Hillary Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda”: Revitalizing the Economy in Communities Left Behind

Hillary Clinton believes we need to break down all the barriers that hold Americans back and build ladders of opportunity for all our people. She and Senator Sanders agree that we have to get unaccountable money out of politics and stop Wall Street from ever threatening Main Street, but Clinton believes we can’t stop there. We need to focus on removing obstacles that keep wages down and make it harder for people to find good-paying jobs, especially young people. We also have to break down barriers of bigotry like the systemic racism that holds back communities of color. It’s outrageous that the children of majority­ black Flint, Michigan, have been drinking and bathing in poisoned water for almost two years because their governor wanted to save money. It’s outrageous that so many African American families live in pockets of extreme poverty and that so many families of color with good credit cannot get a mortgage. It’s outrageous that millions of undocumented workers live in the shadows. And we can’t allow rural communities from Coal Country to Indian Country to be further hollowed out by unemployment, abandonment, and addiction. We have to take on all these challenges—anything less just isn’t good enough.

At the core of Clinton’s agenda is a simple idea. Every child in America should be able to live up to his or her God-given potential. An African American child should have the same chance as a white child. Our cities should do as well as our suburbs. We don’t have a person to waste.

That’s why over the coming weeks Clinton will lay out components of a “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda” that she will fight for as President. This vision reflects her belief that we must confront all of our challenges together and deliver real results for every American by:

  • Revitalizing the economy in communities that have been left out and left behind.
  • Provide every child in America a world-class education.
  • Dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.
  • Tackling disparities in health and nutrition.
  • Fighting for environmental justice.

These initiatives will build on Clinton’s broader agenda to break barriers holding Americans back by keeping immigrant families together, reforming our criminal justice system, ensuring full equality for LGBT Americans, expanding opportunity for women and girls, and more.

Today, Clinton is announcing the details of her $125 billion Economic Revitalization Initiative to create good-paying jobs, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and connect housing to opportunity in communities that are being left out and left behind. She will pay for the new investments in this initiative through a tax on Wall Street—ensuring that the major financial institutions that contributed to the Great Recession are doing their part in bringing back the communities it hurt the most.

Despite the progress we’ve made under President Obama, too many communities have not seen the benefits of America’s recovery. From Flint to Albuquerque, Baltimore to El Paso, Cleveland to Chicago, there are still opportunity deserts—parts of cities, towns, and rural communities that have been cut off from jobs, investment and, all too often, hope. Clinton believes it’s time for that to change. She has been fighting for these communities her entire life, and getting results—but she’s just getting started.

As President, she will build on the progress President Obama has made and fight to empower communities with the tools they need to break the barriers holding them back by:

  • Supporting millions of new jobs and providing pathways of opportunity through a $50 billion investment in youth employment, reentry support for those formerly incarcerated, and small business. Roughly one in ten Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 is unemployed, more than twice the national average. And these numbers hide devastating racial disparities: the unemployment rate for African American teenagers is almost twice that of white teenagers, while the unemployment rate for Latino teenagers is roughly a quarter higher. Meanwhile, millions of Americans reenter society every year from our jails and prisons without the support necessary to find jobs and make a successful transition home. Clinton will invest $50 billion to create jobs in communities that are being left out and left behind. She will:
    • Invest $20 billion to support millions of youth jobs—providing direct federal funding for local programs that will put our kids to work.
    • Invest $5 billion in reentry programs for formerly incarcerated people—so that those who have made mistakes in the past have a fair shot at getting back on their feet.
    • Invest $25 billion to support entrepreneurship and small business growth in underserved communities—because small business is the engine of job growth for hardworking Americans all across the country, and that engine shouldn’t be limited by zip code.
  • Rebuilding our communities and creating good-paying jobs through a $50 billion Infrastructure for Opportunity Fund. In too many places, our neglected public transportation systems trap working families in deserts of opportunity. That means that millions of low-income Americans are burdened both by the lack of jobs in their communities and by the impediments they face in commuting to jobs elsewhere. And, as the water crisis in Flint makes so painfully clear, neglecting our infrastructure can result in tragedy for the very communities that are already being left out and left behind. Today, Clinton is announcing that she will dedicate $50 billion of her $275 billion infrastructure agenda to an Infrastructure for Opportunity Fund. Using these funds and others, Clinton will make significant new investments in public transit systems that connect the unemployed and underemployed to the jobs they need. She will rebuild crumbling water systems to safeguard the public health and save billions of gallons of drinking water. And she will work to ensure that these investments are creating jobs and opportunity for local residents and small businesses.
  • Lifting more families into sustainable homeownership and connecting housing to opportunity, through a $25 billion housing investment program. In too many communities, children walk to school down streets lined with decaying buildings or go to sleep at night under crumbling ceilings. Blight drives down home prices across the board and makes it harder to attract investment and new businesses. In others communities, skyrocketing rent weighs heavily on working families and displaces people who have lived there for generations. Across the country, many families with good credit find the door to sustainable homeownership closed. Clinton will tackle all of these challenges and empower communities with the resources they need to:
    • Support families as they save for sustainable homeownership. Clinton will support initiatives to match up to $10,000 in savings for a down payment for those who earn less than area median income. She will also reduce barriers to lending in underserved communities, support housing counseling programs, and police abuse and discrimination in the mortgage market.
    • Build more affordable rental housing near good jobs and good schools. Clinton will increase support for affordable rental housing in the areas that need it most and encourage communities to implement land use strategies that make it easier to build affordable rental housing near good jobs.
    • Overcome pockets of distress. Clinton will provide the resources necessary to overcome blight, giving communities a chance to rebuild and renew with new businesses, new homeowners, and new hope. And she will connect housing support in high-poverty neighborhoods to economic opportunity.

