Five Washington credit unions are set to collectively receive about $75 million from the U.S. Department of the Treasury as part of a federal program designed to support small businesses and those owned by people of color nationwide.

The credit unions in Seattle; Bellingham; Lacey, Thurston County; Shelton, Mason County; and Hoquiam are among 162 community-based financial institutions that received a total of roughly $8.28 billion through the Treasury Department's Emergency Capital Investment Program, the department said Wednesday.

The money will be used to provide loans, grants and other financial assistance to small business owners and business owners who are people of color, as well as their consumers, particularly in low-income or undeserved communities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The issue here is that we know not everyone in our nation has equal access to this essential support," Vice President Kamala Harris said during a Wednesday news conference.

Black entrepreneurs are three times likelier to report they didn't apply for loans out of fear of banks turning them away, Harris said. Black and Latino people are also rejected at higher rates when applying for home loans from larger financial institutions, even when their credit profiles are similar to people whose applications were approved.

In Washington, about 1 in 3 Black people own a home, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, compared to about 2 of 3 white people. Asian American, Latino and Native American residents also own homes at lower rates than white Washingtonians.

The organizations that received funding are in geographically diverse communities that have suffered from a lack of investment opportunities, the Treasury Department said.

The department said the chosen institutions focus on making capital, credit and financial services accessible to residents of those underserved communities.

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