06)
I’d also like to second the points that the vice president made about what’s coming after this. We need to get through some dark months here and deal with the pandemic, get the economy on track, but we’ve had long-standing inequities in our society and President Biden and Vice President Harris have promised to build back better. We really look forward to putting in front of the American people a recovery package, a job package, a package that’s going to be focused on investing in our communities, investing in people, investing in America and addressing really long-standing inequities that we’ve faced in this country.
Ron Busby: (43:57)
Thank you. Thank you so much. Madam Vice President, as well as Madam Secretary. This has truly been an honor to discuss the American Recovery Plan. I thank all of the members of the US Black Chamber. I thank our leaders, as well as the press for joining us this afternoon. I want to give a special thank you-
Secretary Janet Yellen: (44:17)
Ron Busby: (44:17)
Vice President Kamala Harris: (44:19)
It looks like you’re closing out, but I have one more thing.
Ron Busby: (44:22)
Sure. This is your show. Yes.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (44:25)
Ron Busby: (44:26)
Vice President Kamala Harris: (44:27)
Help us get the word out. I’m going to just end where we started about you are opinion leaders, you are civic leaders, you are community leaders. Our communities are dying at disproportionately high rates. I got my second vaccine just last week. We’ve got to remind people that the vaccines are safe, that they will save lives. We’ve got to remind folk there’s a Black woman, a doctor, who helped create the vaccine that is now being used. I urge you to please get the vaccine when it’s your turn, but also to encourage your members, their employees to get vaccinated.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (45:16)
If we’re going to build back up our economy, we’ve got to get control of this. We really want to make sure that people know they have within their power the ability to save their lives, the lives of their family members, their community, but they got to get vaccinated. Like I said, in California, throughout the country we’re opening up these federal, large vaccination sites. We will follow up by getting each of you information about how you can let the folks on your list know where they can find information about where they can get vaccinated, but please help us with that. We need your help, our community and our nation needs your help with that in addition to everything else you do.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (45:57)
With that, again, thank you. And, please, if you want to close us out.
Ron Busby: (46:02)
No, thank you.
Ron Busby: (46:04)
What I have heard this afternoon is a few things, and I took a couple of notes. The first one is intentionality. The conversation that we have had today is strictly for our communities, our businesses, and we thank you for understanding and hearing our concerns as it relates to Black-owned communities.
Ron Busby: (46:22)
The second one is accountability. We are saying we want to be held accountable for our role in this American Recovery Plan as well as making sure that there is transparency so that we can hold this new administration accountable as well. We thank you for being so engaged so early in your administration, especially during this month of Black history because, again, this is not just about our history, but really about our future.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (46:49)
Ron Busby: (46:49)
To my Chamber leaders, you’ve all heard me say this: In order for there to be a great America, there must be a great Black America. In order for there to be a great Black America, there must be great Black businesses. In order for there to be great Black businesses, we need great Black Chambers.
Ron Busby: (47:08)
Thank you to all of you for joining us this afternoon. You can find out more information at thewhitehouse.gov, the US Black Chamber’s online information. Make sure your members are onboarding at buyblack.us so that we can find you, so that we can support you, and we can continue to grow our communities.
Ron Busby: (47:28)
Thank you, guys, so much.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (47:29)
Ron Busby: (47:29)
Let’s continue to move the conversation forward. Stay Black and have a great Black History Month. Thank you so much.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (47:37)
Thank you all.
Ron Busby: (47:37)
Thank you, Vince, again for allowing us this opportunity.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (47:46)
Speaker 1: (47:47)
Vice President Kamala Harris: (47:47)
Speaker 1: (47:47)
Vice President Kamala Harris: (47:47)
Vice President Kamala Harris: (47:49)
We’re just going to get on the road with you and I.
Secretary Janet Yellen: (47:50)
I think that sounds good.
Speaker 2: (47:54)
Take us with you.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (47:54)
Oh right, you’re here.
Speaker 2: (47:54)
Secretary Janet Yellen: (47:59)
Speaker 3: (48:01)
Madame Secretary, will you take some questions?
Secretary Janet Yellen: (48:03)
I don’t think so.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (48:05)
Secretary Janet Yellen: (48:06)
Speaker 3: (48:06)
Soon? We hope so.
Speaker 2: (48:07)
We would love that. Thank you.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (48:15)
Thank you all.
Speaker 2: (48:15)
Speaker 4: (48:15)