A deal on the Build Back Better (BBB) infrastructure spending plan might be nearing and these hints are like heaven to a lot of Black Americans’ ears.
However, both the money and what is considered to be ‘infrastructure’ remain sticking points even as Biden officials say both will positively impact Black America. Let’s be honest though, we want and deserve it all.
Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Alexander Ocasio-Cortez of New York told theGrio on Capitol Hill, “It’s unfortunate how much, sometimes, provisions for our Black communities get trimmed back along with so many other provisions for people of color.”
“But I do think that there are a lot of exciting investments here,” she added. “We had those initial expansions for Black farmers in the original [American Rescue Plan]. But as we’ve seen, there’s been so much pushback on that and [we] continue to push for that. [It] is super important.”
White House Domestic Policy Director, Susan Rice, and senior officials at the White House have offered a little reassurance stating that Black farmers will see some funding from BBB, reports April Ryan for theGrio.
Rice, who previously served as an advisor to former President Barack Obama, contends that Black farmers are earmarked for $6 billion, reports theGrio.
The farmers were a strong contender in voters to then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in many of the southern states that are typically red. The line item for Black farmers is an effort to address long-standing inequities in agriculture, theGrio adds.
White House officials say the relief for farmers and ranchers in the Build Back Better framework includes a program to provide debt relief to certain farmers and ranchers with qualifying loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This provision will include farmers and ranchers who have suffered financial strain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Agriculture has over the decades had to pay out settlement money to Black farmers since the Bill Clinton administration due to discrimination from USDA loan programs. Meanwhile, the numbers of Black farmers have dwindled over the decades in part due to lack of equal access to money and programs offered by the USDA.
Rice also points out that the BBB also has money to prevent and respond to gun crime. Those crimes are linked to gun homicide where Black men make up more than 50% of the deaths. The statistics highlight a major disparity, considering Black men sadly make up only 6% of the population.
In an attempt to resolve this issue, the Biden administration has budgeted items earmarked to target gun-related crime in Black communities. “The package puts funding into evidenced-based community violence prevention programs,” Rice said.
Another initiative is that of HBCUs, along with other minority-serving institutions, will get $300 million to modernize academic research facilities and an additional $700 million for research activities and related activities. This is not all of the funding that will be allocated to HBCUs, according to officials.
“The plan to be of assistance to HBCUs is untouched. We know information got out that they’ve been pulled out. But that really is not true,” Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas exclusively told theGrio. “In the 29 years that I’ve been here on this committee, [that] I chair every term, I have put something for HBCUs.”
Additionally for families, Susan Rice contends that President Biden’s BBB agenda cuts child poverty in half. As it stands, 22.1% of Black people fall below the poverty line. The bill will extend the expanded child tax credit providing a major tax cut to nearly 3 million Black people and will cut the Black poverty rate by 34% and the child poverty rate by nearly half.
While the campaigns promise to bring many changes to Black America only time will truly tell.