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Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the Interagency Economic Equity Convening

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Hello everyone! Welcome to our first Interagency Convening on Equitable Economic Growth.

Thank you, Don, for your remarkable leadership and for bringing us together to discuss a topic that is so central to President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. 

As Don explained, equity is at the heart of everything we do at the Department of Commerce.

Today, 30 million Americans lack reliable broadband – especially those who are non-white and low-income.

When people of color start a business, they have less access to funding. 

On top of that, more than 2 million women dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic – mostly due to lack of affordable childcare.

And venture capital is heavily concentrated on the coasts − leaving the rest of the country behind. 

Our economy cannot fully recover unless all Americans can fully participate.

That’s why the Commerce Department is closing the digital divide.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill gives Commerce nearly $50 billion to deploy universal high-speed broadband in underserved communities – so that everyone can participate in the modern economy.

I heard heartbreaking stories from leaders of the Navajo Nation about children who couldn’t receive an online education during the pandemic because they lacked access to broadband.

With this historic investment, the days of having to drive to fast-food restaurant parking lots with high-speed internet so that kids could do virtual schooling, will soon be over.

On top of that, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, our Minority Business Development Agency will finally become a permanent Bureau. And $1.6 billion expected through the Build Back Better Act will further support MBDA's expansion. 

That means small business owners in underserved communities and struggling female entrepreneurs will now have more resources to support their businesses.

The Build Back Better Act also invests $400B in affordable childcare for low- and middle-income families − so moms can get back to work.

And it grants 3- and 4-year-olds free access to preschool – so our children are set up for success.

Lack of affordable childcare has already cost America $37 billion in lost income and $13 billion in lost productivity per year.  

For me, it’s personal.

I couldn’t have been Governor without help raising my two kids, and I couldn’t be Secretary of Commerce today without full-time help for my 90-year-old mother. 

As a former investor, I know how desperately we need more women and underrepresented groups in leadership role - and in our innovation economy. 

Which is why I’m thrilled that the Department of Commerce is receiving $3.36 billion for regional tech hubs across the country – so that we can expand innovation beyond Silicon Valley, Boston, New York, and metro D.C.

And during that expansion, I’ll be the new Chair for the Council for Inclusive Innovation, working closely with our private sector partners to increase diversity in science, technology, engineering, and entrepreneurship.

Overall, these steps are just a sample of the measures we’re taking at the Commerce Department to make our economy more equitable for more Americans.

It’s not just the right thing to do – it’s the right thing to do for our economy.

America's diversity is a competitive advantage - but only if we give everyone an opportunity to fulfill their potential and fully participate. 

At Commerce, we’re honored to play a leading role in helping our nation achieve that.

If we want to pivot from a path of rescue and recovery toward a path of real resurgence − we can’t just restore our economy to where we were before the pandemic.

We need to build back better, with American workers at the forefront.

Investing in equity for our people is the highest value investment we can possibly make.

It’ll pay dividends for our future economic productivity, job creation, and all the things we need for a healthy, vibrant, competitive economy.

We’re excited to continue that mission in partnership with all of you.

Thank you.

Leadership