May 7, 2020
Transcript: Joe Biden Virtual Roundtable with African American Florida Representatives
Joe Biden held a virtual roundtable with African American representatives in the battleground state of Florida. Read the full transcript of his 2020 campaign event, in a series of virtual town halls & roundtables.
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Joe Biden: (00:00)
… in [inaudible 00:00:01]. It really is an honor for me to have the opportunity to introduce the next President of the United States. Some four years ago, I had the opportunity to communicate with his brother Frank. Frank and I are very good friends. We spent a lot of time together. I told Frank, I said, “Frank, I would like for you to tell your brother that I want him to run for President of the United States.” Frank smiled right in my office and said, “You know, Al, that is going to happen.” You see, now it’s a reality. I want to thank the Vice President for all he did to get Obama elected and also to come out with a bold plan to face black America, lift every voice, which is really absolutely great, to advance economic priority among African-Americans to expand access to top quality education, to invest in health care disparities.
Joe Biden: (01:02)
The ACA is what has been very good for us. We have called for it for the last couple of years to make sure that they don’t kill it in Congress. And it’s stretching the juvenile justice system, which is so important, critically important [inaudible 00:01:18] vision. Address [inaudible 00:01:22] justice, which is so important to our communities and to make our voices heard, and protection African-American opportunity to vote. They asked me a question at the Washington Post and New York Times, “So why did you come out early for Joe Biden?”
Joe Biden: (01:41)
I say simply, they don’t make them like Joe anymore. Joe is the type of person that we need, that as I traveled across the world to find out where America stand, it is going down since their administration. We need someone that not only is [inaudible 00:01:58] about international issues, but also care about America, especially as we go through this pandemic. There was no other person that I know of, even during the course of all of these debates, that can do more to [inaudible 00:02:11] America image to the world and to help the African-American community. No one can do it like Joe. It is my real honor today to have the opportunity to introduce the next President of United States, Joe Biden.
Joe Biden: (02:25)
Al, thanks an awful lot, Congressman. I really appreciate it, and we now know who to blame for getting me involved with this the first place. But anyway, Al, thanks for being such a good friend. Hi everyone. It’s great to be connected with you all, and Al for being there right from the beginning. Actually before I even got there, you were there, and the way you serve the people of the fifth district, they should be proud, as I’m sure they are. And I want to thank you, Audrey, for your leadership finding for Jacksonville families in the Florida Senate. And by the way, I think we can win back the Florida Senate this time.
Joe Biden: (03:01)
Before I begin, I know that we have been inundated with tragedies these past several months, but I want to address one particular tragedy, a grave injustice that claimed a life, but that resonates in so many ways across the threads of our history into the present day. By now, many of us have seen that harrowing footage of Ahmaud Arbery on a jog on a beautiful day in February in Florida, I mean, Georgia, shot down in cold blood. A [inaudible 00:03:35] lynch before our very eyes, 2020 style, when so plainly, unmistakenly without mercy.
Joe Biden: (03:42)
He would have turned 26 years old tomorrow, tomorrow, and his family and the country deserve justice, and they deserve it now, and they deserve a swift, full, and transparent investigation of this brutal murder. But our nation deserves it, as well. We need to reckon with this. This goes on, these vicious acts call to mind the darkest chapters of our history, and more recently the awful specter of white supremacists on the march in Charlottesville, Virginia. A massacres in house of worship, a rising pandemic of hate. When I announced I said I was running to restore the soul American. Well, you know Ahmaud should be alive today. We have no recourse. We have no recourse for the life he lost, but we can make this promise and do it together, and I’m committed, recommit American equal justice, but this time to root out racial inequities, gender inequities, income based inequities, all within our system is still the African-American mothers and fathers should feel confident that their children are safe walking on the streets in America. Until we get there, work remains urgent and unfinished.
Joe Biden: (04:58)
This is the promise I make to y’all and to everybody across America. As President, I will work tirelessly, tirelessly to get us to that day. Look, I know this is an anxious, difficult moment for our communities, for our nation, and quite frankly for the world. I hope that all of you, your families, your constituents, and members are staying safe and healthy as we take this on. You know, you more than most have been on the front lines of this crisis. You’ve seen the devastating impact every single day. Americans are seeing what leadership looks like, not from their federal government or from you, from you. And I want to commend you for the example you’re setting for service, a public leadership, civic leadership, moral leadership. Tragically, we’ve all seen, and I’ve been speaking about this, every chance I get, that the impact of this crisis on African-American communities is disproportionately heavy, as the Senator pointed out.
