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Biden-Harris Administration unveils plan to build black wealth and narrow racial divide 

Earlier this month, on the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Biden-Harris Administration unveiled their plan to build black wealth and narrow the racial wealth gap in the United States. 

A history of systemic racism in the United States has contributed to the large wealth gap that people of color currently face. Systemic racism, also referred to as structural or institutional racism, is defined as “a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity,” according to the Aspen Institute. Systemic racism is not something “a few people or institutions choose to practice.” It is ingrained in our social, economic, and political systems and has adapted over time. It identifies the parts of our history and culture that have historically privileged “whiteness” while subjecting people of color to unjust disadvantages. 

Historically, systemic racism has impacted the ability of Black Americans to secure afforable housing, education, health care, and employment due to unjust biases and discrimination. A study by Citigroup found that in the past 20 years alone systemic racism has cost the U.S. a whopping $16 trillion

The Biden-Harris Administration’s new plan will take measures to address the key issues impacting Black wealth in efforts to close the racial wealth gap and build back Black wealth. 

Adam Schultz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Biden-Harris Administration to build back black wealth 

In a detailed press release, the Biden-Harris Administration outlined key areas their plan will tackle. The plan will: 

  • Take action to address racial discrimination in the housing market, including by launching a first-of-its-kind interagency effort to address inequity in home appraisals, and conducting rulemaking to aggressively combat housing discrimination.
  • Use the federal government’s purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years, and helping more Americans realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

Attitudes and policies that undermine equal access are the root of the racial gaps plaguing U.S. society (Source: Citi Research).

Additionally, the Administration plans to create jobs and build wealth in communities of color through various initiatives that will help support small minority owned businesses including: 

  • A new $10 billion Community Revitalization Fund to support community-led civic infrastructure projects that create innovative shared amenities, spark new local economic activity, provide services, build community wealth, and strengthen social cohesion.
  • $31 billion in small business programs that will increase access to capital for small businesses and provide mentoring, networking, and other forms of technical assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses seeking to access federal contracts and participate in federal research and development investments.
  • $15 billion for new grants and technical assistance to support the planning, removal, or retrofitting of existing transportation infrastructure that creates a barrier to community connectivity, including barriers to mobility, access, or economic development.
  • A new Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit to attract private investment in the development and rehabilitation of affordable homes for low- and moderate-income homebuyers and homeowners. 
  • $5 billion for the Unlocking Possibilities Program, an innovative new grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take steps to reduce needless barriers to producing affordable housing and expand housing choices for people with low or moderate incomes.

You might be interested: Black History Month: Steps toward dismantling systemic racism in the U.S. 

Investing in Black-Owned Small Businesses 

Access to capital and resources are common struggles many small business owners face, but the struggle is greater for Black small business owners who must go through the extra hurdles set in place by discriminatory racial biases. 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Through two key measures the Biden-Harris Administration will work to address these disadvantages. 

Using the Government’s purchasing power to drive an additional $100 billion to Small Disadvantaged Business Owners: The federal government is the largest consumer of goods in the world, buying everything from software to elevator services to financial and asset management, Federal procurement is one of our most powerful tools to advance equity and build wealth in underserved communities. And yet, just roughly 10 percent of federal agencies’ total eligible contracting dollars typically go to small disadvantaged businesses (SDB), a category under federal law for which Black-owned, Latino-owned, and other minority-owned businesses are presumed to qualify. Increasing federal spending with these businesses will help more Americans realize their entrepreneurial dreams and help narrow racial wealth gaps. 

At its center is a new goal: increasing the share of contracts going to small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent by 2026—translating to an additional $100 billion to SDBs over the 5-year period. To achieve this goal, agencies will assess every available tool to lower barriers to entry and increase opportunities for small businesses and traditionally-underserved entrepreneurs to compete for federal contracts. The impact could be historic: all told, attainment of the new goal will represent the biggest increase in SDB contracting since data was first collected more than 30 years ago.

Invest $31 Billion to Scale Up Efforts to Support Minority-Owned Small Businesses: Too many small businesses owned by people of color struggle to access loans and federal programs that can help them grow and succeed.  President Biden has proposed a historic effort to tackle these persistent challenges and empower small business creation and expansion in communities of color. Specifically, the President’s American Jobs Plan will invest $30 billion in new Small Business Administration (SBA) initiatives that will reduce barriers to small business ownership and success.  These initiatives will increase access to capital by establishing a new direct loan program for the smallest businesses, developing new loan products to support small manufacturers and businesses that invest in clean energy, and launching a new Small Business Investment Corporation that will make early stage equity investments in small businesses with priority for those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The American Jobs Plan will also invest billions of dollars in SBA technical assistance programs that incubate and offer mentoring and technical assistance to 8(a) firms, reinforce the American subcontracting network to create pathways to prime contracting, encourage Fortune 500 firms to diversify their procurements, and bring more socially and economically disadvantaged businesses into federal research and development programs.  These investments will also include an innovative new $1 billion grant program through the Minority Business Development Agency that will help minority-owned manufacturers access private capital.

Through these efforts, Black-owned small businesses will have greater opportunities to realize their dream and goals. There is still much work to do before the longstanding effects of systemic racism are fully eradicated, but the plan unveiled by the Biden-Harris Administration is a first step in the right direction toward building back black wealth and narrowing the racial wealth gap and achieving equality in the United States. 

FEMA to help shelter influx of migrant children at the border

Roughly 4,000 young migrants were in Customs and Border Protection facilities this week, more than the 2,600 children and teenagers held in such detention facilities in June 2019. In February,  9,457 children, including teenagers, were detained at the border without a parent in February, up from more than 5,800 in January.

Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash

The Biden administration so far has not been able to quickly process the young migrants and transfer them to shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The administration has struggled to expand the capacity of those shelters, and has recently directed the shelters to normal capacity, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, the Biden administration is directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist in processing the increasing number of young migrants as criticism mounts over their treatment in detention facilities.

FEMA will help find shelter space and provide “food, water and basic medical care” to thousands of young migrants, Michael Hart, a spokesman for the agency, said in a statement.

Additionally, the Homeland Security Department has been asked to volunteer “to help care for and assist unaccompanied minors” who have been held in border jails that are managed by Customs and Border Protection.

The Health and Human Services Department also opened a temporary facility for the children and teenagers on Sunday in Midland, Texas, to help migrants out of the border facilities, according to Mark Weber, a spokesman for the agency. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans have characterized the increase in border crossings as a direct result of Mr. Biden’s goal to roll back President Donald J. Trump’s restrictive immigration policies.“They express surprise and shock about the fact that they are overwhelmed, when the Border Patrol and really everybody here in Texas has known that this is coming,” Mr. Abbott said.

However, President Biden has kept a Trump-era pandemic emergency rule that empowers border agents to rapidly turn away migrants at the border, with the exception of unaccompanied minors.

Latinxs children detention centers

Protests in Elizabeth, NJ about immigrant children detention. Photo credit Chris Boese – Unsplash.com

Officials from the Health and Human Services Department have also been placed at border facilities in an attempt to find sponsors for migrant children faster. 

Last week, the administration rescinded a 2018 agreement that allowed the agency to share certain information about sponsors for the children with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigration advocates said the agreement discouraged relatives of the youths from stepping forward to sponsor them, creating a backlog in the system.

Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, said she found the situation at a processing facility that she had toured in El Paso on Friday “unacceptable.”

“A Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement on Saturday. “Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to H.H.S. as quickly as possible.”