President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a plan to push for the government to buy from black-owned businesses and for infrastructure targeted at minority-majority areas to help close the “racial wealth gap” between black and white Americans.
He said his administration also wants to increase enforcement of the Fair Housing Act to increase black homeownership.
In the speech, the president found time to attack the two Democrat senators he needs most to pass unrelated parts of his agenda.
Biden outlined his initiatives to address the racial wealth gap Tuesday in remarks in Tulsa, Oklahoma, marking the 100th anniversary of a massacre there, in which a white mob killed an estimated 300 black Americans. The attack happened in the once-thriving Greenwood section of the city, which then was a major commercial hub for black-owned businesses.
“For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness,” Biden said, adding:
But just because history is silent, it doesn’t mean that it did not take place. While darkness can hide much, it erases nothing.
Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they can’t be buried no matter how hard people try. So it is here, only with truth can come healing and justice and repair.
The focus of the initiatives announced in Tulsa are on homeownership and small-business ownership, according to the White House.
The administration plans to use the federal government’s purchasing power to increase federal contracting with small and disadvantaged businesses—including those owned by blacks and Hispanics—by 50% by 2026, using $100 billion over five years for black-owned businesses for federal contracts and helping more Americans realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
“I’m determined to use every tax dollar that is assigned to me to spend going to American companies and American workers building products,” Biden said. “As part of that, I’m going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small, disadvantaged businesses, including black and brown small businesses. Right now, it calls for 10%. I’m going to move that to 50% of every dollar spent.”
Further, the plan would provide $31 billion to increase funding for small businesses and to provide mentoring, networking, and technical assistance to disadvantaged businesses seeking federal contracts.
The Biden initiative also calls for $15 billion for new grants and technical assistance to support planning for, removal, or retrofitting of existing transportation infrastructure.
Biden is tasking Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge with an interagency effort to address inequity in home appraisals and to implement regulations to prevent housing discrimination.
“A home owned by a black family is too often appraised at a lower value than a similar home owned by a white family,” Biden said. “… Shockingly, the percentage of black homeownership is lower today in America than when the Fair Housing Act was passed more than 50 years ago.”
The administration is promoting a new “Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit” to attract private investment in the development and rehabilitation of affordable homes for low-income homebuyers and homeowners.
The plan calls for $5 billion for a new grant program to award flexible funding to jurisdictions that reduce barriers to producing affordable housing.
HUD is developing a regulation to provide the legal framework to require private and public entities alike to rethink established practices that contribute to or perpetuate inequities.
Biden also referred to his $2 trillion infrastructure plan called the American Jobs Plan. As part of that, he would create a $10 billion Community Revitalization Fund based at HUD to support infrastructure projects in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Unrelated to those matters, Biden also said June must be a “month of action” in Congress for voting rights, adding he would have more to say about an “unprecedented assault on our democracy.”
He seemed to be taking a potshot at moderate Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to explain why legislation to nationalize state elections and to ban voter ID laws hasn’t passed.
“I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’ Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends,” the president said.
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