Joe Biden: (06:01)
Six times more people dying in the African-American community, three to four times more people in the African-American community getting sick. African-American workers are losing their jobs as I point out at a higher rate than white workers. This disease is magnifying some of the worst systemic inequities, wrenching those gaps even wider. And it’s shining a bright light on the structural racism that plagues our lives, plagues our laws, our institutions, and our culture. We need an overwhelming moral response to right the wrong, to heal the fissures in our society, to close these gaps, not only to get us through this crisis, but to resurrect America, restore its soul, like where it’s never been in a way that reflects our values. That idea is the heart of my campaign, and this week released a comprehensive agenda for black America. A plan that seeks to create equality and rip out the roots of systemic racism working across a wide range of policy areas to ensure that black Americans are fully dealt in on the economy and society that emerges from this moment on.
Joe Biden: (07:12)
I hope we’ll all get a chance to read our plan. I know you know it inside and out. Help us pursue that goal. I know you have some questions for me. I’ll just say thank you for all that you’re doing to lead with dignity. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me today. A concluding comment before we get into questions. You know, how I think that the blinders have sort of ripped off the American public. They’re now seen exactly, without having thought about it before, many of them, not because they are prejudiced or don’t care. They just didn’t know, a lot of them. And now they’re finding out that the people are saving their lives and their family’s lives are hard working people, many of them, a significant number of them, minorities and minority black, primarily, and so I think they’re ready for some real change.
Joe Biden: (08:06)
America’s the only nation in the world that when we’ve gone through a major crisis, we’ve almost always been able to come get through it and come out stronger. I’m hopeful. I’m going to need you if we win. I’m going to need you to help this time rebuild the backbone of this country, the middle class, but this time bring everybody along regardless of color, sexual preference, their backgrounds, whether they have any … Just bring everybody along. We can do this. We can, and I think the country’s ready. But I’m talking too much. I apologize. I get a little wound up in this, because I feel strongly about it. I know you do, too. So I’m open for your questions.
Speaker 2: (08:51)
Thank you so much, Mr. Vice President, for your powerful words, comments, and thoughts at such a time as this. And yes, some of our guests do have questions for you, and we’re going to start with Reverend Marvin C. Zanders, II, pastor St. Paul AME Church.
Marvin Zanders II: (09:11)
Thank you, Senator. Mr. Vice President, thank you. The question I have for you today deals with some of the issues you talked about. However, during the primaries and in many debates with other democratic candidates, there were two sides to the healthcare debate building on the ACA or Medicare for all. How do you build on the ACA, and to our friends who believed in Medicare for all, how do you bring those voters into the fold? How do you build that bridge?
Joe Biden: (09:45)
Well, Rev, I’ve been working with those folks who are Medicare for all, including Bernie, who’s been a great friend and has endorsed me, and we’re working together. Look, what unites us as Democrats is we all believe that healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. And this year’s presidential field was the most diverse-
Joe Biden: (10:03)
… not a privilege. This year’s Presidential field was the most diverse and dynamic in our history. Full of good ideas and good people. Senators Sanders and Warren, we’re all on the same page. Obamacare was the biggest, most progressive expansion over the four years of our healthcare system. Matter of fact, it’s the biggest expansion in our history. It covered 20 million uninsured Americans, protects 100 million more with preexisting conditions who couldn’t get covered before … Many of which of them are put them at a higher risk of the COVID complications I might add … Stops insurance companies from imposing annual lifetime caps on care, lets young adults stay on their parents’ plan until age 26.
Joe Biden: (10:47)
This week, Trump and Republican Attorneys General are once again in court trying to overturn Obamacare. Wipe it out. Can you believe that? In the middle of this crisis, during a global pandemic, they’re trying to overturn the ACA and strip millions of Americans of health insurance. They should drop that lawsuit today, and Trump should reopen Obamacare enrollment so every American can access coverage today when they need it the most.
