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A Bold Look Forward with a New Marshall Plan

Power of Ideas
A Bold Look Forward with a New Marshall Plan

As of May 2020, the African American community stands at the door of a double crisis: First, African Americans make up approximately 40 percent of the overall fatality rates tied to COVID-19, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while only representing 13 percent of the nation’s overall population, and second, a capital-starved small business community that received a very small portion of the overall CARES Act funding to date. 

As has been said before, the foundation of the African American diet was destroyed during slavery when plantation owners offered enslaved families only the food they didn’t want themselves. As a result, our impaired, multi-generational nutritional intake produced our current compromised immune systems and has spiked everything across the board including diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, and obesity. This, combined with systemic issues including grossly inadequate educational experience through college, lack of the most basic and broad-based health care with no proactive wellness program for a race—had us all sitting ducks for a virus that loves to attack both a compromised immune system and a population that has a disproportionate share of its members working on the frontlines in non-distanced, high-risk jobs. Just ground zero for everything bad. But still, the African American community marches forward, contributing, adding value, helping, leaning in—everything, but benefiting.

The African American community marches forward, contributing, adding value, helping, leaning in—everything, but benefiting.

I have proposed to the White House and members of both the Democratic and Republican parties something I call A New Marshall Plan. A government-framed, public policy-led, private sector co-invested and encouraged, community-adopted, and American citizen-supported plan that would effectively harness the untapped aspirational potential of tens of millions of African Americans through free enterprise. I am not talking about some unlimited government charity plan here, as that is not sustainable (nor dignified), nor am I talking about asking folks to bootstrap themselves without shoelaces, as that is just downright cruel. I am talking about adding 1-2 percent of annual GDP through a rational investment plan for a revitalized America.

A. Education for All

Congress to pass bipartisan legislation providing cost-free kindergarten through college public education for all. Investment would be debt-free to the recipient as long as they transferred education into gainful employment within 18 months and for at least five years of employment. This could be seen as part of redressing more than 250 years of public education denied or undeniably inferior for the African American community. 

B. Financial Literacy for All

  1. The Department of Education to issue Challenge Grants to states and cities for the launch of the nation’s first-ever network of entrepreneurship charter schools targeting underserved communities.

    1. Advance the proposed and planned Economic Development Administration commitment to allow Operation HOPE to double its number of serving offices across the nation, moving from 150 locations to more than 300 locations, and from serving 20 states to 30 or 40.

    2. The Administration to challenge our nation’s financial regulators to lift credit scores nationwide to an average of 700, zip code by zip code, and to specifically reward regulated institutions for, and around, same.

    3. Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to provide financial resources for financial literacy for all students in kindergarten through college.

    4. The federal government to back a municipal financial literacy bond and a small business financial resiliency bond, in support of nonprofit organizations, local schools, and other non-governmental organizations providing financial literacy education, and qualified small businesses in support of their sustained cash flow management.

C. Access to Job Opportunity for All

  1. Congress to expand and deepen the Earned Income Tax Credit significantly on a bipartisan basis for workers making $60,000 or less. This expansion should not be shouldered by small business—giving American workers a pay raise to a living wage—but by all of us. 

  2. Congress to pass bipartisan legislation providing significant tax benefits for individuals and companies that provide for internships and apprenticeships for individuals and youth coming from underserved communities.

  3. Congress to mandate increases in federal contracts set aside for minority- and women-owned small businesses, and likewise, 25 percent of all federal contracts to be allocated for minority- and women-owned small business sub-contracting.

D. Access to Capital

  1. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to apply the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credit and to incorporate emergency financial disaster preparedness, response, and recovery into planned CRA Modernization. Give banks four times the credit that acts to support employer sustainability and employment creation in underserved communities.

  2. The Administration to apply enhanced Qualified Opportunity Zone benefits to investors in our most underserved communities.

  3. The Administration to incentivize the private sector to invest in minority-serving financial institutions, in continuation of the mission and spirit of the Freedman’s Bank.