Remarks by Vice President Harris During the Nationwide Economic Opportunity Tour

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Detroit, Michigan

2:23 P.M. EDT

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon, Detroit.  Good afternoon.  (Applause.)  It’s good to be back.  Good afternoon.  Please have a seat.  Please have a seat.

     I want to thank Ron Busby.  We have — many of us have worked with him over the years and know: As president of the U.S. Black Chambers, he has been an extraordinary leader to an essential organization in our fight for economic empowerment.  Can we please hear it for Ron Busby and his courageous leadership?  (Applause.)

     And I want to thank all of the extraordinary leaders who are here today.  Secretary of Energy and the former governor of this state, Jennifer Granholm — (applause) — who traveled with me today on Air Force Two from Washington, D.C.  She said, “I have got to be in Michigan.”  (Laughter.)

     I want to thank Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su for all you do to fight for the working people of America.  (Applause.) 

     Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves, thank you for your extraordinary leadership.  (Applause.)

     Representative Shri Thanedar, thank you for you and your being here.  And he is somewhere here.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

     And I want to thank also Representative Steven Horsford, who is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.  (Applause.)

     And Lieutenant Governor of Michigan Garlin Gilchrist.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

     So, Michigan, you know, I believe that America’s economy is powered by the ambition and the aspiration of her people — the ambition and aspiration to innovate, to create, and to prosper. 

     Therefore, to grow our economy, we must invest in that ambition and those aspirations.  I believe every person in our country, then, must have access to the opportunity to compete, to succeed, and to thrive; the ability to achieve what I call financial freedom, which means having enough not just to get by but to get ahead — (applause) — to be able to build a business, to own a home, to start a family, and to create intergenerational wealth. 

     Which is why, over the past three years, the President and I have invested now trillions of dollars in America’s infrastructure, in clean energy and a clean energy economy, in manufacturing, and in supply chains. 

     Our work is also guided by the understanding that there are certain communities that have faced, historically and currently, profound obstacles to acquire that opportunity. 

     And I’ll tell you over the last three years, both in the White House and at the Vice President’s Residence, where I live — (laughter) — I have convened Black entrepreneurs from around the country to solicit their advice and leverage their expertise as to how we can have the greatest impact with the billions of dollars that we are investing and to identify the challenges they face in building financial security and wealth, including disparities in access to capital and lending, disparities in homeownership and access to government contracts, to obstacles like student loan debt and medical debt. 

     President Biden and I have invested hundreds of billions of dollars to address these disparities.  And I launched, then, this national tour, the Economic Opportunity Tour, to bring together entrepreneurs, businessowners, and community leaders together with representatives from the United States Departments of Commerce and Energy and Housing and Labor and Treasury and the Small Business Administration — and the Undersecretary the SBA is with us as well — to make sure founders and families have the information and assistance to access the resources they need. 

     For example, on the subject of access to capital.  We all know Black entrepreneurs do not lack for ideas or ambition but often lack the capital that is necessary to turn an idea into a thriving business, to invest in inventory, hire employees, to scale up. 

     In fact, Black entrepreneurs are three times as likely to not apply for a loan, for fear they’re going to be turned away from a bank. 

     So, two years ago, I founded the Economic Opportunity Coalition — a group of 31 companies and nonprofits — including, for example, the Bank of America, MasterCard, and the Ford Foundation — that are working currently to invest $3 billion in community banks — banks which we know are uniquely designed to serve minority and women entrepreneurs. 

     And this builds on the work that I did when I was a United States senator in 2020 to invest $12 billion more in our community banks.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

     And understand: This work is helping Black businesses receive loans not only for thousands of dollars, but for millions of dollars. 

     For example, I’m proud to announce we are investing $100 million in small- and medium-sized auto supply companies, many of which — (applause) — many of which are Black-owned and based right here in Michigan.  These grants will allow businesses to upgrade production and production lines to produce parts for electric vehicles. 

     I’m also pleased to announce the launch of a new program that will match government-backed loans with private equity capital to help small- and mid-size auto suppliers access loans from a quarter million dollars to 10 million dollars.  (Applause.)

     The strength of America’s economy is also based on the strength of America’s supply chains.  We all learned that in the pandemic, if we weren’t clear before. 

     This investment will help to keep our auto supply chains here in America, which strengthens America’s economy overall, and keep those jobs here in Detroit.  (Applause.)

     We are also axpending [sic] — expanding, excuse me, access to government contracts — government contracts.  At the beginning of our administration, President Joe Biden and I pledged to increase federal contracts for minority-owned small businesses by 50 percent, knowing that, traditionally and historically, folks didn’t necessarily have access to the relationships to get those contracts. 

