Hello everyone! I’m so honored to be here at the UnidosUS Annual Conference. The commitment shown by UnidosUS to achieve equity for all Americans, particularly those in the Latino community, cannot be overstated.
This year’s theme, « The Power of US,” truly grounds our unity, collaboration, and shared progress across the impactful work everyone in this room does at all levels to create a fairer, more equitable country for us all. It is our power that engenders change, and our capacity to work together to tackle important issues.
UnidosUS and the Department of Commerce have a history of partnership in creating access to lifechanging economic opportunities to Latino communities across the country. We are deeply grateful to UnidosUS for their collaboration on moving the needle on equity – helping to empower Latinos to fully participate in America’s economy.
I know, and this room knows, that America’s road to economic prosperity runs through our minority business communities, and that statement is no better displayed than in the Latino community:
- According to a study by Stanford University, the number of Latino business owners grew 34 percent over the past 10 years compared to just one percent for all business owners in the United States.
- Over 375,000 Latino employer business owners make up 6.7 percent of all employer firms, while generating $472.3 billion or 3.2 percent of total gross receipts among all classifiable firms. Latino employer firms employ 2.9 million people, and nearly 20 percent of Latino employer firms are owned and led by Latinas.
- McKinsey estimates that the purchasing power of Latinos in the U.S. reached $1 trillion in 2021.
These numbers make one thing absolutely clear: The Latino community is becoming a driving force in the American economy, which only serves to underscore why we at the Department of Commerce stand ready and willing to help that influence grow and expand.
It cannot go unstated that this increased role in the economy is due in no small part to the educational opportunities available to Latino and other minority communities.
I understand that many feel that the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down affirmative action in the college admissions process has jeopardized access to essential educational opportunities.
I know just how important access to higher education can be in shaping the course of young people’s lives, particularly young people from underserved communities.
Anything that jeopardizes access to that education has implications not only for our education system, but for our economy. It affects a Latino worker’s ability to participate at all levels of our workforce, it impacts a Latino family’s earning potential, it seriously endangers a Latino consumer’s spending power.
At Commerce, we understand that diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths, and we remain committed to creating economic opportunity for all.
To that end, the Commerce Department is spearheading a number of different initiatives and funding opportunities under President Biden’s Investing in America agenda that will help us uplift our minority communities.
Last year, we announced grant awards to 32 industry-led workforce training partnerships across the country as part of the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. UnidosUS is one of those 32 recipients, receiving $11.4 million to bolster the economies of Puerto Rico and Denver, Colorado, with a focus on providing vital training to Latino communities in those areas.
We’ve also launched the Internet for All initiative, funded by nearly $50 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to make a once-in-a-generation investment in to bring affordable and reliable high-speed Internet to everyone in America.
Internet access in the digital age is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. That’s why we were excited to announce just last month more than $42 billion in allocations to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories to build out their broadband networks.
This funding It’s going to create opportunities, increase productivity, and improve lives, particularly in communities that have too often been left behind.
The law also includes nearly $3 billion in funding for the Digital Equity Act, which is promoting digital inclusion and equity for communities that have been historically unserved or underserved when it comes to high-speed Internet access.
Together with our Connecting Minority Communities program, the Internet For All Initiative is also investing millions of dollars into connecting Hispanic Serving Institutions with the internet connectivity they need to educate the next generation of Latino leaders, as well as providing over 150,000 new jobs in telecommunications.
Our Minority Business Development Agency is also preparing to make its first awards as part of its Capital Readiness Program.
This $93 million program – the largest of its kind in the history of the Commerce Department – is going help minority and other underserved entrepreneurs access the tools to grow and scale their businesses. Jumpstarting the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs is going to spur innovation and help us build a more resilient economy.
The Capital Readiness Program will provide funding to incubators and accelerators across the country who have the expertise to assist and train minority and other underserved entrepreneurs.
Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, MBDA is now a permanent part of the federal government. It’s a testament to the work MBDA has been doing for decades to reach communities that the federal government too often left behind.
Finally, we have also launched our Business Diversity Principles initiative, aimed at advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility and closing the racial wealth gap by collaborating with the private sector and organizations like UnidosUS to create conditions conducive to racial equity and minority economic development.
In addition to my role as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I’m proud to serve as the Biden Administration’s Puerto Rico Economic Growth Coordinator and am honored to be working to make good on the Administration’s pledge to support economic recovery and renewal for the archipelago.
In this role, after three visits to the island, I’ve heard firsthand from business owners, NGOs, think tanks, academia and local officials across Puerto Rico about the needs and frustrations, but also the dreams and aspirations. Inspired by the goal of bringing a whole of government approach, we have organized our efforts across four pillars: investing in infrastructure, energy and resilience, building a diversified economy, strengthening human capital and workforce development, and improving data & governance. In collaboration with the Government of Puerto Rico, we built a tactical workplan for this year based on 57 projects that cuts across 17 Departments. And we are starting to see real progress. For example, this February, the Treasury Department approved a proposal under the State Small Business Credit Initiative – or SSBCI – to grant Puerto Rico’s Economic Development Bank up to $109 million to support small and medium enterprises here in Puerto Rico.
This is part of a $10 billion program from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which is helping small businesses recover and helping start-ups and new small businesses take advantage of new opportunities so that they can grow and thrive.
I also understand just how important connecting all Puerto Ricans to broadband is to the economic development and competitiveness of the archipelago: it is about enabling remote learning, advance manufacturing, tech innovation and resiliency. That’s why the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced it has awarded Universidad del Sagrado Corazón nearly $3 million to expand educational instruction and remote learning opportunities, spur economic development, and create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship by building the broadband and digital capacity at Sagrado.
It’s part of NTIA’s Connecting Minority Communities Program, which is providing over $260 million to help minority serving institutions purchase broadband service and equipment, hire IT personnel, and create digital literacy programs.
And it’s in addition to the more than $5.7 million that Puerto Rico received in December to begin their planning efforts for the deployment and adoption of affordable, equitable, and reliable, high-speed Internet service throughout the archipelago under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This planning funding is just the start, and it’s going to help ensure we get it right. Connected communities create empowered communities, fostering economic growth and well-being.
The Biden-Harris Administration also announced allocations for all 50 states, Washington D.C., and territories – including Puerto Rico – from the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment Program. The BEAD program is providing $42.45 billion across the country to bring affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service to every home, business and school in America by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs.
With this announcement, every state and territory will know how much money they will have at their disposal, based on the number of residents who still lack quality internet service.
Puerto Rico will receive over $334 million to expand broadband access across the island, which will help thousands of unserved and underserved locations across the archipelago gain access to high-speed internet.
The talent and energy that exist here gives me not only hope but excitement about tackling the challenges faced by Puerto Rico together, through innovative approaches to collaboration and co-creation. In the end, communities know what they need best.
These are just some of the examples of how the Commerce Department is working in collaboration with stakeholders across the board, especially UnidosUS, to improve Americans’ lives, including our Latino and other minority communities.
I am very proud of the work we have accomplished and hold great hope that we are laying the groundwork for even more progress. UnidosUS, you are and will continue to be an essential partner in making that progress a reality, and I cannot wait to continue to work alongside you all to make that possible.
What we are engaged in right now is a whole-of-nation effort to create an economy, and a country, that works for everyone. We need voices like everyone’s in this room – from every community, from every region, from every industry – to ensure that we all can achieve the American Dream. That’s “The Power of US.”
I look forward to continuing this effort with all of you. Thank you.