THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Congresswoman. Let me just start by saying, Reign, I’m so excited to be here. Mayor Libby Schaaf — I spoke to her over the weekend — she is a huge fan of your work. She talked endlessly about you and all that you have done in terms of catering her events as well. (Laughter.)
But I’m so happy to be here. And your story is an example of, really, the kind of — you know, and you talk about pursuing the American Dream, but also it’s a very common story.
I talk with small-business owners around the country. I visited with small-business owners around the country. Recently, I was in — I think it was in Las Vegas, where we were at a restaurant, and it’s a Latino-owned — she makes empanadas — and she had a similar story about how she started in her kitchen, and she wanted to buy an industrial-sized stove. And she went to the bank and she heard this term she’d never heard before: that she was “unbankable.”
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But she kept working. And her story was about people investing in her who understood. And then finally, she became so-called “bankable.”
But it’s a very similar story. And it is my great pride to lift up these stories, because ultimately we are talking about stories of great success. And so congratulations to you. And thank you for hosting us.
Barbara Lee. Barbara Lee, it’s so good to be home. You know, so we went to East Bay MUD, which that — my mother used to live just on the other side of that (inaudible) exit. And so I lived there.
REPRESENTATIVE LEE: (Inaudible.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right, I lived there. Right. And, anyway, it’s so good to be home. And thank you. It meant so much to me to have you greet me at the airport, on the tarmac. So thank you for that.
And to everyone, thank you: Alex; the Senator; our great, great, great, great Lieutenant Governor. We’re going to hear from our business leaders and our leaders of Oakland and of the East Bay.
And I’ll just tell you — I mean, you all know: I’ve been doing this work for a long time. I mean, going back to just as recently as when I was attorney general — and, Barbara, you stood by my side when we took on the big banks around the foreclosure crisis. And I traveled up and down our state and worked collaboratively with attorneys general from around the country.
And what was happening was that we were, at its core, finding that they didn’t necessarily have the commitment or the connection to the people of the community. And so we saw predatory lending practices. We saw a level of callousness and detachment that resulted in great suffering. And, as we know, California, in particular, had often 7 — on the top 10 list of cities around the country who were hardest hit by the foreclosures, 7 were in California. We lost — 1 million children lost their homes during that foreclosure crisis.
And at its core, my connection to that case was about challenging the banks for being accountable for their conduct.
The $12 billion I worked together — that was one of the last things I did in the Senate — working with my colleagues in the Senate to get that $12 billion into that bill, knowing the incredible relationship that our community banks — the fancy word is CDFIs; I call them community banks — that community banks have with our small businesses.
And when we then think about all of this in connection with the American Rescue Plan and the American Jobs Plan, which are designed to lift up our economy and to lift up the drivers of our economy, understanding that half of America’s workforce works for a small business or runs a small business. So the connections are clear.
And so my work on CDFIs is really motivated by what I do believe are the success stories of America in terms of who is contributing to the lifeblood of communities, and in particular, the economic lifeblood of the communities.
And so the work that we’ve been doing — I’ve been, you know, really doing a lot of work with various CDFIs around the country — community banks — to see how with that $12 billion dollars, Congresswoman, we can really lift up these businesses around access to capital. Because it is both in terms of that initial investment, as you described, Reign. It is also so many — in particular about minority- and women-owned businesses. They need — they have an idea to grow and need someone to believe in them, to not only help them create a business, but then to grow that business, along with, as you described, the technical assistance; along with giving folks an infrastructure.
I recently had a conversation with a CDFI in South Dakota, who was particularly focused on Tribal and Native businesses and folks, and being able to talk culturally with people. So that CDFI in particular knew that there were a lot of folks who — who had bad credit because they’d been receiving bad advice.
And again, they want to — they want to do better. But if you walk into a financial institution and feel you’re being judged, you’re likely to walk out without receiving the help that might be available.
And that’s the other benefit and strength of our community banks. And the community banks are in the community. Community banks are going to know and say, “Ah, you can’t afford that house. Get out of here.” (Laughter.) And they’re going to say, “You know — and, Mary, that is a great business. And we be believe in you, and…”
But there’s a certain connection with the folks that is not about the money; it’s about growing the community and the economy of that community.
So I’m really pleased and happy to be here. And thank you for that. And with that, I’m privileged to introduce the Senator — one of the senators from the great state of California, Alex Padilla.