Trump woos black voters with ‘platinum plan’ for loans, June 19 pledge

President Trump reflects on his economic record as he tries to entice black voters with a plan to get more loans for African American business owners.

Updated at 2:45 a.m. ET

Trump will unveil what he calls the “platinum plan” for black economic empowerment at a campaign event on Friday in Atlanta.

Ja’Ron Smith — a White House adviser who spoke to NPR in a personal capacity ahead of the event — said the goal was for the federal government to invest in institutions that lend to black businesses.

The campaign said in a press release that Trump is proposing to increase lending through community development financial institutions and would aim to direct up to $40 billion in public funds to leverage up to 10 times that amount through the private sector. This funding should be negotiated with Congress.

The campaign is also considering grants for microcredit and organizations that can help black entrepreneurs grow their businesses, Smith said.

“Today is historic because for the first time you have a Republican president and a Republican agenda focused on economic empowerment for the black community,” Smith told NPR in an interview.

Trump won 8% of the black vote in 2016. His campaign has opened field offices in predominantly black communities in swing states as Trump tries to improve that support. In a tight election, squeezing a few more votes could make the difference.

The campaign faces an uphill battle. Polls show black voters overwhelmingly support Trump’s Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and give Trump low marks for his job performance.

Biden discussed his economic plan for black Americans earlier this week at an event in Charlotte, North Carolina, pledging to invest more money in historically black colleges and universities and raise $150 billion. dollars of new capital for black-owned businesses.

Prior to the pandemic, Trump often pointed to record black unemployment as one of his administration’s key achievements. But that argument is harder to make since the pandemic because the economic downturn has hit African Americans hard.

Even before the pandemic, when black unemployment was at record highs, it was still about double the level of white unemployment.

Trump’s plan will also include a proposal to make Juneteenth a federal holiday — and a proposal to enshrine in law a national police misconduct database. Trump called for the database to be established in June after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Both of these proposals would require congressional action.

Since Floyd’s death, Trump has issued repeated calls for “law and order” in response to nationwide unrest over racial discrimination and systemic racial bias in policing. Critics accuse Trump of stoking tensions and failing to address concerns expressed by black voters about their treatment at the hands of police.

Smith pushed back against these criticisms.

“The president spoke about law and order with compassion,” Smith said. “We want to be tough on violent individuals who victimize people in the community.” [Copyright 2020 NPR]

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