President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris confer together Monday, March 29, 2021, in the outer Oval hallway of the White House. Photo credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Biden Administration announces plans to narrow racial wealth gap

Following a speech commemorating 100 years since one of the most visually documented racial massacres in US citizens by US citizens—The Tulsa Massacre— President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris said they are taking “new steps to help narrow the racial wealth gap and reinvest in communities that have been left behind by failed policies.”

This past Tuesday was an emotional and somber day Tulsa, Oklahoma. The day was spent memorializing the hundreds of African Americans killed, jailed and the thousands who were displaced on the 100 year recognition of Tulsa massacre in the Greenwood district of the city. In attendance were the handful of survivors and descendants of the massacre who kept the memory of white terrorism fresh.

“I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot,” said Viola Fletcher, a 107-year-old survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre who testified before the Congress recently.

In President Biden’s speech, he detailed the terrorist attack by whites in the city, and the subsequent systems in place to prevent local Blacks from rebuilding an area that was so wealthy it was called, Black Wall Street. What President Biden also acknowledged was the “the disinvestment in Black families in Tulsa and across the country throughout our history is still felt sharply today.”

Shortly following the commemoration, President Biden and Vice President Harris announced one of the more aggressive plans to narrow the racial wealth gap. The center of their initiative is to address racist barriers in housing the housing market and making “an all-of-government effort to expand contracting opportunities for underserved small businesses across the country.” This focus will be Black and Latino businesses. Here are the central points of the initiative.

Take action to address racial discrimination in the housing market, including by launching a first-of-its-kind inter-agency effort to address inequity in home appraisals, and conducting rule-making 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.

As well, the Biden-Harris Administration has upgraded the American Jobs Plan proposals to create jobs and build wealth in communities of color with the following steps:

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.
 

$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.
 

$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

Create a Community Revitalization Fund to Support Community-Led Civic Infrastructure. 

  • Invest directly in community-led projects that benefit residents.
  • Activate vacant land and buildings to create community amenities.
  • Strengthen social cohesion and build community wealth.
  • Spark new local economic activity and unlock private capital. 

Retrofit Transportation Infrastructure to Reconnect Neighborhoods. This proposal will 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.

  • Reconnecting Neighborhoods Program will provide $15 billion in new competitive grants for planning, technical assistance (TA) and capital investments:

Enact a New Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit. The American Jobs Plan calls for 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.

∇ Incentivize Ending Exclusionary Zoning and Expanding Housing Choices. Exclusionary zoning laws – like minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing – inflate housing and construction costs and lock families out of neighborhoods with more opportunities.

 Invest $31 Billion to Scale Up Efforts to Support Minority-Owned Small Businesses. 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.

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