     And we are on track to meet our goal by the end of next year, which means — (applause) — which means thousands more minority entrepreneurs with contracts worth hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars — contracts which can last up to five years with the option to renew for 10, 20, and 30 years.  Think about what that means in terms of a sustained investment and all of the folks that, over a period of time, will benefit. 

     Now, I also want to point out — because there is a contrast here between us and the last administration.  The last administration invested access to tax cuts for billionaires.  We are investing in access to capital for entrepreneurs.  (Applause.)

     And this work and our overall perspective is that we must understand that if we want a great return on investment, we must understand the natural resources that are available and then see that and invest in those resources. 

     To strengthen America’s economy, we are also helping more people buy a home.  Homeownership is one of the most powerful engines of intergenerational wealth.  It builds equity, which can help pay for a child’s college education or provide equity that then can be used as startup capital to start a business.

     But as a result of lasting legacies of structural inequities — such as segregation, redlining, and so-called urban renewal — today, Black Americans are 40 percent less likely to own a home.  And homeown- — this is a sad fact — and homeownership rates for Black men have been falling for three decades straight.  We’ve got to do something about that. 

     So, to help address these disparities in our budget, President Biden and I outlined a blueprint to provide folks who are first in their family to buy a home with $25,000 toward a down payment — (applause); to give families up to $400 a month to help with a mortgage; and to build 2 million units of affordable housing to lower costs for homebuyers and renters.  (Applause.)

     We are also calling out and addressing the issue of racial bias in home appraisals.  (Applause.)  We all know the stories.  We’ve heard the stories.  The stories like of a Black family that gets a home appraisal and the valuation is much lower than they know what their home is worth.  So, they get a new appraisal, only this time they replace their photographs with photos of a family friend who is white, and they ask that family to bring in the appraiser.  And the new appraisal is much higher.  We’ve heard those stories. 

     Today, I’m proud to report that we have made it now easier for more homeowners to appeal home appraisals.  And we have reached a commitment that all licensed home appraisers be required to complete racial bias training.  (Applause.)

     And, by the way, one of the people who is not present with us today that I want to thank is former Secretary of HUD Marcia Fudge — (applause) — all that she did to make sure this would happen. 

     So, the bottom line is that every family, I believe — every family, whatever their background, their race, their geographic location — has a right to the full and fair value of their home. 

     In addition to increasing opportunity, we have also focused on removing obstacles.  One big obstacle to wealth-building is debt.  While an issue for many people, Black Americans are twice as likely to have medical debt and more likely to struggle to repay student loan debt. 

     For anyone carrying debt, we know it is much more difficult, then, to save for a house, to grow a small business, to build intergenerational wealth.  And it just plain makes people feel like they can never get ahead. 

     So, President Biden and I have made debt forgiveness a central pillar of our economic agenda.  And we have already forgiven about $500 million of medical debt for hundreds of thousands of Americans across the nation.  (Applause.)

     And in Wayne County, Michigan, we will forgive an additional $700 million of medical debt for as many as 300,000 people.  (Applause.)

     And there’s more.  We are also implementing a rule — and this is critically important — we are also implementing a rule that medical debt cannot be used in calculating your credit score — (applause) — which means medical debt cannot be the reason someone is denied a car loan, a home loan, or a small-business loan.  (Applause.)

     On the issue of student loan debt, we have also forgiven nearly $160 billion — billion — for more than four and a half million people. 

     On average, more than $30,000 per person and $70,000 for our public servants, like nurses, firefighters, and teachers — and God knows we don’t pay them enough as it is, so it’s only right. 

     And please, to everyone here, all the leaders, help us get the word out on the student loan debt issue.  Your student loan debt can be forgiven, even if you didn’t graduate.  Please help us get the word out because it’s only logical.  Think about it.  How many people have to drop out because they can’t afford tuition?  (Applause.)  They don’t graduate, and they still have the debt. 

     So, Detroit, I’ll end with this.  All of our work — whether it be debt forgiveness, affordable housing, government contracts, or access to capital — it is all guided by a fundamental principle.  President Biden and I believe in you.  We believe in the people of our country. 

     And so, we believe that it is a great return on the investment to invest in the people of America and to invest, as we have discussed today, in your business, in your financial security, and your wealth. 

     And this approach is working.  Since taking office, we have seen record Black small-business growth and we have created more than two and a half million new jobs for Black workers.  And since 2019, Black wealth is up 60 percent. 

     So, President Biden and I are clear.  These are not only our accomplishments, they are yours.  It is the result of your drive, your creativity, and your power. 

     And so, I’ll end with this, Detroit.  Together, let us continue to invest in the ambition and aspirations of our people — of the American people.  Together, let us continue to help folks create wealth and achieve financial freedom.  And together, let us continue to build a nation where every person has the opportunity to compete, prosper, and thrive. 

     Thank you, all.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END                                 2:41 P.M. EDT

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