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Biden Details Proposal To Advance Racial Equity In America

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign event at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
AFP via Getty Images
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign event at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Tuesday detailed a proposal to advance racial equity in the United States.

The plan is the fourth and final pillar of his "Build Back Better" agenda for economic recovery, crafted in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"[Biden] believes in an economy where every American enjoys a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead. An economy more vibrant and more powerful precisely because everybody will be included in the deal. An economy where Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American workers and families are finally welcomed as full participants," the campaign proposal says.

Biden outlined the plan Tuesday afternoon during remarks in his hometown of Wilmington, Del. Biden has significantly curtailed his campaign travel amid the pandemic, mostly staying in Delaware and next-door Pennsylvania.

The former vice president took questions from reporters following his remarks. He said he plans to name his vice presidential pick next week, and he expressed confidence in Democrats retaking the Senate.

Biden's new proposal seeks to address the country's racial wealth, opportunity and jobs gaps through what the campaign says would be a "historic effort to empower small business creation and expansion in economically disadvantaged areas — and particularly for Black, Latino, [Asian American and Pacific Islander] and Native American-owned businesses."

The 26-page plan centers around the bolstering of small business opportunities for minority communities, reforming "opportunity zones," investing in affordable housing and homeownership, and expanding access to resources for entrepreneurs of color.

Many of the policy proposals detailed Tuesday have been released earlier by the campaign and reflect the priorities of the other three pillars of his plan to revitalize the economy, including a major expansion of access to child care, a $2 trillion climate agenda and a boostto manufacturing through a "Buy American" proposal.

The racial equity plan would devote $30 billion — 10% of the $300 billion Biden aims to invest in research and development to stimulate the economy — to a new small business opportunity fund. The campaign suggests the investment would yield $150 billion in venture capital and low-interest business loans.

The housing plan includes an up-to-$15,000 refundable tax credit for first-time homebuyers to combat racial inequality in housing markets, along with an investment to construct 1.5 million homes and public housing units, and the elimination of housing regulations thought to perpetuate discrimination.

The plan also focuses on providing relief from student debt and would make public colleges and universities — and private historically Black schools — tuition-free for families with incomes under $125,000, something the campaign estimates would apply to about 90% of Black, Latino and Native American households.

Additionally, the plan reads: "As President, Biden will enact legislation to ensure that every person can go to community college for up to two years without having to pay tuition."

Biden also called on the Federal Reserve to add targeting persistent racial gaps in jobs, wages and wealth to its core mandate.

In response to the plan, President Trump's reelection campaign said in a statement that "no one should listen to a lecture on racial justice from Joe Biden," citing his past relationships with segregationist senators and various comments he's made.

Last week, during a virtual town hall organized by the Service Employees International Union, Biden controversially described Trump as the country's "first" racist president, which was first reported by the The Washington Post.

"No sitting president has ever done this," he said, mentioning that Trump often refers to the coronavirus as the "China virus." Biden said: "We've had racists, and they've existed. They've tried to get elected president. He's the first one that has."

Various American Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, enslaved Black people. Still more presidents held racist beliefs, including President Woodrow Wilson, who segregated the federal government. The Biden campaign later clarified to the Post that while there have been other racist presidents, Trump "stands out — especially in modern history — because he made running on racism and division his calling card and won."

Trump dismissed Biden's comments during a White House press briefing, citing his administration's efforts at passing criminal justice reform and the low unemployment rate for Black people before the pandemic.

"I've done more for Black Americans than anybody with the possible of exception of Abraham Lincoln," he said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.