Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plan to use this year’s Freedman’s Bank Forum to highlight how funds from the federal coronavirus pandemic relief program have helped support Black-owned businesses and to minorities.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that “the importance of expanding the community finance system will be front and center” at the Oct. 4 forum. In 2015, then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew launched the annual Freedman Conference to develop strategies to address persistent racial economic disparities.
About 96% of black-owned businesses are sole proprietorships and single-employee businesses. These companies have the hardest time finding financing and are often the first to suffer from economic downturns. They often turn to financial institutions for the underserved and other non-traditional lenders for micro-loans and grants.
Earlier this month, the Treasury announced that it had disbursed approximately $8.28 billion in relief funds to 162 community financial institutions across the country under its emergency capital investment program. .
The forum will include a panel on new support for community financial institutions, small businesses and low-income communities, “all with the goal of unlocking the economic potential of communities of color, rural areas and others who have experienced limits on economic opportunities”. says the department.
A February report from the Government Accountability Office outlined how various agencies could improve efforts to increase access to banking services for people who do not have access to bank accounts.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the National Credit Union Administration and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have all been identified for improvements.