Joe Biden: (11:16)
Look, my plan is to protect and build on Obamacare with a Medicare lite public option. It’s an ambitious plan. It costs about three quarters of a trillion dollars, $750 billion over 10 years, but we can get it done without raising taxes on the middle class. It will reduce premiums and deductibles and drug costs. It will lower Medicare eligibility to the age of 60, expanding options for older Americans. It will double funding for community health centers on the front lines of care. Will automatically enroll people eligible for Medicaid who live in a state like Florida that’s rejected Medicaid expansion. If you’re eligible, you’ll be automatically enrolled in the Medicare option. That’s even more important now in the midst of this health crisis.
Joe Biden: (12:05)
That’s why I’ve called for immediately making all COVID testing treatment and any future vaccine free. Free. Whether you have insurance or not. No one should have to pay a dollar out of pocket for it. So to everyone who backed Medicare For All, please join us. So much is [inaudible 00:12:33]. We can get this done quickly. In November healthcare is on the ballot. It’s on the ballot and if you elect me, we can get it done quickly and immediately, and we can get it done in a way that expands to all Americans.
Speaker 3: (12:41)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you.
Speaker 4: (12:44)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Next we have Jaylen Geist who is a graduating high school senior.
Joe Biden: (12:53)
Jaylen Geist: (12:55)
Hi. My question for you today is what is your position on student loans forgiveness for the millions of students burdened by excessive student loan debt?
Joe Biden: (13:05)
Well, Jaylen, my wife, who’s a teacher and have been for an educator for a long time, says any country that out educates us, will out compete us. 12 years of education in the 21st century is no longer sufficient. Six out of 10 jobs require more than a high school diploma right now, and the student debt crisis has been festering much too long. Today’s economic crisis makes it even more urgent than ever. So we have to refuse to let it overwhelm your generation and the generation before you and rob you of your future that you’ve been working so hard to get to.
Joe Biden: (13:46)
First, I’ve called on Congress to immediately forgive $10,000 a person in federal student loans right now. You don’t have to worry about. Payments during the global pandemic should not be on anybody’s mind. When I’m President I’ll make sure that we forgive all tuition-related debt to any public college graduate who’s earning less than $125,000 a year. That means if you went to a public college or university or an HBCU or other minority serving institution and you earn less than $125,000 a year, your loans will be forgiven.
Joe Biden: (14:23)
We also make community college and trade schools free for everyone. Make public colleges and universities free for families earning less than $125,000. We double the amount of Pell grants. You know what a Pell grant is. You make less than $50,000, lower income students can get the grant. It’s now $6,000, we move it to $12,000 to get more help if they want to go to a private college instead. Many middle class families qualify for the first time. Look, my wife teaches at a community college in Virginia and has all during our tenure as Vice President. She points out that even if you make public community colleges free, a number of people can still can’t afford the food, the transportation, and sometimes the lodging.
Joe Biden: (15:13)
So here’s the other thing. If you go into public service after you graduate, we forgive $10,000 a year for five years, no matter where you went to [inaudible 00:15:28]. If you’re in a public service 10 years, all your debt is forgiven. And finally, I am a political product of Delaware State University, a great HBCU. I invest $70 billion in HBCUs and minority serving institutions, including the tuition assistance, research and innovation centers, and job placement.
Joe Biden: (15:47)
This is the way we can begin to straighten out that curve that is bent so badly for African-Americans. The average African-American graduating from college ends up with a debt close to $30,000. It’s putting everybody behind the eight ball. The generation you’re part of now finds himself in a real stuff spot just like the generation in the last 10 years have. You’re going to be graduating, going to school when it’s hard to get money. You’re going to school and it’s hard to even borrow the money. You’re going to school at a time when you get out, the jobs are going to be harder to get because of this God-awful pandemic the President didn’t pay attention to. I promise you it’s a high priority for me. We can get this done. The public now understands it. It’s overwhelmingly in our interest to do it as a nation.
Jaylen Geist: (16:38)
Joe Biden: (16:39)
Speaker 4: (16:42)
Thank you Mr. Vice President. We now have Dr. Rogers Cain, a primary physician.
Dr. Rogers Cain: (16:48)
Hello Mr. Vice President.
