Vice President Harris Visits Mississippi Delta to Highlight Investments in Small Businesses and Community-based Lenders
April 13th, 2022
On Friday, April 1, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris came to Greenville, Mississippi to highlight the opportunities for investing in small businesses and communities. A centerpiece of her remarks was the critical role that community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) play in filling the gap to reach people, businesses, and communities unserved by traditional financial institutions. She also highlighted the historic investments into CDFIs and MDIs through the $9 billion Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP) which is providing an infusion of capital into CDFIs and MDIs to amplify their ability to create jobs, housing, and financial services for low-income communities and communities of color in the years to come.
HOPE itself will be receiving $88 million as part of ECIP. The groundbreaking investment will dramatically increase HOPE’s impact in underserved Deep South communities. Over the next six years, HOPE estimates that the investment will allow the organization to double its annual consumer, mortgage, small business and commercial lending, serve over 33,000 homebuyers, entrepreneurs and households of color, and gain efficiencies that fuel continued growth and deeper impact.
Greenville, MS was the perfect backdrop for the visit, and the E.E. Bass Cultural Arts Center the perfect stage. In 1994, HOPE’s first expansion outside of its headquarters in Jackson was to Greenville, MS. E.E. Bass was home to HOPE’s first office in the city and its renovation was made possible through HOPE’s community development financing. Built in 1916 as the first public high school in the Mississippi Delta, today, the E.E. Bass serves as a cultural center and hub for the community. Greenville, MS is located in Washington County, a rural county that is considered a persistent poverty county, meaning it has experienced poverty rates over 20% for more than 30 years. A contributing factor to this economic distress is financial exclusion – 40% of its households are unbanked or underbanked. The type of investments highlighted in the Vice President’s visit are key to reversing these trends and ensuring that the people in Greenville have access to resources and capital that will allow them to make their dreams possible. As HOPE CEO Bill Bynum noted as he welcomed the Vice President, “We opened our first office [here] to help small businesses to create jobs and give a lift to people who need it.”
As Mayor of Greenville Erick Simmons noted, “There is no progress without the support of our small businesses and small communities. Federal partners are our key to small businesses and communities’ future success.” He said, further, that small businesses in areas like Greenville are the backbone of this nation.
Greenville small business owner, Joycee Johnson of Joycee’s Fabric and Sewing Center, made clear the reality of the importance of the role of CDFIs/MDIs like HOPE in supporting small businesses, particularly Black and women-owned businesses. At the onset of COVID-19, Ms. Johnson faced the same struggles as millions of businesses across the country, as revenue declined amidst the onset of necessary public health measures. To help businesses stay afloat and to keep people employed, Congress enacted the unprecedented $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program, forgivable loans offered through financial institutions. The flow of PPP dollars followed the path of pre-existing inequities within the financial system, meaning that the smallest businesses and businesses owned by people of color were largely ignored by large and regional banks.
HOPE, like other CDFIs and MDIs with a strong track record of reaching these communities, stepped up to ensure they had access to this critical relief. Ms. Johnson was one of the 5,200 businesses HOPE reached with a PPP loan during the pandemic. As Vice President Harris visited Ms. Johnson’s sewing shop, she noted the program’s importance to her personally, “I thought I was going to have to close, but it all worked because of the PPP.” As a result, Ms. Johnson’s 40-year legacy store remains open today, where she was busy making prom dresses for the community during the time of the visit. Through the community relationships which brought Ms. Johnson to HOPE during this critical time, she was able to avoid the outcome faced by so many others: nationally, from February to April 2020, 40% of Black-owned businesses closed their doors, compared with 17% of white-owned business.
Finally, as part of the day’s events, Congressman Bennie Thompson underscored how a visit to the Mississippi Delta is necessary to advance prosperity for the nation: “In order to understand the heart of America, you have to come to a place like Greenville, Mississippi.” In the heart of America, HOPE works to make sure to people are not limited by their race or their gender or where they happen to live. This is true in its programmatic activities as a credit union and community development organization, as well as in its policy and advocacy to push for transformative investments into communities throughout the Deep South.
 U.S. Department of Treasury, “Emergency Capital Investment Program,” https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/coronavirus/assistance-for-small-businesses/emergency-capital-investment-program
 Prosperity Now Scorecard, Data by Location: Washington County, MS, available at https://scorecard.prosperitynow.org/
 See e.g., Kiyadh Burt and Diane Standaert, “Racial gulf created by economic recovery efforts will echo for generations,” MLK50, Aug. 11, 2021, https://mlk50.com/2021/08/11/racial-gulf-created-by-economic-recovery-efforts-will-echo-for-generations/
 Robert W. Fairlie, “The Impact Of Covid-19 On Small Business Owners: Evidence Of Early-Stage Losses From The April 2020 Current Population Survey,” National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2020, https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w27309/w27309.pdf