Criminal Justice & Public Safety
The Community Justice Agenda
The Community Justice Agenda
Our policing system is broken. In metric after metric, from police killings, to use of force and excessive use of force incidents, to stops, searches, and seizures, we see the immense burden of state coercion falling disproportionately on people of color, and most heavily on Black people. Despite the pervasive abuse of constitutional rights, police are almost never held accountable for misconduct.
We need systemic change. In the immediate-term, our first priority must be to reduce the lethality of policing through immediate action to demilitarize police, end qualified immunity, define a legal standard for excessive force, and replace community policing guidelines with guidelines intended to significantly reduce the risk of police violence and increase accountability. In the medium-term, we must end the systemic abuses of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. To do so, I am calling for a Systemic Justice in Policing Act to identify and transform police departments with histories of unconstitutional practices, modeled on the Voting Rights Act.
In the medium- and long-term, we must radically rethink our approach to public safety. We currently treat policing as the most important, if not the sole, method of addressing crime. But mental and behavioral health services, affordable housing, employment, education, and recreation all have significant impacts on public safety and crime. Too often, police are our first response to these challenges, too. But from responding to mental health crises, to addressing homelessness, to handling school discipline, we have seen how ineffective and often counterproductive coercive solutions are to providing for public safety. In fact, many types of community investment reduce crime, but one thing that does not have a clear effect on crime rates is the number of police officers in a city or the amount of money spent on policing.
We must reckon with the costs and the harm to our society created by our reliance on coercive policing in all public safety matters. Not only is this system expensive and harmful, it is not particularly effective in promoting public safety. Police will always have a role in preventing and investigating crime, but we need a new framework for public safety that invests in more efficient and humane solutions to our problems of public safety. This is why I am calling for a significant reallocation of resources away from policing and into community investments that have significant and cost-effective impacts on public safety. We must stop viewing police as the first and last solution to public safety. We simply cannot afford it.
While we work to transform and improve public safety, one of our most urgent and immediate goals must be to reduce police violence.
Demilitarize the Police
We must end the militarization of our police forces. When local police receive more military equipment, they escalate conflict scenarios more often and kill more people. Militarization also decreases police legitimacy and increases fear of police, both of which make it harder for police to effectively fight crime and therefore promote public safety. Our communities are not war zones and our families should not be treated like enemy combatants. I support ending the Department of Defense’s 1033 Excess Property Program which transfers surplus military equipment directly to state and local law enforcement agencies, circumventing local methods of accountability. I also support significantly reducing the funding for the Homeland Security Grant Program—which in part funds significant equipment purchases—by at least $500 million. In addition to ending the provision of equipment under existing federal programs, I am calling for a complete ban on the use of certain types of equipment by local law enforcement—including tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, high-caliber ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas—and a federal recall of the equipment provided to local departments under these agreements. The militarization of our police makes our communities less safe, and I will do all in my power to end it.
End Qualified Immunity
While we defund the programs that make it easier for police to use force, we must also dismantle the legal standards that allow police to avoid accountability. Right now, in case after case, police officers avoid discipline and prosecution in almost all instances of police brutality and violence. We must reform the system that allows officers to escape accountability for misconduct and violations of constitutional rights. My first priority is ending the misguided doctrine of “qualified immunity” that allows officers to avoid accountability for excessive use of force in almost all cases. Individuals and families must have the right to sue when their constitutional rights are violated, as Congress intended when it first passed the Civil Rights Act of 1871 during Reconstruction. We cannot allow the courts to gut the constitutional protections afforded to all Americans. This is why I support the End Qualified Immunity Act.
End Excessive Force
We must also establish clear laws and policies on the use of force. Research strongly supports the contention that clear restrictions around the use of force decrease police violence. Police departments and local governments can establish clear policies regarding the use of force, but undoubtedly one contributor to police immunity from accountability is the lack of clarity in federal law surrounding what constitutes an excessive use of force. Congress has both the authority and the obligation to define a legal standard clarifying reasonable versus excessive force by law enforcement in order to enforce the Constitution. Moreover, it is not just local law enforcement that use excessive force: several cities have limited or outright ended their participation in federal task forces due to episodes of excessive force and the complete lack of local and state oversight for federal and federally-deputized officers. I support federal legislation to define a clear standard around excessive force for law enforcement as well as banning particular techniques like chokeholds and strangleholds. Use of force must be limited to self-defense, defense of others, and to facilitate the institutions of criminal justice, and permitted only when force is necessary to protect against an imminent threat to these interests and when the force is proportional to that threat. We can and we must devise better legal standards that balance the need to respond quickly with the costs of action, and that ultimately increase accountability and reduce violence.