Joe Biden: (16:51)
Dr. Rogers Cain: (16:52)
My question to you is when elected as the President of the United States, what would be President Biden’s plan to help him help disparities as it exists, eliminate [inaudible 00:17:06] to the spread of pandemics such as COVID-19?
Joe Biden: (17:10)
Well, let me start by saying doc, that we in the Obama-Biden Administration, we had gone through two potential pandemics. They were stopped in their tracks basically. We said, we know more were coming. There are going to be more after this as you know, doc. This is not the only potential disease out there that does not honor any borders. You can’t build a wall high enough to keep these diseases out.
Joe Biden: (17:38)
So this disease is not only tearing through the nation, devastating families, wrecking the economy, it’s magnifying and exacerbating some of the worst systematic inequities exist. Counties with majority Black populations have COVID infections three times higher than majority white counties. Death rates nearly six times higher. Now that’s inconceivable. It should never happen, but we know exactly why it has. People of color are less likely to have access to healthcare and health insurance. Therefore, they’re less likely to go in for preventative efforts. They’re less likely to have had treatment for underlying conditions that make them much more vulnerable to the virus now. And they’re more likely to be exposed to pollutants tied to higher COVID death rates. Less likely to have a job they can just do from home, meaning they’re more likely to have to choose between their lives and their livelihoods.
Joe Biden: (18:36)
Like so many other public health crises, doc as you know, including climate change and maternal mortality rates, this virus is shining a very bright light on structural racism that still plagues our institutions and our culture. As President, I’ll work for health equity, not just universal healthcare. As I said earlier, I’ll protect Obamacare and build out with a public option. Double funding for community health centers. Automatically enroll people eligible for Medicaid in states that rejected Medicaid expansion.
Joe Biden: (19:13)
I’ll work to reduce the unconscionable maternal mortality rates, especially women of color, by taking California’s successful approach nationally. I’ll make sure that no American gets sick from the air and drinking water in the neighborhoods where I live, which by the way are primarily, if I can, as they used to say in the Senate, a point of personal preference. When I was a kid and coal died in Scranton when I was in third grade, my dad didn’t have a job. We moved to Delaware. We moved to a little town called Claymont, Delaware. Claymont, Delaware is right on the … That’s that little arc that goes up into Pennsylvania. It’s right there on the line, and it’s right where the largest number of refineries per square mile are, including Houston, of anywhere in the country. I remember as a kid, we’d get in the car and my mom would-
Joe Biden: (20:03)
… the country. I remember as a kid we’d get in the car, my mom would drop us off at school, which was about a mile away. If it was a time when there was frost on the windshield or a little dew, she’d put on the windshield wipers and there’d be an oil, I’m not joking, because of the pollutants coming across the border, the prevailing winds were southwest, or Southeast and it caused enormous amounts of asthma, very high cancer rates. I’m one of those kids who got the asthma, high cancer rates. I’m going to double the investment in water infrastructure, monitor for contaminants, hold polluters accountable, including sending executives to jail when they know what’s happening and they’ve done nothing about it, restore scores of environmental protections gutted by the president, because we can do this.
Joe Biden: (20:55)
The people who are hurt the most are not, no surprise again, Doc, you know it, the people who are coming to see you, many of them come from neighborhoods where they’re much lower income, zip codes are not as prestigious and that’s where most of the pollutants are. That’s where the businesses are. That’s where things are, stuff is being left in the aquifer and the light.
Joe Biden: (21:16)
There’s a lot we can do and it has to do with the whole notion of cleaning up the environment where particularly minorities live and that includes going to their schools. I’m going to invest a trillion dollars over this period of time, not a joke, in cleaning up our schools. Do you know how many schools out there, Doc, you can’t go to a water fountain and trust a kid can get a drink out of the water fountain without a pollutant or there’s still asbestos or some contaminant in the air, or they have heating or cooling systems that aren’t safe? We have to invest in our children. We have to invest in these communities. By the way, it’s not just the morally right thing to do to help the people that are being hurt the most, and African-Americans are being hurt the most by this because of where they live, it also is overwhelming the interest of all the public. All the public, no matter what neighborhood you live in, that we clean this up.
Joe Biden: (22:15)
A lot more to say, Doc, but thank you for what you do, Doc.
