President Joe Biden and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged the toll the pandemic has taken on Latino businesses and workers and reassured them Tuesday that they are getting help to bounce back and would be key in leading the latest economic recovery.
“I know how hard it’s been the last two years. It isn’t easy to hang a closed sign on a dream or a family legacy that you poured your heart into building,” Biden said to the virtual U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s legislative summit.
Biden and Yellen said Latinos would be helped by the first pandemic relief package passed under the administration, the American Rescue Plan.
Biden pointed to some of the assistance, including emergency support for rehiring employees, a Small Business Opportunity Fund, grants for “mom-and-pop restaurants, food trucks and food stands” and community navigators to connect small businesses with programs for people without bankers.
“We know Latinos historically face discrimination when it comes to securing support for their businesses,” Biden said.
“We have a lot of work ahead, but together we are going to get our economy on track and hang an open sign on tens of thousands of Latino small businesses once again,” he added.
Building support among Latino business owners is critical for Democrats who often face strong competition from Republicans for the constituency.
Yellen said the disproportionate hit on Latinos won’t be as long-lasting as other economic recessions and Latinos would drive the recovery.
“Hispanic entrepreneurs can lead us out of a crisis again,” she said. “I know Hispanic workers can power our recovery, potentially in an even bigger way than a decade ago, so long as we remove the long-standing barriers that have been in your way.”
Yellen said Latinos were disproportionately hit in four previous economic recessions: stagflation in the ’70s, the recession of the early ’80s, the first dot-com bubble and the Great Recession in the 2000s.
The crisis is one that if someone designed an economic crisis to unduly harm the Hispanic community, “they would probably come up with something that looks like Covid-19,” Yellen said.
“At the end of the day, it will probably still be true that the pandemic economy followed the historic trend and hit the Hispanic community harder than many other groups,” she said.
But she said she believes people will be ready to bounce back and be back in full employment by next year.