End Police Sexual Violence
Behind excessive force, police sexual violence is one of the most common complaints of police misconduct, and the rate of police sexual violence is almost certainly underreported. Any police reform must reckon with the prevalence of police sexual violence, violence that disproportionately impacts Black, Latina, Native American, and poor women, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Despite the inherently coercive nature of the relationship between a police officer and a detained individual, limited “consensual” sexual conduct between officers and suspects is legal in all 50 states. In over 30 states, including Minnesota, “consensual” sexual penetration between an officer and a suspect or detained individual is legal, and consent has been successfully used as a defense in instances of sexual assault and rape allegations against a police officer. Combating police misconduct must involve making it illegal for police use their position and their power to sexually abuse civilians and those in their custody, and holding those that do commit police sexual violence accountable. I support federal legislation to make it a crime for police officers to engage in sexual conduct with anyone in their custody or anyone whom they have detained or stopped. We must recognize that there is no ability to consent to sexual conduct under the immediate threat of force, arrest, and detention.
Improve Federal Policing Guidelines
Though policing is predominantly governed by local and state law, for decades the federal government has promoted policing practices through guidelines and funding for training to implement those practices. Since the 1990s, federal guidelines have promoted community policing and procedural justice through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, which has disbursed more than $14 billion in funding to local law enforcement agencies since its inception. However, the federal emphasis on community policing has consistently failed to address police misconduct, improve accountability, or reduce disparities in policing and subsequent interactions with the criminal justice system. These failures undermine the stated goal of community policing: to improve trust in and legitimacy of local police and reduce crime. I am calling for an overhaul of the COPS Office and federal policing guidelines to focus on best practices that reduce the likelihood of violent encounters and remedy systematic biases in our criminal justice system that disproportionately burden poor families and families of color.
Reducing Discretionary Arrests
One of the most effective policies to reduce the risk of violent encounters is to significantly curtail unnecessary arrests. Replacing discretionary arrests with summonses for low-level non-violent crimes, including drug use, would significantly reduce the number of coercive police-civilian encounters as well as the incidents of force due to “resisting arrest.” This is a smart policy, not just for civilians, but for police and local governments as well. Eliminating arrests for low-level non-violent offenses would almost certainly reduce the danger to police in performing their jobs. A policy like this might even increase cooperation with police if people know that cooperating isn’t going to land them immediately in jail, with all the concomitant disruptions to employment, housing, and family life. It would also significantly reduce local government costs associated with jailing non-violent offenders while they await release. Additionally, reducing or eliminating discretionary arrests in low-level non-violent crimes would significantly decrease the pressure on the prosecutors, public defenders, and judges, and allow them to set schedules that aren’t driven by crowding in local and county jails. Wide discretion in making arrests also has the potential to amplify biases in policing. In addition to discouraging discretionary arrests, I support collecting discretionary arrest data to identify and combat any systematic biases.
Eliminating Unjust Fines and Fees
Public safety must be the first and last goal of policing, and coercion should not be used as a primary method of generating revenue. Too often, local governments implicitly or explicitly rely on police to collect revenue through legal coercion in the form of fines and fees. This system is regressive and can create undue incentives for police to make arrests outside of strict public safety concerns. Fixed monetary penalties for legal violations as well as fees collected from “users” of the criminal justice system place a vastly disproportionate burden on poor families. Fines create inequities in our criminal justice system by making certain crimes effectively legal for those who can afford it. Moreover, the burden that these fines and fees place on poor individuals and families is inefficient: when people cannot pay the fines or fees, we spend more money on efforts to collect payments or on holding people in jail for failure to repay. Some localities have abolished fees altogether because they found that they were spending more on collection efforts that they were taking in as revenue.