These proposals are motivated by Clinton’s understanding that reversing the legacy of racism and underinvestment in underserved communities will require directing more federal resources to those who need them most. That same understanding has motivated Congressman James Clyburn’s “10-20-30” concept—in which 10 percent of funds are directed at communities where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years or more. That’s why Clinton is committed to pursuing policies modeled on this approach.

Specifically, Clinton will:


  • Invest $20 billion to support millions of new youth jobs and provide pathways of opportunity for young Americans. Roughly one in ten Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 is unemployed, more than twice the national average. And these numbers hide devastating racial disparities: the unemployment rate for African American teenagers is almost twice that of white teenagers, while the unemployment rate for Latino teenagers is roughly a quarter higher. Youth unemployment can permanently hurt young people who face a “scarring effect” of lower wages and greater odds of unemployment for decades. And these scars also hurt the broader economy over the long-term. That’s why Clinton will launch a $20 billion initiative to create millions of new career opportunities for young Americans—including jobs, apprenticeships, and internships. Clinton will:
    • Create millions of youth jobs in hard-hit communities and communities of color through bold investments and new partnerships. Clinton will create a new competitive grant program that would provide funds from the federal government when local employers, community leaders, local colleges, and top government officials have put forward strategies and resources for youth employment. These funds would be sufficient to support millions of jobs, apprenticeships, and internships for young people across America.Grant applicants would have to conduct a feasibility analysis before receiving funds to demonstrate a local employment demand being served, and they would have to demonstrate program success by publishing performance metrics—such as the number of jobs retained or internship hours met—to continue receiving funding. This initiative will incentivize local governments to assess local job demand, to forge relationships with private employers, and to invest in the success of their programs by offering the training, mentoring, and professional support to young adults to help them succeed on the job.
    • Invest in “opportunity youth” by expanding programs that work. America has an estimated 2.3 million low-income 16-24 year olds who have never completed high school and are also out of work. These young people need our support. Clinton will scale up proven solutions like the Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program to engage these young individuals in education, training, and community service opportunities; help break the cycle of poverty and reduce recidivism; and put them on a path towards productive employment.
    • Expanding job training and apprenticeships. Clinton believes that every American—at every stage of life—should be able to learn new skills in order to seize new job opportunities. She will work to provide more robust, coherent, and accessible training programs and resources; give training providers the support they need to scale up and respond to the needs of the local workforce and employers; make the government at every level a more effective partner in bringing together workers, labor, employers and training providers to prepare workers for good jobs; and encourage employers to invest in their workers for the long-term. Clinton has proposed a new $1,500 tax credit for employers that create apprenticeships. To create additional incentives for youth hiring, she would increase the credit for employers that bring on young adults.
    • Expand the pathways from skills development to work. Clinton believes that an advanced education is critical for all young people, and that a four- or two-year degree is still right for many. Her New College Compact will ensure that, for students who do go to college, costs won’t be a barrier and debt won’t hold them back. But she also recognizes that there are new pathways to opportunity—like six-year high school-college programs; the P-Tech model for school and industry partnerships; the Career Academies model; and “linked learning” models that allow high school and community college students to get academic credit for jobs, apprenticeships and other skill-enhancing work opportunities. Clinton will support these new and innovative pathways, and she will work to build public-private partnerships between employers, colleges, community colleges, online skills programs, and secondary schools throughout the country.
  • Support formerly incarcerated individuals in entering the workforce. More than 600,000 people annually return to their communities from prison, and millions more come home following time in jail for low-level offenses. Too many of these people lack the necessary tools to succeed following release. In particular, they are often closed out of jobs for which they are qualified. Not only is this an economic issue and a fairness issue, it is a family issue too. More than half of people who are currently incarcerated are parents of minors, and half of children with parents in prison are under age ten. This mass incarceration epidemic has an explicit racial bias, as one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Clinton believes that we must reform our criminal justice system and end the era of mass incarceration. At the same time, she also believes we must support Americans returning home from prison and jail by helping them re-enter the workforce.
