Letter of support for Don Graves to be next Deputy Commerce Secretary


The Honorable Maria Cantwell
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Roger Wicker
Ranking Member
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

March 17, 2021

Re: Consumer, community and civil rights groups urge confirmation of Don Graves for Deputy Secretary, Department of Commerce

Dear Chair Cantwell, Ranking Member Wicker and members of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation:

The undersigned consumer, community and civil rights organizations would like to express our strong support for Don Graves as the nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce. We urge you to approve his nomination and look forward to his confirmation by the Senate.

Mr. Graves is deeply aware of the challenges faced by communities across the country as they struggle to regain their foothold in the global economy.  The Department of Commerce will be well-served by his public policy leadership and deep experience as a community development practitioner.  Commerce and the entire administration face the important challenges of keeping the economy moving, and we are heartened by the nomination of Mr. Graves to this key position.

Mr. Graves has deep familial roots with the Department of Commerce, where his formerly enslaved ancestors owned a horse-and-buggy taxi service where the building now stands and, a generation later, a nearby hotel.[1]  He continues this spirit of entrepreneurship and commitment to the country’s local economies. Mr. Graves has spearheaded economic recovery efforts in Detroit, served as the executive director of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness during the Obama Administration, and later served as an economic advisor to then Vice-President Joe Biden.  Mr. Graves also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Small Business, Community Development and Housing Policy at Treasury, where he oversaw the CDFI Fund, the Small Business Lending Fund and the State Small Business Credit Initiative-much-needed experience as the nation faces an urgent need to rethink and dramatically expand how we support small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color. He also served on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion.

Mr. Graves’ also exemplified this same commitment to economic development in his work outside government.  From 2017 to 2020, Mr. Graves headed corporate responsibility and community relations at the Cleveland, Ohio-based KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest banks serving customers in fifteen states, most recently as the bank’s Executive Vice President & Head of Corporate Responsibility and Community Relations.

While at KeyBank, Mr. Graves worked diligently to implement a strong community benefits agreement negotiated with community leaders throughout the bank’s footprint on the occasion of its acquisition of First Niagara Bank.[2]  The agreement resulted from a collaborative process with community members and bank leaders after months of negotiation.  The agreement included a substantive and detailed commitment of resources and services to communities throughout the KeyBank and First Niagara footprints.  Mr. Graves worked to ensure that KeyBank’s commitments were implemented and that community organizations were engaged in the process.

In the coming months and years, the Department of Commerce will play a major role in leading the nation’s economic recovery.  On the campaign trail, President Biden called for doubling the budget of the Economic Development Administration to promote economic development and connect underserved communities with much-needed federal aid.[3] Commerce will also play an important role in informing the nation’s response to the climate crisis, as part of the National Climate Task Force.[4] We need a leader like Don Graves to work with Secretary Raimondo to help move these initiatives forward.

Commerce also oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, which plays a critical role in providing the necessary information infrastructure to ensure that the communities get the resources they need. As consumer advocates and community development practitioners, we rely on the Bureau’s data to inform our work. Commerce will play an important role in maintaining and possibly extending or expanding the Small Business Pulse and Community Pulse surveys in the coming months and years.[5]  These surveys have shined an important light on the challenges that small businesses face in weathering the economic fallout of the pandemic.  These surveys also helped highlight the urgent need for a bold response to the eviction and foreclosure crisis facing renters and homeowners.

The country needs a champion for community economic development who understands the challenges local economies across the country are facing during the ongoing economic, public health and racial justice crisis.  Don Graves is that champion. He brings the experience, commitment, vision that we need for this moment. We urge you to approve his nomination.

National Community Reinvestment Coalition

727 Mgt. LLC

Beacon Development Group

Black Legacy Advancement Coalition

California Reinvestment Coalition

CASA of Oregon

CCDC/ dba Ophelia Steen Center

CDC Small Business Finance

Center for NYC Neighborhoods, Inc.

Chester Community Improvement Project

Chicanos Por La Causa

City of Toledo

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress

Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development

Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

Community Reinvestment Alliance of South Florida

Community Service Programs of West Alabama, Inc.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware, Inc.

County Corp

Dayton Chamber

Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.


Empire Justice Center


Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama

Far South CDC

Financial Haven, Inc

Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc.

Henderson and Company

Home Repair Resource Center

Homes on the Hill, CDC

Housing Education and Economic Development

Housing on Merit

Housing Oregon

HousingWorks RI

Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative

Jewish Community Action

Johnson Consulting Group

Legacy Foundation

Low Income Housing Institute

MA Affordable Housing Alliance

Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition

Metro North Community Development Corp.

Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council

Montana Fair Housing

Mustard Seed Development Center

MY Project USA

National Association of American Veterans, Inc.

National Fair Housing Alliance

New Jersey Citizen Action

New Urban Development LLC

New Village Corporation

Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance

Ohio CDC Association

Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation, Inc

PathStone Enterprise Center

People’s Self-Help Housing

PFC Black Chamber Of Commerce

Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group

Project PLASE, Inc.

Real Estate Education And Community Housing Inc


Rehman Consulting Services

River Cities Development Services

Sister to Sister 2

South Dallas Fair Park Innercity Community Development Corporation

Southern Dallas Progress Community Development Corporation

Southwest Economic Solutions

St. Petersburg Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. dba Neighborhood Home Solutions

Stark County Minority Business Association

TCH Development, Inc

Tennessee Human Rights Commission

The Enterprise Center

The Financial Compass Foundation

The Pride Through Empowerment Foundation, Inc

The Twenty Inc

Universal Housing Solutions CDC – UHS CDC

Vermont Slauson EDC

Village Capital Corporation

We Help Communities “2” Develop Corp

Working In Neighborhoods Beekman Corridor


[1] Milloy, Courtland. “Perspective | A Commerce Nominee’s Formerly Enslaved Ancestors Ran a Taxi Service Where the Department Is Now Headquartered.” Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/commerce-don-graves-family-history/2021/02/23/c4c47218-75e8-11eb-8115-9ad5e9c02117_story.html.

[2] NCRC. NCRC and KeyBank Announce Landmark $16.5 Billion Community Benefits Agreement?» NCRC. https://ncrc.org/ncrc-and-keybank-announce-landmark-165-billion-community-benefits-agreement/.

[3] “The Biden Plan to Invest in Middle Class Competitiveness.” Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website, https://joebiden.com/infrastructure-plan/.

[4] “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” The White House, 27 Jan. 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/.

[5] See  Bureau, US Census. “Small Business Pulse Survey: Tracking Changes During The Coronavirus Pandemic.” Census.Gov, https://www.census.gov/businesspulsedata. and Bureau, US Census. “Measuring Household Experiences during the Coronavirus Pandemic.” Census.Gov, https://www.census.gov/householdpulsedata.


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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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