We should encourage the abolition of criminal justice fees and institute a sliding scale proportional system for monetary penalties. Our criminal justice system should be funded through transparent taxation rather than coercive fees because public safety is a public good from which we all benefit, and we should not incentivize coercion by making criminal justice a revenue-generating process. Sliding scale penalties—which determine fines based on units associated with a violation and individualized income measures—for certain legal violations are used in many countries around the world, and ensure equitable penalties across income levels. The use of sliding scales would also increase payment rates and decrease costs associated with nonpayment, as everyone should be able to make proportional payments.
A Voting Rights Act for Police Misconduct
Systemic Justice in Policing Act
I also believe we must systematically strengthen federal oversight of local police departments to prevent and remedy violations of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Current policy permits the Justice Department to use consent decrees, under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 established in 1994, to reform police departments found to engage in patterns and practices of unconstitutional conduct. Consent decrees have been shown to help reduce police shootings and increase trust and legitimacy in local law enforcement, especially for communities of color.
However, the statute is too limited to produce widespread reform. Since its inception, DOJ has conducted approximately three investigations of police departments annually, with just one of those three resulting in federal suit and a reform agreement. There are more than 12,000 local police departments in the United States. And, moreover, these investigations are typically only triggered after a catastrophic event, like the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles—the event that eventually gave rise to § 14141—, or the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, or the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. The investigations by the DOJ into the practices and policies of these departments revealed horrific, pervasive, and longstanding violations of constitutional rights, indicating that reform was both necessary and long overdue.
§ 14141 is limited not just by its lack of resources, but also by the wide discretion in enforcement baked into the statute. As the Trump Administration has proven, the current statute permits DOJ to effectively cease oversight of local law enforcement and the enforcement of constitutional rights. The Trump Administration’s Department of Justice has attacked the statute from two sides: refusing to bring lawsuits against police departments found to have engaged in patterns and practices that violate constitutional rights; and refusing to conduct the investigations of local departments’ practices and policies that would reveal abuse and misconduct in the first place.
To strengthen federal oversight and enable widespread, lasting reform, I am calling for a Systemic Justice in Policing Act modeled after the Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act was born out of the inefficacy of federal tools for enforcing the constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Congress found that targeting municipal, county, and state voting laws and regulations through litigation after they were implemented failed to prevent continuing racial discimination and denial of voting rights to Black citizens. We are facing an analogous situation with law enforcement today. The Department of Justice currently does not have the resources to investigate all alleged instances of misconduct violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. And when they do intervene, the relief is coming too little, too late. We have a constitutional crisis in policing on our hands, and we must take aggressive action to protect the constitutional rights of all civilians.
The Systemic Justice in Policing Act would address violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, including unlawful stops, searches, seizures, and arrests, excessive use of force, and racial bias or racial profiling in the conduct of policing.
The Systemic Justice in Policing Act must include several components. First, it would mandate and provide for the collection of data on: use of force; civilian deaths; stops, searches, and arrests; and complaints about police misconduct, measured by local department information on counts and outcomes, civil rights lawsuits and payouts, and misconduct complaints filed directly with a newly-created civilian reporting system operated by DOJ. For data that must come from local law enforcement, we can condition federal funding to states through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program on the collection and provision of this data to the Department of Justice, as the Death in Custody Reporting Act does. I also acknowledge that many local police departments still do not have appropriate systems and technology in place to collect and report fine-grained data, so I support federal funding and support to create or update such systems.
Second, based on the data collected above, the Systemic Justice in Policing Act would mandate the development of a coverage formula that would identify police departments deemed to be engaged in unconstitutional practices. The coverage formula would take into account the rate of police use of force incidents and civilian complaints of misconduct per capita, as well as the disparities between racial groups. The coverage formula should be revisited on or before each ten-year anniversary of the Act to make sure that it accurately captures departments engaged in patterns of unconstitutional policing.
Covered jurisdictions would then be subject to review and reform by the federal government, including but not limited to: review and reform of use of force policies; creation or updating of early intervention systems to identify and address officers prone to misconduct; de-escalation training; review and reform of procedures for accepting, investigating, and resolving civilian complaints about officer misconduct. Departments deemed prone to escalation and excessive use of force would have certain equipment used in escalating scenarios—like tactical vehicles, explosives, and riot gear—placed in a restricted hold. This equipment would be released on a case by case basis according to necessity by the District Court, which will be determined on an expedited basis, as needed. Covered jurisdictions would be required to regularly report progress to a federal examiner. As with the Voting Rights Act, proposed changes to departmental policies would be subject to review based on their likely impact on Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The Systemic Justice in Policing Act would carry a provision allowing designated departments to “bail out” of the federal oversight program if they prove that they either are not engaged in unconstitutional practices or that they have successfully reformed their departments and eliminated patterns of unconstitutional conduct.