Speaker 5: (22:17)
Joe Biden: (22:18)
I really do, because you’re-
Speaker 5: (22:31)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. I really appreciate that answer. That was a great answer.
Joe Biden: (22:31)
Sorry, I get a little wound up with this.
Speaker 5: (22:31)
No, I’m fine. I’m fine.
Joe Biden: (22:31)
[crosstalk 00:22:31] we can do. I really mean, I believe it. Anyway, sorry.
Speaker 6: (22:34)
Thank you. Thank you Mr. Vice President. For our final question, we will go to Veronica Ward, a small business owner.
Veronica Ward: (22:48)
Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
Joe Biden: (22:48)
Veronica Ward: (22:50)
Hi. My question is, will there be any focus on funding for small businesses that caters to the elderly and individuals with developmental disabilities?
Joe Biden: (23:02)
Absolutely. Positively. Look what the big corporations make it try to think is they’re the ones who provide most employment. Small businesses are the foundation of a community, of this country, the access to the American Dream and they’re bearing the brunt of this crisis today and they never have gotten a fair share, particularly small business run by people of color.
Joe Biden: (23:28)
Even before COVID-19, the basic bargain was broken. Far too many small businesses and working people of color, the Trump economy was far from booming for those folks and for you. 13% of Americans are African-American or black, just 4% of business owners are African-American. The growing body of evidence suggests that after a disaster like COVID, recovery funding often, very often, just widens the racial gap and disparity even more. We can’t let this new crisis make things worse. We have to take advantage of it.
Joe Biden: (24:07)
I released a plan for black America this week including steps to make sure this epidemic is moved into a positive, our economic recovery isn’t just equitable and benefits everyone, especially those who are left behind. Let me give you a couple of examples here.
Joe Biden: (24:23)
As president, I’ll make sure economic relief reaches black-owned businesses. The first round of stimulus funding left out African-Americans. An estimated 90% of minority-owned businesses did not receive the loans that are guaranteed, banks aren’t doing you any favor, are guaranteed by the treasury. A federal guarantee. There’s a second round now that targets 60 billion for community banks and that disproportionately serve communities of color because the big banks weren’t even, unless you added an account with them, unless you had a credit card with them, et cetera, you didn’t even get to the window and you were supposed to get the bulk of the money. I say you in an editorial sense.
Joe Biden: (25:13)
A good start is the new effort, but we need to do much more. First of all, I’ll reserve half of all new Payroll protection Funds for small businesses with less than 50 employees, that’s 98% of all minority and women-owned businesses. I’ll make non-profits like African-American churches eligible as well.
Joe Biden: (25:36)
I’ll also keep a close eye on the distribution of that relief. Any jurisdiction that gets stimulus funding should be required to track and release the data on potential racial disparities. You may recall, ma’am, I’m the one that called for and pointed out the disparities that were occurring in terms of the failure of the loans to get to the people they were intended to in this crisis. The treasury and the small business administration should be, and in my administration they will, tracking lending. Tracking it and making it public and transparent to eliminate barriers to credit and capital for minority business owners. I’ll make sure we get much more capital flowing to the community long term.
Joe Biden: (26:25)
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to double the funding of the Obama/Biden small business credit initiative, drawing as much as $30 billion of private equity off the sidelines. We had at one point a $5 billion program. If we make that a $3 billion program just for small minority businesses and manufacturers, more than 40% are owned by women and people of color. I’m going to expand what we call the market tax credit, new market tax credit, doubling funding for community development financial institutions. Fancy phrase. But the reason is, you know as well as I do, when a small business like yours or small businesses in the community are open and running and prospering, the whole community is lifted up, the whole community. There’s evidence to suggest that black entrepreneurs are just as successful, just as successful, as white entrepreneurs. There is no rationale not to be able to get the money to keep a business open and to start a new one. I’m about building equity.
Joe Biden: (27:39)
A lot more to talk about. I hope you take a look at the plan because I think the major way in which Americans generate wealth in the middle class is equity in their homes. Look how hard it is for African-Americans today to get into a home. That’s why I provide for $15,000 first term tax credit for everybody buying a new home. It gets written off. That’s why I make sure that we’re going to do a lot to significantly increase the availability of government-financed housing so that no one ever pays more than 30% of our income for the rent, et cetera. There’s a lot we can do.
