'Racial equity': Biden proposes federal contracting, debt relief to aid racial minorities in economic recovery

Bart Jansen

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump, proposed Tuesday to triple federal contracting for racial minorities by 2025 and reduce college costs to ensure women and people of color benefit from his economic recovery plans.

Biden noted that with 18 million out of work, the economic crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has hit Black and Latino communities especially hard, with unemployment rates of 15.4% and 14.5% respectively. Biden said his goal is rebuild a more inclusive society.

"We need to make bold, practical investments to recover from the economic mess we’re in, and to rebuild for the economic future our country deserves,” Biden said at the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware. “Today I’m here to explain how the Build Back Better plan will deal with systemic racism and advance racial equity in our economy.”

The Trump campaign said Tuesday there was nobody worse suited to address racial inequality than Biden. Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the campaign, said Trump has a record of accomplishment for Black Americans including low unemployment before the pandemic, legislation overhauling the criminal justice system and record funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

“Joe Biden’s record and proposals prove that he indiscriminately spreads economic misery for all Americans, so he has addressed inequality that way," Pierson said. "It’s time for Joe Biden to exit the stage and his brand of condescending, ‘acceptable white liberal racism’ can go with him."

Biden's proposals include:

• $100 billion in low-interest business loans through state, local, tribal and non-profit lending programs in Black and Latino communities.

• $50 billion in venture capital through tax credits under state and local investment initiatives.

• $30 billion for businesses of racial minorities – or 10% of his $300 billion innovation fund – under his program to ensure government contracting buys American-made products.

• Tripling federal contracting for businesses owned by racial minorities from 5% to 15% by 2025.

To help families of color build wealth, Biden proposed:

• $15,000 tax credits to help low- and middle-income families buy their first home.

• $10,000 per person cancellation of student loan debt.

• Tuition-free education at public colleges and universities for any family earning less than $125,000, which Biden estimated would cover 91% of Black families and 88% of Latino families.

People listen to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at the Hyatt Park community center on May 4, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. It is Biden's first visit to South Carolina as a 2020 presidential candidate.

Previous planks in his economic recovery proposals dealt with manufacturing, climate change and caregivers. For each element, Biden promised that women and racial minorities would benefit

• For manufacturing, Biden proposed direct federal spending targeted for small businesses with outreach to those owned by women and people of color.

• For the development of clean energy, Biden proposed to spur development of electric vehicles and renewable power that he said would create good-paying union jobs for working-class families.

• Caregivers for children, the elderly and disabled are disproportionately women and racial minorities, so Biden said his proposal to boost their salaries and providing more training for advancement would directly benefit them.

In addition to the economic proposals, Biden released a video with former President Barack Obama talking about the need to overhaul policing. Protests nationwide were sparked after the May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Biden has said Trump is the first racist to win the presidency, although at least 12 previous chief executives owned slaves, including eight while in office.

But Trump has argued that nobody has done more for Black Americans than he has, “with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.”

In promoting the economy, Trump said unemployment rates were low among nearly all racial minorities before the coronavirus pandemic. And his administration overhauled the criminal justice system in a way Biden and Obama were unable to accomplish.

Trump has sided vocally with law enforcement during the protests, saying officers are needed to control “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.”