Harris makes misleading statement on COVID-19 business loans while campaigning in Michigan

The vice presidential nominee failed to acknowledge that most applicants did not indicate their race or ethnicity

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris made a misleading claim while campaigning in Michigan on Tuesday regarding the supposed disparities in COVID-19 relief funds to Black restaurant owners, according to a report.

While visiting Flint and Michigan, Harris claimed that out of the hundreds of restaurants in Michigan that received relief funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, only one was Black-owned, The Detroit News reported.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Detroit Pistons practice facility in Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. 

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Detroit Pistons practice facility in Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.  (AP)

“(Joe Biden) and I feel very strongly that you have to speak truth, you cannot deny fact and where there are disparities, they need to be addressed,” Harris told a WDIV reporter.

While PPP has been criticized for its treatment of minority-owned businesses, Harris’ claim does not account for the full picture.

According to U.S. Small Business Administration data, nearly 800 full-service restaurants in Michigan received at least $150,000 in loans through PPP. Of those, a grand total of one restaurant reported that its owners were Black or African American, while more than 600 didn’t bother at all to indicate their race or ethnicity.

Furthermore, full-service restaurants are classified differently than fast food and carryout restaurants. According to federal data, two Black-owned fast food and carryout restaurants in Michigan received PPP loans of more than $150,000 while 26 Black-owned restaurants in Michigan received PPP loans of less than $150,000.

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A spokesperson for the Biden campaign has justified Harris’ claims on the grounds that they speak to a larger point that Black and minority communities have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

"Sen. Harris is making the important point that during COVID-19 Black communities and small businesses have been disproportionately impacted –– including Black people dying at two times the rate," Ben Halle told The Detroit News.

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The outlet cited data from the Small Business Administration indicating that about 75% of all PPP loans don’t include any demographic information at the time of the loan application.