By: Roy Douglas Malonson
Almost a year ago with the country plagued by an unprecedented deadly pandemic, economic downturn, significant climate crises, and persistent racial injustices, President Joe Biden revealed his Build Back Better Agenda. The ambitious attempt to prepare America for a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future leaves us wondering, “What does ‘building back better’ look like for the Black community?” And are these promises that will be kept?
Americans pay a significant 2-3 times more money on prescription drugs than people in other wealthy countries. This contributes to the fact that Black people use 10-40 percent fewer medications than their white counterparts due to the high cost. President Biden’s agenda will lower costs by allowing Medicaid to negotiate medicine prices rather than large pharmaceutical companies.
In the Black community, only 62.6 percent of three- and four-year-old Black children are enrolled in preschool or kindergarten due to high childcare costs. Biden’s plan is to reduce childcare costs making high-quality educational programs accessible to all three- and four-year-old children. The agenda also includes 12 weeks of paid maternal and medical leave, which will help improve Black women’s maternal health and reduce the wage inequality continuously affecting Black women.
Before President Biden took office, almost 3.9 million Black people were uninsured in 2019. The Affordable Care Act, even with premium subsidies, was still too expensive for most families. The Build Back Better Agenda aims to lower health care costs for those buying insurance through the ACA by extending the American Rescue Plan’s cost savings, helping 360,000 Black people save $50 per person per month. It also adds dental, vision, and hearing coverage for more than 5.8 million Black people on Medicare.
Though higher education has become more of a necessity to succeed in the 21st century, it has become unaffordable for the average family. Under Biden’s agenda, there will be two years of free community college, boosting the wages of high school graduates by nearly $6,000 yearly. The plan also increases the maximum federal Pell Grant to $1,500 and invests billions into subsidized tuition for low- and middle-income students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions. The agenda also aims to help low-income students by implementing evidence-based strategies to boost completion and retention rates.
Thirty percent of Black renters spend over half their income on rent. The agenda will lower housing costs and increase affordable housing by tax credits and government financing. This includes the rehabilitation and construction of over one million sustainable rental units and more than 500,000 homes for working families.
An estimated 22.1% of Black people are below the poverty line and are struggling to pay basic living expenses like food, health care, and transportation. Biden’s plan will expand the Child Tax Credit expansion in the American Rescue Plan providing a major tax cut for the families of more than 66 million kids and nearly three million Black people. This cuts the Black poverty rate by 34.3 percent and is especially significant for the 85% of Black women who are sole or co-breadwinners for their families. The plan also includes tax cuts for workers without children, affecting nearly 17 million low-wage workers including cashiers, delivery drivers, childcare workers, etc.
The Building Back Better Agenda will invest in creating and growing jobs through high-quality career and technical education pathways and Registered Apprenticeships. The agenda will also invest in clean energy jobs, effectively combating climate change and job shortages simultaneously. As part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, the Build Back Better Agenda would also restore American manufacturing with R&D investments—including critical investments to compete on clean energy.
Finally, the Build Back Better Agenda will focus on investing in teachers and schools. Even before the pandemic, the country has suffered a shortage of 100,000 teachers, disproportionately impacting students. Only 7% of the nation’s public school teachers are Black, even though Black students make up 15% of public schools. President Biden plans to upgrade school infrastructure, address teacher shortages and advance teacher preparation, as well as increase the diversity of careers in teaching and expanding free school meals to 9.3 million children during the school year and help families purchase food during the summer.
But while Biden has a documented list of “planned” promises, we must never forget who is ultimately in charge of our lives – WE ARE! Use your time and these planned improvements to your benefit. It is time for us to take control and Build BLACK Better.