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July 9, 2020

VIDEO: Rep. Pressley Discusses How COVID-19 Pandemic Exacerbates Racial & Gender Wealth Gap

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, in a hearing held by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) discussed how the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic inequalities, and how her legislation, the Saving Our Street Act, would provide relief to small neighborhood businesses that were left behind by existing federal relief. 

A full transcript of her remarks and questioning at the hearing is available below.

Transcript: Rep. Pressley Discusses How COVID-19 Exacerbates Racial and Gender Wealth Gap
July 9, 2020
House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Chairwoman Beatty and Chairwoman Waters and thank you to our witnesses for joining us today.

While this crisis is unprecedented, the disparities it reveals in our economic system and subsequent federal response are unfortunately very familiar. 

From the Homestead Act, to New Deal programs and the GI bill, Black Americans have historically been locked out of large-scale government intervention and investment.

We must not repeat exclusionary policies of past federal responses.

So what does that mean? That means requiring the disclosure of racial data to better inform our allocation of resources for everything from testing and treatment to small business relief.

And I appreciate very much seeing data on who actually received PPP loans, but the data we need is on who didn’t receive PPP funding. Who was denied and why? And why was it late?

The National Bureau of Economic Research found that 41 percent of Black businesses have shuttered since the pandemic began.

From the onset, experts estimated that up to ninety-five percent of Black women business owners would be left out of the program.

Mr. Busby, could you speak specifically to the challenges faced by Black businesses and that PPP funding—and access to it—was conditioned on access to banking?

MR. BUSBY: Yes. Again, when we first heard about the payroll protection plan, it was discussed on a Friday afternoon. By that Monday morning, the majority of the dollars had been already presented to 50 publicly-traded firms in the amount of $250 billion and so many Black firms did not find out about the opportunity until the 11th hour. We also know that, again as I stated earlier, it was based on having a banking relationship and a lending program and many of our businesses just did not have a loan currently because of the cost, as well as the inability to be able to get credit from an existing bank, and so we did not.

REP. PRESSLEY: That’s right. Thank you. So—right. So just reiterating that, since the majority of minority, immigrant and women owned businesses are micro in size–beauty salons, barbershops, bodegas. You know, the backbones of our local economies, yet you know, we’ve just heard from struggling owners throughout the district, based on the very point that you just underscored there, so the relief was nowhere to be found.

And this includes Murl’s Kitchen in Dorchester, which applied for PPP assistance back in May and has yet to hear back.

Organizations in my district like BECMA, CommonWealth Kitchen, Amplify Latinx, JPNDC, EforAll and so many others have stepped up to provide businesses with support, but ultimately this is about federal government relief.

And so, as I said, these are old fights as a new moment, and so I hope this new moment is about new action.

And so I introduced, in partnership with Senator Kamala Harris, the Saving Our Street Act, to provide microbusiness owners with direct grants, not loans, of up to $250,000.

We have to be intentional, and so this bill requires 75 percent of the Microbusiness Assistance Fund be set aside for minority and women-owned businesses.

Mr. Busby, how does the SOS Act correct some of the challenges of previous relief efforts? And why is it so critical to provide relief in the form of grants, instead of loans?

MR. BUSBY: Well we heard from Black Americans that the United States just wrote nearly a $2 trillion check in response to a stimulus that was needed from a pandemic. Black Americans have been saying we’ve been facing a pandemic for hundreds of years and we want to have a conversation, and not necessarily just about reparations, but just about equity. And so as we talk about a stimulus package that is geared towards micro-businesses, the U.S. Black Chamber is definitely in favor of that.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you.

MR. BUSBY: We want to make sure that the dollars go to the businesses as well as the sectors that need it the most. 40% of all Black business revenue comes from five industries and those five industries were the industries that were hit the hardest, and many of them were the same types of businesses that you have there in your district, from restaurants, beauty salons, night clubs, social media types of places where you normally go to gather are now closed and many of those businesses don’t see the future but they definitely need the income, as well as the grants to be able to have sustainability.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Busby. Again it’s just clear, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, we have to be targeting and very precise. In the same way that we have codified disproportionate hurt, we can codify through lawmaking justice and equity.

And so I thank you for endorsing the legislation and we look forward to continuing to advocate [for] it, to see it included and passed.

MR. BUSBY: Thank you.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you and I yield.


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