The Biden Campaign Plan to Build Back Better by Advancing Racial Equity Across the American Economy, announced on Tuesday, July 28.
WHY IT MATTERS
Biden announced the fourth pillar of his Build Back Better agenda, outlining direct investments a Biden Administration will make to advance racial equity. Biden’s plan focuses on the need to help people of color overcome inequities, aiming to remove barriers to participation in the economy, expand access to opportunity, and fully enforce relevant policies and laws.
- Public and Private Investment in Small Businesses – Biden’s plan seeks to provide more than $50 billion in public-private venture capital to entrepreneurs of color; expanding access to $100 billion in low-interest business loans by funding state, local, tribal and non-profit lending programs in Black and Brown communities, as well as strengthening Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), and the Community Reinvestment Act; and eliminating barriers to technical assistance and advisory services through cost-free business incubators and innovation hubs.
- Reform Opportunity Zones – In an effort to prevent the exploitation of Opportunity Zone tax breaks by the wealthy, Biden’s plan would include incentivizing Opportunity Funds to partner with organizations to produce a community-benefit plan; creating a Department of Treasury review of Opportunity Zone benefits; and promoting transparency by requiring Opportunity Zone tax break recipients to report and publicly disclose their investments and local impact.
- Equalizing Federal Procurement – To streamline the federal procurement process and ensure it mirrors the demographics of the U.S., Biden plans to increase subcontracting opportunities for Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDBs); expand long-term technical assistance and federal contracting preferences for SDBs; incentivize state and local governments and private sector partners to contract with SDBs; protect SDBs from federal and state contract bundling; and strengthen implementation of the Buy Indian Act.
- Investments in Homeownership – To end systemic housing discrimination, Biden aims to help families buy their first homes and build wealth through a tax credit (up to $15,000); scale up support for investing in homeownership in revitalization areas; spur the construction of 1.5 million homes and public housing units; call for accurate, non-discriminatory, inclusive credit scoring; protect homeowners from abusive lenders and landlords through a Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights; bolster programs to improve housing affordability; protect tenants from eviction; eliminate housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination; and create accountability for discriminatory practices.
- Equity in Management, Training, and Higher Education Opportunities – Biden’s plan recognizes disparities that compound and contribute to inequity in economic, health, housing, and criminal justice systems. His plan invests in educational institutions and programs to elevate minority students, helping to address these disparities by providing relief from student debt, including cancelling a minimum of $10,000 of federal student loan debt, increasing the value of Pell grants, and fixing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program; making public colleges and universities and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) tuition-free for families with an income lower than $125,000; supporting colleges that play unique and vital roles in their community; investing in diversity and innovation; and increasing funding for educational development.
- Inequities in Agriculture – Biden aims to support Black, Brown, and Native farmers by establishing an equity commission; creating a farmland purchase assistance program; protecting inherited property; and increasing accountability in the Department of Agriculture.
While Biden’s policy announcements have sought to address economic challenges faced by all Americans, this plan focuses on racial inequality, one of the top issues for Democrats this election cycle. In recent months, we have witnessed the outsized influence of COVID-19 on communities of color, an overwhelming national response to the death of George Floyd, and widespread Black Lives Matter protests. With this new plan, Biden is making sure that Black voters do not believe that he is taking their votes for granted and is hoping to prevent a repeat of low Black turnout in 2016.
If Joe Biden is elected president and Democrats win majorities in the House and Senate, there is still a real question whether Biden can gain enough congressional support to fund this set of programs. Many of the policies in Biden’s racial equity proposals already enjoy significant support from Democrats in Congress but prioritizing these policies would require hard choices in 2021. Democrats would look to raise revenue out of the corporate, international and individuals. As the 2017 tax reform process demonstrated, opening the tax code would all-but guarantee months of political and policy battles. A President Biden will need moderate Democrats from suburban districts and red states to take difficult votes to fund and enact his policies, which could jeopardize the Democratic Congressional majorities in the House and possibly the Senate in a 2022 midterm election.
Many of the policies included in Biden’s latest proposals would apply broadly across demographic groups but would particularly help minority populations. Several of these policies, including an immediate cancelation of a minimum of $10,000 in federal student loan debt and the provision of tuition-free college for families with incomes under $125,000, come straight from the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations. They represent a tentative Democratic consensus on policies that seek to ease the cost of higher education. Another example is a $15,000 refundable tax credit, which would all first-time homebuyers, but would be critically important for Black and Latino families. As we have seen with other aspects of Biden’s policy initiatives, while this plan would aspire to provide a pathway for racial equality in his administration, which is clearly a priority for his campaign, it remains unclear if a President Biden will be able to enlist bipartisan support to turn these proposals into legislation.
This is the final policy announcement for the Biden “Build Back Better” agenda. The first two focused on spurring manufacturing in the U.S. and a climate-friendly, sustainable economy while the third focused on enhancing early education, caregiving, and long-term care. Yesterday, Biden said that he would make his vice-presidential announcement in “the first week of August.” Expect an announcement as early as this weekend, shifting the campaign’s messaging from these plans to the vice president and then convention.