Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has unveiled the fourth part of his “Build Back Better” agenda, which aims to advance racial equity through investment in infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing, housing, education and small business.
Crafted in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden said his plan is imperative as the country deals with multiple, overlapping crises.
“The pandemic has shone a bright light on racial disparities in health and health care — as Black and brown Americans have suffered and died from the coronavirus at rates far higher than white Americans,” the campaign proposal said. “The economic crisis has hit Black and Brown communities especially hard, with Black unemployment at 15.4 percent, Latino unemployment at 14.5 percent, and businesses owned by Black, Latino, and Asian American people closing down at alarming rates.
“We are also seeing a national reckoning on racial justice and the tragic human costs of systemic racism in the murder of George Floyd and so many other Black men, women, and children,” the campaign said. “And through it all, the climate crisis mounts, with air and water pollution, superstorms and extreme weather, disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities.”
The plan outlines specifically how Biden plans to address longstanding inequities in agriculture, ensure equity in clean energy investments, boost retirement security for people of color, equalize federal procurement, reform opportunity zones, and spur public/private investment through a new small-business opportunity plan.
“To address the racial wealth gap, the opportunity gap, and the jobs gap for Black and brown people, Biden will launch a historic effort to empower small business creation and expansion in economically disadvantaged areas — and particularly for Black-, Latino-, AAPI- and Native American-owned businesses,” the proposal said.
Collectively, Biden said he will leverage more than $150 billion in new capital and opportunities for small businesses that have been structurally excluded for generations.
Biden also said to help families build wealth, and ensure equal access to all aspects of the housing market he will create a new refundable tax credit up to $15,000.
“The First Down Payment Tax Credit will help low and middle income families offset the costs of home buying and help millions of families lay down roots for the first time,” the proposal said.
The plan will also spur the construction of 1.5 million homes and public housing units to address the affordable housing crisis, increase energy efficiency and reduce the racial wealth gap.
The economic recovery agenda further addresses disparities in education where Black graduates are disproportionately burdened by student loan debt compared to white graduates.
“The inequitable burden of student loan debt contributes to the stark racial wealth gap that exists in society,” the proposal said.
In response, the former vice president wants to forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public schools and private, historically Black colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000 and make said institutions tuition-free for all families with annual incomes below $125,000.
Biden’s education plan to advance racial equity additionally calls for an immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of federal student loan debt in response to COVID-19; a doubling of the maximum value of Pell Grants and a crack down on private lenders profiteering off students.
At a campaign stop last week in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., Biden spoke about why this plan is sorely needed.
“In good times, communities of color still lag,” Biden said. “In bad times, they get hit first, and the hardest. And in recovery, they take the longest to bounce back. This is about justice.”