ST. PAUL — Months ahead of the presidential election, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder joined Minnesota business owners and economic development officials Friday, July 31, in a virtual roundtable to stump for former Vice President Joe Biden and to highlight his plans to advance racial equity as part of his economic recovery plan.

Biden earlier this week put out a 26-page plan to address racial gaps in access to jobs, opportunity and wealth. The proposal would put hundreds of billions of dollars toward loans, grants and additional aid available to entrepreneurs of color, boost tax credits and lending options for small business owners and start a network of small business incubators.

The former vice president has sought to distinguish for voters his plans to combat the coronavirus and manage its financial repercussions as he attempts to unseat President Donald Trump. And Biden's campaign has tried to highlight those policy proposals in a series of Minnesota virtual gatherings featuring his surrogates.

State Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, D-Minneapolis, and the business leaders highlighted disparities in the impact COVID-19 has had for communities of color and Indigenous people in Minnesota as compared to their white peers. They said the economic impact, too, has had an outsized impact on people of color.

Holder said the presidential election would determine what steps are taken at the federal level to contain the illness and to reset the economy that has been devastated by COVID-19 and efforts to deter it.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

"We are at a moment of reckoning the likes of which do not come around very often," Holder said. “We can’t just build this economy back, we have to build it back better and more inclusive."

Ruhel Islam, who owned Gandhi Mahal restaurant in Minneapolis, said his business was burned to the ground by arson fire following the police killing of George Floyd. And he said it was important to him and members of his community that efforts to bolster the U.S. economy offer a needed leg up for Black, Latino and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

“We think we have a blank canvas now and we can draw our dream,” Islam said.

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee on Friday pointed to Biden's previous support for a "tough on crime" law that adversely impacted communities of color and touted Trump's work on the U.S. economy. Biden has said the criminal justice bill succeeded in some areas but failed in others.

“After spending the better part of 40 years in office supporting legislation that promoted racial inequities that sent minorities to prison, it's clear Joe Biden remains the problem," Preya Samsundar said in a statement. "Meanwhile, President Trump built a world-class economy that led to historically low unemployment rates for minority communities and has worked to reform the criminal justice system.”