As President Biden tries to pitch voters about the economic progress made under his watch leading up to the 2024 election, Vice President Kamala Harris is on a mission to highlight how small businesses have fared under “Bidenomics.”
During a visit to salad restaurant Alfalfa on Santa Monica’s Main Street, Harris, along with Isabella Casillas Guzman, chief of the Small Business Administration and Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), the White House’s moves to strengthen the Community Advantage Program, an Obama-era loan program aimed at helping entrepreneurs struggling to secure capital for their businesses.
Founded in 2011, the Community Advantage program is designed to increase access to loans specifically for low-income, underserved business owners through primarily non-profit, approved lenders. The program was extended through 2023 and expanded under the Biden administration, raising loan limits to $350,000, up from $250,000, and providing a path for more financial institutions to become SBA lenders.
“The Community Advantage program is about giving small businesses like this support and access to capital,” Harris said. “We have so many small businesses doing great work, they’re part of the community, they’re leaders in the community, but they don’t necessarily have the access, or the relationships with the big banks, or the big banks don’t necessarily see the value in what some of these small businesses do.”
Alfalfa co-founders Andrew Arrospide, Daniel Londono and Daniel Sobsey opened their first location in 2019 in Hoboken, NJ. said the founders. In 2021, they received a Community Advantage loan and a loan from the American Rescue Plan’s Revitalization Fund for their expansion.
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“It was very difficult to open our second store 3,000 miles away, but it’s really because of the financing we received when no bank would believe in us,” said Londono. “We’re an example of how you can use these programs to really build a great business.”
The company now employs more than 100 people and will open a new location in Larchmont Village in Los Angeles this year.
Harris used the Santa Monica stop to pitch the Biden administration’s support for small businesses as part of the president’s overall campaign theme of strengthening the economy from the bottom up. Under the Community Advantage program, black business owners have received 23% of SBA Community Advantage financing, compared to 4% of traditional SBA 7(a) loans, according to the SBA. Latin American business owners received 13% of Community Advantage loans, compared to 10% of 7(a) loans. The program issued 661 loans totaling $104 million in fiscal 2022.
“The president and I have strong opinions about our approach to the economy. It’s called Bidenomics,” Harris said. “It’s about saying, ‘Look, we’re going to grow the economy from the middle, we’re going to grow the economy from the bottom, not the top.'”
During the debt ceiling deadlock in May, House Republicans pushed for government spending cuts that the Biden administration said would have cut the SBA and other small business aid programs by 22%. In the final debt ceiling package that Biden signed, about $2 billion in unused COVID-19 resources were recovered from the SBA, but the Community Advantage Program was left untouched.
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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.