Joe Biden: (28:16)
The concluding comment I want to make is, and I keep making this. I make it to the chamber of commerces of the world, the business guys. I said, “Look, man, this isn’t just about helping people who deserve to be treated with equity like everybody else’s treated, it also is overwhelmingly the interest of big companies, overwhelmingly the interests of wealthy people, overwhelmingly the interest of everybody if everybody does better. Nobody gets hurt when you raise the bottom. People are busting their necks, they’re busting their necks, and they deserve to be treated with dignity. This is all about being treated with dignity. How can you maintain your dignity as a parent when you can’t afford to provide for healthcare for your child or when there’s an insurance that can say, “I’m cutting off funding. You’ve outrun your insurance.” When my son was dying, when he came home from Iraq, over terminal cancer, I can’t imagine what would have happened had we not had Obamacare and they were able to come along and say, “By the way, you have now run out of coverage. Suffer the last five months of your life on your own.”
Joe Biden: (29:32)
Look, it’s about dignity. It’s about dignity, and everybody deserves to be treated with dignity. That’s what our economic program should be based on: Is it delivering to the American people the opportunity to maintain their dignity? That’s what it should be.
Joe Biden: (29:52)
Veronica Ward: (29:53)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
Joe Biden: (29:53)
Senator, thank you.
Speaker 6: (29:55)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Vice president. Thank you so much for your passion. You never have to suppress that. It’s very-
… Passion, you never have to suppress that is very much appreciated. And I want to also think all of those who participated today and the discussion, which was very lively, honest and upfront and laid out the plan that a president Joe Biden would have for the African-American community. And before I ask Congressman Lawson to close us out, I want to go back to the vice president to see if he has any closing remarks.
Joe Biden: (30:35)
Well first of all, it’s great to be in Jacksonville today and look, I’m anxious to get down in person, campaign in person with you all. There’s so much I believe we can do. The president has wasted so much time taking on this terrible crisis we have right now. It’s costing lives. We’ve got to change it. I’m convinced that if, in fact, we will get through this because the American people are tough, but I’m also convinced the American people now understand much more clearly what is at stake and how many people they had to rely on, who as you said earlier, couldn’t stay home and had to go to work.
Joe Biden: (31:22)
The people who are the nurses, the people are the orderlies, the people who sanitize the operating rooms, the people who, the first responders, the people who in fact keep the grocery stores open, drive the mail truck, make sure they get product to market, working in the field. They’re all of a sudden realizing, I always say Wall Street didn’t build this country. Ordinary hardworking Americans given half a chance built the country, and we’ve got to … Now the country’s understanding, even those people who didn’t look at it before, what we have to do and I’m convinced we can do it. I’m looking forward to doing it in person with you all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you so much mister vice president. Thank you very, very much. And now to Congressman Lawson to close.
Congressman Lawson: (32:13)
I thank you very much Leta. I’m honored to be able to work for you. [inaudible 00:32:21] that I’ve served in Congress and seeing that from the time I got there, everything that you all did through you all administration [inaudible 00:02:28], which has meant so much to so many people and so many people have been involved in it. I can tell you this. We have to get rid of Donald Trump for the White House. He destroyed America, he divided people across this country, he divided people among racial lines. I know from my experience working with you all before, how important it is of all the things that you all want to do and lifting every voice. It’s what America needs, what African-Americans needs, where we can get united. There’s no way that we can let America be divided the way it is.
Congressman Lawson: (33:10)
They knew in January that his pandemic was coming and nothing happened. They called it like it was the flu and now we see that so many people that have lost their lives to something that they have no knowledge of. I know under your administration that would never happen because I knew what you all put in place and what has happened before and all the lives you saved before. I am so honored to have the opportunity to work for you across America to make sure that you will be the next president of United States of America. Thank you, Sarah, for all your hard work. Be safe and may God bless all of you on this call today.
Joe Biden: (33:51)
[inaudible 00:03:51], when I got elected, my door’s going to remain open. I’m going to do this when I’m president as well, and my door’s always open, as you well know, it’s open to you and the entire caucus. It’s just going to be open. We have to keep the American people at the center of everything we do, and that’s not happening now. Thank you.