Senior Vice President, Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
May 17, 2021
Every American dream is different, every American dream is unique. But whatever that dream is, there’s a good chance it was made possible by a loan from one of America’s financial institutions. These American dreams come in every shape and size, and so do the banks which support them. Some funding comes from large banks, some from local community banks, some from commercial lending institutions, or minority depository institutions. But they all help enable the growth of small businesses, drive home ownership, and help cities build and grow.
Last year, America’s financial institutions—large and small—were a pillar of strength in otherwise challenging economic times. In fact, the strength of our financial institutions played a direct role in helping Americans get back on their feet.
A key way financial institutions continue to serve the American people is by listening to the evolving needs of consumers, including supporting them through tough times like the pandemic, and ramping up help so minority-owned businesses can access financing.
Supporting Americans throughout the Pandemic
First and foremost, during the peak of the pandemic financial institutions helped protect many American’s biggest sole asset: their homes. Various banks offered mortgage forbearance during the height of the pandemic. For example, Bank of America offered to defer loan payment for three months with possible extensions up to 12 months. Similarly, Wells Fargo offered a temporary pause of loan payments for up to six months, with the option to increase this to 12 months for mortgages covered by the CARES Act. These are just two of many examples. Many other institutions waived fees and charges during the height of the pandemic.
Financial institutions were also instrumental in seeing that America’s small businesses received emergency funding from the federal government to cover fundamental expenses likes wages, rent, and utilities. Under the Paycheck Protection Program, over 5,000 financial institutions approved almost 11 million loans totaling over $780 billion. Almost 1.7 million of these loans were approved by financial institutions with less than $10 billion in assets. What’s more, over 300 Community Development Financial Institutions Funds (CDFIs) approved over 95,000 loans totaling $7 billion through the PPP. Large institutions also played a vital role: Bank of America was the first major bank to accept PPP applications in April 2020 and has since delivered over 475,000 PPP loans—totaling nearly $34.5 billion in funding. More than 99% of those loans have gone to companies with fewer than 100 employees.
Financial institutions also helped direct funding to medium-sized businesses through the Main Street Lending Program. Though the program was not used as much as originally anticipated, banks established the infrastructure necessary to provide loans to eligible businesses. According to a new analysis by the Federal Reserve, uptake in the program was widespread but in general concentrated among industries most affected by COVID-19: hospitality and food services; manufacturing; real estate, rental and leasing; and mining, oil, and gas extraction.
Lastly, America’s banks and financial institutions provided direct support by donating to community relief efforts, providing personal protective equipment, or offering meals to local communities in need. As catalogued by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, banks like Ally Financial, BMO Harris, Citi, UBS, and many others did not hesitate to support the massive response necessary to combat the spread of the virus
Whether it was through charitable giving, loan forbearance, fee waivers, or distribution of PPP loans, financial institutions were instrumental in helping small businesses, homeowners and regular Americans weather the storm and emerge from the pandemic. Today, we’re poised to help ensure progress on a robust recovery continues.
Helping Minority-Owned Businesses Raise and Access Capital
This past year has also highlighted that as a country, we have a ways to go in achieving equality of opportunity for all. The financial sector is acutely aware of the vital role it can, and must, play in promoting such equality at the grassroots level. The entire financial sector has been ramping up its efforts to assure that capital is finding its way to minority-owned businesses and, through them, the communities they support and thrive in.
Many banks have redoubled their efforts to advance equality of opportunity. JPMorgan Chase, for example, has committed $30 billion over the next five years to provide economic opportunity to underserved communities, especially Black and Latino communities. The JPMorgan Chase program, and others like it, seek to:
- Promote and expand affordable housing for underserved communities.
- Grow minority-owned businesses.
- Improve access to banking in minority-owned communities.
- Build a more diverse and inclusive financial workforce.
Community banks are also prioritizing equality. A partnership of local banks in Virginia and West Virginia, started the Banking on Diversity program to aid local minority-owned small businesses. Through the program, up to $1,000,000 in interest-free loans will be made available to businesses that meet certain qualification standards.
Banks of all size are also supporting mission-driven banks like Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions. These mission-driven financial institutions can more easily serve their communities when they have easy access to deposits to lend, or when banks and other companies make equity investments that they can leverage to expand financing.
- Read a U.S. Chamber statement about capital access for minority small businesses during the pandemic.