The federal government is currently failing in its duty to enforce the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. New and expanded efforts are warranted to remedy this failure. The Systemic Justice in Policing Act is a necessary and urgent measure with the ultimate aim of stopping misconduct before it happens.
Redirecting Federal Funding
I am calling for a reallocation of resources away from policing and into community investments that improve public safety. While much law enforcement funding comes from state and local budgets, there are multiple federal programs that provide funding to local law enforcement which should be ended or amended. In addition to ending the Homeland Security and Defense Departments’ provision and funding of military equipment, I also support ending federal funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring program which funds increased police presence in communities, including in schools. The COPS program grants account for a significant portion of local law enforcement budgets. These grants also decrease police accountability by funding police departments directly instead of routing funds through local governments to whom police departments are supposed to be accountable. The $400 million currently allocated to state and local law enforcement agencies would be much better spent in non-police community investments to promote safety, development, and opportunity.
Providing Improved Mental and Behavioral Health Solutions
Instead of over-policing Black, Hispanic, and Native communities, I support investing in behavioral and mental health first responders and community services. The criminalization of mental illness is ineffective at promoting public safety and creates massive social costs. The proportion of jail and prison inmates with severe mental illnesses is on the rise, as is the severity of those illnesses. After the deinstitutionalization of people with mental illness, we largely failed to create a new and effective community infrastructure to treat severe mental illness. The criminal justice system has filled this vacuum. Corrections officers—not to mention the police officers who respond to incidents involving individuals with mental health illnesses in the first place—are not adequately trained in providing the high level of care needed to treat severe mental illnesses. Treating mental illness in our prison system is also more expensive than community-based treatment solutions. In addition to concerns about quality of treatment, criminalizing mental illness may worsen outcomes because it often leads to disruption in housing and employment. It is not surprising that, from policing to corrections, our criminal justice system is ill-equipped to manage mental health, because the goals of policing and criminal justice are to manage public order, not to treat illness.
The Treatment Advocacy Center estimates that individuals with severe mental illness, though accounting for under 4% of the population, generate 10% of calls to police, and 20% of our jail and prison population. Even worse, data for both official and unofficial police killings show that 1 in 4 fatal police encounters involve someone with severe mental illness. Investing in mental health first responders and better mental health services can significantly improve public safety and end the costs—human, social, and monetary—associated with criminalizing mental illness.
Municipalities with programs that direct mental health crisis calls to mental health professionals and crisis counselors, rather than police, have proven that these interventions are effective in promoting public safety. These programs are cost-effective, too, amounting to a fraction of the total law enforcement budget. In Eugene, Oregon, crisis workers and medics handle between 15 and 20% of 911 calls, but account for less than 1/60 of the police department’s budget. These programs also prevent subsequent costs associated with the criminalization of mental illness, including the costs of jails and prisons, criminal justice fees, and emergency treatment.
I support creating a Mental Health First Responders federal grant program to help fund local efforts to disassociate police from mental illness crisis response. I also support increasing federal funding for community mental health centers so they can, among other things, sustain the staff necessary to follow up with individuals with mental health illnesses to provide effective, long-term treatment and ultimately prevent crises and violence before they occur. These investments can be funded immediately with the money saved by ending the COPS Hiring grant program and federal support for police militarization.
Prioritizing Housing Stability
Instead of over-policing Black, Hispanic, and Native communities, I support investing in affordable housing and housing services to end homelessness and housing instability. We must start by decriminalizing homelessness. Anti-vagrancy laws are not only cruel—punishing people who have nowhere to go, many of whom have lost their homes due to untreated illness or in an attempt to escape abuse—they are counterproductive. Ticketing, arresting, and jailing people for homelessness makes it less likely that they will be able to find housing. The fees levied on individuals who are arrested and jailed for homelessness alone can be an insurmountable financial burden. Jails are, moreover, incredibly expensive and inefficient housing shelters. In addition to being cruel, expensive, and ineffective, many anti-vagrancy laws violate constitutional rights guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Research also shows that criminalizing homelessness has little to no effect on public safety and crime rates, as it does nothing to address the underlying conditions that contribute to homelessness and associated crime in the first place.
