A recent announcement from President Biden not only tells the story of the Tulsa massacre on its one hundredth year anniversary but unveiled new actions that could impact America’s Black economic development for years to come.
“One hundred years ago, the thriving Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as 'Black Wall Street,' was ruthlessly attacked by a violent white supremacist mob. An estimated 300 Black Americans were killed and another 10,000 were left destitute and homeless,” the White House announcement began. “The destruction wrought on the Greenwood neighborhood and its families was followed by laws and policies that made recovery nearly impossible. The streets were redlined, locking Black Tulsans out of homeownership and access to credit. Federal highways built through the heart of Greenwood cut off families and businesses from economic opportunity. And chronic disinvestment by the federal government in Black entrepreneurs and small businesses denied Black Wall Street a fair shot at rebuilding.”
The announcement acknowledged that the Greenwood story has been repeated: “in countless Black communities across the country.”
It continued, “Because disparities in wealth compound like an interest rate, the disinvestment in Black families in Tulsa and across the country throughout our history is still felt sharply today. The median Black American family has thirteen cents for every one dollar in wealth held by White families.”
On May 31, 2021, millions of Americans paused to acknowledge the 100th year anniversary of The Tulsa Race Massacre for which no one was ever punished, despite the numerous deaths of Black people.
The Biden-Harris Administration is now announcing new steps to help narrow the racial wealth gap and reinvest in communities that have been left behind by failed – and often racially insensitive - policies. Specifically, the Administration is expanding access to two key wealth-creators – homeownership and small business ownership – in communities of color and disadvantaged communities.
According to the announcement posted at WhiteHouse.gov, the following are some of the actions that the Administration says it will take:
Address racial discrimination in the housing market, including by launching a first-of-its-kind interagency effort to address inequity in-home appraisals, and conducting rulemaking 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.
Create 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 – all in communities of color.
Provide $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.
Offer 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.
Allocate $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.
Create $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.
Take action to end racial discrimination in the housing market. More than 50 years since the Fair Housing Act’s passage, access to wealth through homeownership remains persistently unequal. In his first week in office, President Biden issued a memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to address discrimination in our housing market.
Additionally, the Biden-Harris Administration is promising to deal with discrimination in home appraisals.
“A 2018 Brookings study found that homes in majority-Black neighborhoods are often valued at tens of thousands of dollars less than comparable homes in similar—but majority-White—communities,” the announcement said. “And the crisis is worsening: a recent study found that the gap between the appraised value of homes in predominantly White neighborhoods compared to comparable homes in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods nearly doubled between 1980 and 2015. The impact of these disparities in-home appraisals can be sweeping, limiting homeowners’ ability to properly benefit from refinancing or re-selling their homes at higher valuations and thereby contributing to the already-sprawling racial wealth gap.”
According to the announcement, “President Biden is also charging Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge with leading a first-of-its-kind interagency initiative to address inequity in home appraisals. The effort will seek to utilize, quickly, the many levers at the federal government’s disposal, including potential enforcement under fair housing laws, regulatory action, and development of standards and guidance in close partnership with industry and state and local governments, to root out discrimination in the appraisal and homebuying process. These are the kinds of policies and practices that keep Black families in Greenwood and across the nation from building generational wealth through homeownership.”
Also, the Biden-Harris Administration is launching an “all-of-government effort to expand contracting opportunities for underserved small businesses across the country. At its center is a new goal: increasing the share of contracts going to small, disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent by 2026—translating to an additional $100 billion to SDBs over the 5-year period. To achieve this goal, agencies will assess every available tool to lower barriers to entry and increase opportunities for small businesses and traditionally underserved entrepreneurs to compete for federal contracts. The impact could be historic: all told, attainment of the new goal will represent the biggest increase in SDB contracting since data was first collected more than 30 years ago.”
The Biden announcement is giving hope to leaders who tried to assist Black-owned businesses which suffered disparately during the pandemic and continue to suffer.
Ron Busby, president/CEO of the U. S. Black Chamber Inc. (USBC) said more than 450,000 Black-owned businesses were lost due to COVID between February and April 2020: representing about 41 percent of all Black-owned businesses.
Yet, Busby said, of Trump’s $349 billion allocated to stimulate the economy, $250 million was awarded to 50 White publicly traded firms without ever asking the question, “Were you impacted by COVID? Did you have to lay off employees? Did you lose revenue? So, the country did not include Black businesses in that stimulus package.”
Busby said, based on a survey by the USBC, "about 76 percent of Black-owned businesses said they got no stimulus money or far less than they needed.”
That’s largely because, he said, the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP), was for businesses with W-2 employees.
“Of the 2.6 million Black-owned businesses that we own and operate across the country, 2.5 million have no W-2 employees,” Busby said. “So, a very small percentage of Black-owned businesses were even eligible to participate in the Payroll Protection Plan,” he said. Contracted or 10-99 employees were not included in the first round of the PPP, he said.
Busby said the new Biden plan will be helpful, but it comes after many of the Black-owned businesses have been forced to close and unable to re-open because the stimulus package was not for startups.
“So many of our businesses are now facing many challenges across this country as it relates to the future,” Busby said. “So, yes, President Biden has come out and made a huge commitment.” But Busby said it will only work if the programs specifically target those businesses that have been hurt the most; not “minority” businesses, which includes White women among other businesses that are not Black-owned.