Biden receives praise, criticism for plan to build Black wealth

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WASHINGTON — When Frank Hall opened his restaurant the Social Vegan in April, he knew building a business in the middle of a pandemic would not be easy. But as a lifelong Black entrepreneur who has faced his share of challenges, he was prepared for another one.

“I’ve been self employed since 1992. I learned a lot. Every mistake, everything that I thought was bad, everything that didn’t go right, everything when I question, my blessing, and I realized this all was a blessing, even my mistakes that I made, it’s a blessing,” said Frank Hall, the owner of the Lexington-based restaurant. 

After spending much of his working life running a cleaning service, Hall opened Social Vegan in April and now employs twelve people.

He’s encouraged by the proposed $31 billion for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses in President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan.

Marking the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Biden administration announced a number of proposals aimed to build Black wealth and help Black business owners struggling to access loans and federal programs.

“It’s been a problem accessing those things. Even when I qualified, it was still a problem when accessing it, because I felt like, I wasn’t trusted. I couldn’t be trusted to handle this size. Or, like, that’s too big for me to handle,” Hall said. 

The administration has identified Black home and business ownership as key to helping historically disadvantaged communities.

But some historians say more must be done to counteract years of discrimination and systemic racism in areas like bank lending, and instances of state-sanctioned violence like the Tulsa Race Massacre, which destroyed a thriving Black community.

“It seems to me that the Biden-Harris administration is taking the safest and least controversial route to addressing the racial wealth gap. I mean, who would oppose owning a small business like a barber shop or owning your own home?” said Nikki Brown, a history professor at the University of Kentucky. “I do agree with the criticism that the people who survived the Tulsa Race Massacre would much rather prefer direct reparations payments.”

More than half of Black-owned small businesses experienced at least a 50% decrease in revenue during the pandemic compared to only 37% among White business owners, according to a study by H&R Block.

The median Black American family has thirteen cents for every one dollar in wealth held by White families.

Many of the proposals outlined by the administration are dependent on Congress passing the President’s infrastructure and jobs plan.

The administration also wants to increase the share of contracts going to small disadvantaged businesses by 50% in the next five years.

“I think it would do wonders for minorities,” Hall said.

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