The federal government must support the decriminalization of homelessness by increasing investment in Housing First and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) solutions through HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs. Permanent Supportive Housing—which provides stable housing without pre-conditions, along with support services like addiction treatment and mental health counseling—has been shown to significantly reduce law enforcement interactions, arrests, and incarceration. Research estimates that each year that we fail to solve chronic homelessness costs taxpayers between $30,000 and $50,000 per chronically-homeless individual. In contrast, Permanent Supportive Housing costs $20,000 per individual per year. As of 2017, there were 85,000 chronically homeless individuals in the United States. Providing PSH for all of them would generate a net annual savings of $850 million dollars. As with mental illness, there are far smarter and humane approaches to public safety than policing and criminalizing people experiencing homelessness.
Homelessness itself is not the only housing-related factor that contributes to public safety, however. Poverty also has a significant impact on public safety, and our affordable housing shortage is making it harder for families to escape poverty. Rates of crime victimization are significantly higher among low-income households, a pattern that holds across racial groups. But both in the Fifth and nationwide, Black, Latinx, and Native families are overrepresented among low-income households. This puts them at greater risk of experiencing crime and of interacting with police and the criminal justice system—interactions which themselves are fraught with risk and increase poverty.
Our affordable housing crisis exacerbates poverty: 80% of extremely low-income households in the Twin Cities Metro Area spend more than half their income on housing. It also disproportionately affects families of color, who are both more likely to be low-income and more likely to spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Addressing the affordable housing crisis will help reduce poverty and improve public safety. I am calling for a $75 billion investment to construct new public housing and rehabilitate existing housing, as well as a significant expansion in Housing Choice Vouchers. Public housing and vouchers are proven to provide long-term housing stability and lift families out of poverty. In addition to expanding affordable housing, we must establish a national living wage, tied to inflation. No one should have to work more than one job to support their family, and a national living wage would help alleviate poverty and housing-cost burdens. Housing is the foundation of economic stability and thus of public safety, and we must expand access to affordable housing if we want to improve public safety.
Eliminating Educational Disparities
Instead of over-policing Black, Hispanic, and Native communities, I support investing in education to reduce the achievement gaps between white students and students of color and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. The vast racial disparities in policing in the Fifth—in stops and searches, arrests, use of force incidents, and police killings—are matched by disparities in income, employment, homeownership, and education. In particular, Minnesota has one of the worst and more persistent racial and income educational achievement gaps in the country. Unsurprisingly, higher educational attainment is linked to lower rates of violent crime and incarceration. Closing these achievement gaps is therefore not just a moral imperative, but a public safety one as well.
While much of the responsibility for education policy lies at the state and local level, there are significant opportunities to use the tools of the federal government to close the racial and income educational achievement gaps. In particular, I support raising public teacher salaries, increasing teacher diversity, expanding student loan forgiveness for public school teachers, and investing in community schools. These policies together will help close the achievement gaps and contribute to public safety through increased opportunity and community development.
I support increasing Title I funding, and partially conditioning extra funding to states on increases in public teacher salaries. This will help address the nationwide teacher shortage that particularly affects lower-income districts and generates disparities in teacher experience, both of which contribute to the achievement gap. But, as we know, it’s not just about the number of teachers—it’s also about whether those teachers are representative of their diverse student populations. This is a particular problem in Minnesota, where 30% of its students are people of color, but only 4% of its educator workforce is. Equitable educational outcomes require culturally competent and sensitive teachers and school curriculums.
We must make it financially possible for more people to choose a career in teaching without having to be independently wealthy. This will help diversify our teacher pool. To that end, I also support expanding and redesigning the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Congress created the PSLF program in 2007 to provide debt forgiveness for teachers and other public service workers after 10 years of repayment. However, due to restrictive requirements and lack of clarity around eligibility, the Department of Education denied 99% of all applications for debt forgiveness at the end of the first qualifying repayment period in 2017. Efforts to fix the program have been piecemeal and incomplete. I support streamlining the program by automatically enrolling public school teachers and government and nonprofit workers in qualifying income-based repayment plans. I also support former Vice President Biden’s plan to grant $10,000 in debt forgiveness per year for up to five years for anyone working in public service. These adjustments would make it possible for more people to choose careers in public service and allow teachers to work in lower-income school districts without shouldering significant financial burdens. Easing the student debt burden is a necessary step to ending our national teacher shortage and increasing the diversity of our teacher workforce. Finally, I support reforming our tax code to ensure that debt forgiveness through the PSLF program is not taxable. No one should be discouraged from taking eligible debt relief because they fear being landed with a hefty tax bill. Expanding loan forgiveness for teachers is a smart investment that will pay dividends in quality improvements to education.
In addition to incentivizing teacher salary raises through Title I funding, I support progressive funding formulas for education. In Minnesota, we’ve tried equal funding formulas—ensuring that the same amount of money is spent on education per student regardless of the wealth of their district—, but we’ve failed to close or even shrink the educational attainment gap. This is because, even if the same money is spent per student in schools, wealthy students enjoy privileges that affect their success in education that lower-income students lack. These include access to early education, afterschool programming, food security, and stable housing. All of these things impact students’ abilities to succeed, and providing just the same amount of funding for districts with higher proportions of lower-income students as those with wealthy students cannot close these gaps.
Finally, I support increasing federal funding for new and existing full-service community schools through the Full Service Community Schools grant program. The community school model typically provides culturally relevant curriculums, educational and social programming for parents, and wraparound supports including early and afterschool education opportunities and health care services. Community schools also provide recreational opportunities and mentorship, which help reduce interactions with law enforcement. There is strong evidence that investments in community schools shrink the educational achievement gap and pay dividends in terms of increased economic activity.
Though the Justice Policy Institute estimates that a 5% increase in high school graduation rates among men would result in $5 billion in nationwide annual savings in criminal-justice related costs, the relationship between public safety and education does not stop at high school. Higher investment and higher enrollment in post-secondary education are also linked to lower rates of violent crime and incarceration. To increase access to higher education and close the attainment gaps, we must take action to ease the financial burden on students. I support lowering the income restrictions on Pell Grants and also increasing the maximum amount of a Pell Grant award so that students are able to focus more on their education rather than working to afford one. We also must address the student loan crisis. I also support Vice President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive federal student loan debt for public two and four year institutions as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other private institutions that work to combat decades of inequity by serving students of color.
Ultimately, public safety is served when communities have strong opportunities for success and prosperity. This depends on equitable access to a good education.
Investing in Economic Opportunity
Instead of over-policing Black, Hispanic, and Native communities, I support investing in economic development to promote business formation and employment. If we really care about promoting public safety, we have to end poverty and reduce unemployment, both of which are significant drivers of crime. There are also vast racial disparities in poverty, income, household wealth and unemployment. In the Fifth, we have some of the worst Black-white disparities in the nation: as of 2018, the Black unemployment and poverty rates in our district were each four times higher than the rates for white people. Nationwide, the median Black family earns about $25,000 less per year than the median white family. These disparities are even worse when it comes to household wealth: Median household wealth for Black and latinx families stood at $16,000 and $22,000, respectively, compared with $163,000 for the median white household. As in the Great Recession, the Covid crisis will almost certainly compound these inequalities. Promoting public safety must involve improving economic development and economic security.
One of the driving factors of inequality in economic development is unequal access to capital to create new businesses and grow existing business. As part of a plan for economic recovery, I support reinvesting in and expanding two successful programs from the Great Recession: the Small Business Loan Fund (SBLF) and the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). The Small Business Loan Fund provided Tier 1 capital directly to CDFIs and community banks to increase their small business lending. The State Small Business Credit Initiative provided federal assistance in partnership with states and localities to support loan and credit support programs, capital access, and venture capital programs. The SSBCI was especially successful in partnering with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to direct and increase the availability of funds to underserved communities, targeting funds to low- and middle-income areas, and providing capital to the smallest businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
These policies would help address the disparity in household wealth that holds back would-be entrepreneurs as well as the discrimination in lending practices that passes higher borrowing rates onto people of color by providing low-interest loans, collateral support where needed, and targeting funds to credit-starved areas to support new business formation. The Covid-19 crisis has reinforced the importance of small businesses as community employers, but it has also compounded trends that contribute to increasing inequality in wealth and across geographic areas and racial groups. An equitable and lasting recovery must work to reverse these trends by targeting funding to promote development and employment to communities often overlooked by private investment.