BOSTON (CN) — Former Vice President Joe Biden promised on Tuesday that he would spend nearly $3 trillion to increase economic opportunities for minorities and close the “racial wealth gap.”
“We will mobilize the biggest investment in rebuilding our country since World War II, creating millions of good-paying union jobs,” Biden promised, announcing his wide-ranging plan this afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware.
Differentiating his proposal from those of his more progressive former primary opponents, Biden insisted his plan was practical and achievable.
“There’s a big difference between saying, figuratively speaking, no one can be a millionaire, that’s a bad thing, or saying we’re going to provide a medical plan that costs $30 trillion or $32 trillion and thinking you can get it passed, and being able to pass, in this environment, legislation that the circumstances have demonstrated is needed to solve real problems,” Biden said.
In addition to massive infrastructure spending in minority areas, hihglights of Biden’s plan include business loans for minorities and what he calls “a historic investment in federal procurement” with additional advantages for minority-owned businesses, support of historically black colleges and universities, plus tax credits to make housing more affordable, changes to retirement plans and job outreach for people with prison records.
Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure planis focused on Black and Latino communities, promising all cities with a population over 100,000 a quality public transportation system.
Complaining that Black, Latino and Native American entrepreneurs account for just 10% of Small Business Administration loans, Biden also committed
$100 billion in low-interest loans to minority-owned businesses.
Biden is also targeting those who create jobs in lower-income areas and serve Black and Latino customers, saying he would disburse $50 billion in new venture capital for Black and Latino entrepreneurs.
As for pandemic-related relief efforts for small businesses, the former VP grumbled that the lion’s share of bailout money so far has gone to companies that have existing relationships with big banks. Going forward, he said, all pandemic-related small business relief efforts specifically designed to aid businesses owned by Black and Latino people.
Biden also called for anational network of free business incubators, innovation hubs and seminars located at minority-focused institutions. These would offer entrepreneurs free shared office and manufacturing space; business coaching; opportunities to commercialize federally funded research; and legal, human resources, accounting, regulatory compliance, and technology services for up to two years.
The Trump campaign immediately responded to the plan by painting Biden as an enemy of the Black community, and saying his plan would spread “economic misery.”
“No one should listen to a lecture on racial justice from Joe Biden,” said Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign senior adviser. “He palled around with notorious racist segregationist senators, bragged about receiving an award from George Wallace, eulogized the exalted cyclops of the KKK, opposed the desegregation of schools through busing, and said he didn’t want his kids to grow up in a ‘racial jungle.’”
Pierson did not acknowledge Trump’s own record of failing to condemn white nationalists and his 2016 endorsement from former Klan leader David Duke.
“President Trump has a true record of accomplishment for Black Americans, including attaining the lowest unemployment rate ever, providing record funding for HBCUs, supporting school choice and achieving real criminal justice reform,” Pierson said.
The plan unveiled Tuesday by Biden includes a number of other features such as free business-development programs at every public community college and minority-focused institution with evening and weekend classes, plus free technical assistance for two years afterward.
Biden said he would give HCBUs $10 billion to create new research programs, another $10 billion to increase retention and $5 billion for graduate programs. He additionally promised $50 billion for workforce training including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships.
Black graduates with a four-year degrees are five times more likely than white graduates to default on their student loans, according to Biden.
He said he would make public colleges and private HCBUs tuition-free for people earning up to $125,000, and make two-year community colleges free for everyone.
For minority-owned businesses, Biden wants $5 billion for the Minority Business Development Agency, plus $400 billion in additional federal purchases of products made in America with additional preferences for minority-owned businesses. He said he wants to triple the goal for minority contracting as well while preventing bundling practices that disadvantage minorities.
In Biden’s plan, federal contractors would have to pay a $15-an-hour minimum wage, provide paid leave and guarantee the opportunity to join a union.
The $15-an-hour minimum wage would apply across the board, said Biden, who called as well for elimination of the minimum tipped wage, and a guarantee of up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave and seven days of paid sick leave for all workers.
The announcement also touts a new “automatic 401(k)” program for people who are not otherwise eligible for a pension or 401(k) plan.
On the housing front, Biden is calling for a tax credit of up to $15,000 for first-time homebuyers, available immediately rather than the following year’s tax return.
He also wants a government-run credit reporting system that homebuyers can use as an alternative to the major private credit agencies. This system would use “nontraditional sources of data like rental history and utility bills,” and federal housing programs would have to accept its scores.
Biden said he would expand Section 8 housing vouchers as well so that no one has to pay more than 30% of their income on rent. For low-income people who make too much to qualify for a Section 8 voucher, Biden promised a new renter’s tax credit designed to reduce rent and utilities to 30% of income.
Biden additionally touted a “Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights,” modeled on similar legislation in California.
Looking to undocumented immigrants, Biden said they should be able to get legal status based on their agricultural work history, along with paid sick time and overtime pay.
He has programs to help former prisoners, as well, including guaranteed housing upon release, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, educational opportunities and job training, access to SNAP benefits and Pell grants, sealing records for nonviolent offenses, and elimination of cash bail.
Biden has hit some of these points before, such as student loan relief, including immediate cancellation of at least $10,000 of federal student loan debt, a doubling of the maximum value of Pell grants, and forgiveness of all debt from public colleges and private HCBUs for people earning up to $125,000.
He committed again to universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, to 5G wireless broadband for every American, and to instant check-clearing so low-income families don’t have to wait to access funds.