As an HBCU (Howard University) graduate, VP Candidate Kamala Harris participated in a virtual discussion with HBCU students in partnership with BET Digital in honor of National Voter Registration Day. Hosted by Terence J, also an HBCU (NC A&T) graduate; the BET News Special: Black America Votes: HBCU Students Interview Kamala Harris was an opportunity for the Vice Presidential Democratic nominee to discuss issues directly impacting Millennial voters. Questions were taken directly from HBCU students across the Nation.
Below are a few highlights of the discussion, with proposed solutions to be addressed by the Biden/Harris administration.
Regarding Federal Relief Efforts for Covid-19, Harris stated, "The Public Health Component includes opportunities." One is a National Plan for contact tracing. She says, "That's going to require a core of people who will trace the virus in a way that we can eliminate it. Our plan is for at least 100,000 individuals to be hired to do that work." Harris stated this is one way jobs will be created because of the pandemic.
As far as student-loan debt is concerned, Harris says, "Joe and I have a plan that includes forgiving $10,000 of student-loan debt right off the top." She continues, "If you take a job after graduation that pays less than $125,000, we will also forgive your student-loan debt." For those entering college from a family that makes less than $125,000, Harris says "they will receive tuition-free education at public four-year colleges and universities (including HBCUs both private and public)."
Biden/Harris recognizes small businesses as the "economic lifeblood of the community" and innovative/entrepreneurial graduates with the "dream of starting a small business." Harris mentioned that one of the biggest challenges for small business leaders is access to capital. A plan for investing $100 Billion in low-interest loans targeting black and brown communities and "those small business that will serve within the community" would be launched in the new administration.
Next, Harris addressed teacher-pay inequities. She stated, "we will increase teacher pay by tripling Title I funding. In addition, our plan is to invest $5 Billion at HBCUs and minority-serving institutions for graduate programs in teaching, healthcare and stem that will build entrepreneur and internship programs and develop pipelines for people to have career success." Harris brought the facts. From the importance of the Black teachers' presence for minority students to how the role of the teacher spans further than the curriculum, and includes; for example, counseling an battling mental health issues for students. It is her intent to "pay teachers for their value."
As a proud HBCU graduate, Harris rallies for support for HBCUs in particular, stating "Joe and I have a commitment to our HBCUs that includes $70 Billion to lower the cost and improve the quality of the environment in terms of the resources that are needed and the infrastructure of HBCUs." She continued, "That 70 includes $10 Billion to create at least 200 new research incubators to connect students to learning and career opportunities in fields like cancer research, clean energy, globalization and dealing with inequalities, inequities and health disparities."
In addition to a $2 Trillion Plan to build a sustainable infrastructure and a clean energy economy, Biden Harris promises $5M for Manufacturing and Innovation jobs, but also access to Broadband (and tech associated with) for businesses and students to work and learn.
Within the first 100 days in office, the Biden/Harris administration hopes to "get the virus under control, getting economic relief to small business and working people, create a $15k down-payment tax credit to increase Black homeownership, reform the criminal justice system and policing by banning choke/carotid holds, ending cash bail, shutting down private prisons, no incarceration for drug use alone, decriminalize marijuana and expunge records of those convicted by marijuana offenses." A great deal to be done, but Harris in confident that with our vote it will be done.
Watch the BET News Special in its entirety here: