Biden unveils economic plan to combat racial inequality, slams Trump for stoking tensions

Biden’s plan, part of his “Build Back Better” agenda, includes investments in minority small-business ownership and affordable housing.

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By Adam Edelman and Marianna Sotomayor

Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled an ambitious plan to combat racial inequality in the United States that focuses on providing assistance to minority small-business owners and making housing more affordable for families of color, while also lambasting President Donald Trump for "intentionally stoking the flames of division of racism."

In a speech from a high school gymnasium in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., Biden spoke about the plan — which represents the last plank of his four-part "Build Back Better” economic revitalization agenda — before slamming Trump's pandemic response and his reaction to protests over racial inequality and policing in the U.S.

“Donald Trump faces a real test, and he’s failed it,” Biden said. “The duty to care for the entire country, not just his re-election prospects.”

“He’s shown he can’t beat the pandemic and keep you safe,” Biden continued. “And he is, horrifyingly, and not surprisingly, intentionally stoking the flames of division and racism in this country.”

Biden said that he spoke to the late Rep. John Lewis, a titan of the civil rights movement, on his deathbed and that Lewis asked him to “stay focused on the work left undone.”

Biden's plan, details of which were released earlier in the day by his campaign, calls for investing $150 billion of already allocated spending to help minority small-businesses owners. About one third of that amount would be public and private venture capital for Black and brown entrepreneurs, while the other $100 billion will be devoted to low-interest business loans for state, local, tribal and nonprofit lending for community members.

The campaign also proposed setting a new goal of spending 15 percent of federal procurement on small disadvantaged businesses, primarily for Black- and brown-owned ones.

The plan marks a contrast with Trump’s approach to race. In recent weeks, Trump has taken several actions to stoke racial and cultural divisions. Since late June, he has promoted a video on Twitter on showing a man in a golf cart with Trump campaign gear shouting "white power," has refused to call the Confederate flag offensive, has criticized NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag at its races and threatened to veto a major defense bill over a provision requiring the military to rename bases that honor Confederate generals.

Biden's plan largely repackages dozens of policies already proposed by the campaign that directly address Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American communities. But by adding them to his large-scale economic package, they could have a greater chance of becoming legislation as the campaign eyes incorporating the agenda in future stimulus proposals during a Biden presidency.

The plan also lays out how Biden would prioritize helping Black and brown communities find affordable housing. The plan calls for new construction of 1.5 million homes and public housing units and for creating a new advanceable tax credit of up to $15,000 designed to help families of color make a down payment for their first homes.

In an effort to improve employment opportunities for nonviolent offenders, the proposal calls for helping states modernize their criminal justice record-keeping so that local governments can quickly expunge or seal records.

The final pillar of Biden’s “Build Back Better” economic agenda comes as the U.S. continues to grapple with protests over race and policing that were touched off by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and as the coronavirus pandemic has affected communities of color disproportionately.