    • Invest $5 billion in job programs with a proven record of success. Formerly incarcerated individuals need support both before and after release to help them quickly navigate the challenges of workplace adjustment. To ensure they have a fighting chance at getting hired and succeeding in their first post-release job, Clinton will invest $5 billion in job programs with a proven record of success. For example, she will increase funding for career and technical training within correctional facilities to expand initiatives like the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release program, which provides employment services to inmates during and after release. She will also expand evidence-based reentry employment initiatives funded by the Second Chance Act such as the Fortune Society and the Center for Employment Opportunities. These programs help teach formerly incarcerated individuals how to network, excel in interviews, and answer difficult conviction questions. And when they are prepared, they help them find and secure a stable job.
    • Take executive action to “ban the box.” Many employers are reluctant to hire applicants with a criminal history, even if those applicants are capable and qualified to work. In a study of male individuals in New York City, for example, a criminal record reduced the likelihood of a callback by almost 50 percent. However, research has found that employment prospects improve when applicants actually interact with a hiring manager—offering them a chance to display their qualifications before being asked about their criminal records. As President, Clinton will take executive action to “ban the box” for federal employers and contractors, so that applicants have an opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications before being asked about their criminal records. And she will require that any consideration of criminal history be job-related and that those rejected on the basis of criminal history receive both timely notice and the right to appeal.
  • Invest $25 billion to support small business and increase private investment. Small businesses create two-thirds of new American jobs, fuel innovation, and offer a crucial ladder to prosperity for hardworking entrepreneurs all across the country. But the opportunity to thrive as a small business owner is not equally open to all Americans. For example, African Americans, Latinos, and women tend to begin their businesses with about half the capital of white men—with this difference in capital actually widening as their businesses mature. Clinton wants to be the small business President for all She will fight to ensure that local small businesses can spark job creation in America’s low-income and undeserved communities. Clinton will:
    • Provide incubators, mentoring, and training to 50,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners in underserved communities. It’s far too hard for entrepreneurs in underserved communities—particularly minority and women entrepreneurs—to access the financing, training, and support networks they need to start and grow their businesses. Clinton will work to expand training programs for entrepreneurship, business skills, and certificate programs through partnerships with local business leaders, community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic Serving Institutions. She will support more business incubators in underserved areas and call on leaders in Silicon Valley and elsewhere to support new entrepreneurial talent throughout our nation. She will encourage banks, businesses, and foundations to match capital and financing to those who have successfully gone through training and incubation programs. And she will work to support the development of entrepreneurial skills among young people—even kids in high school—so they can increase both their financial and entrepreneurial literacy. These programs will help those with good ideas today become the entrepreneurs and business leaders of tomorrow.
    • Expand and make permanent the New Markets Tax Credit. The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) has helped to attract more than $60 billion in private investment in communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment since it was implemented during the Clinton Administration. In Sumter, South Carolina, for example, the NMTC is supporting a new manufacturing plant that will bring 1,600 new jobs. Clinton is committed to making the NMTC permanent, doubling the amount of credits available to low-income communities, and adding new credits for communities hardest hit by decline. These enhancements to the NMTC will encourage greater investment into communities that need it most.
    • Expand federal funding for small businesses through the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are delivering between 65 and 90 percent of loan volume to historically underserved groups, like low-income and minority borrowers. Clinton will double Treasury’s CDFI Fund to invest in small business growth and expand funding for CDFI partnerships with responsible online and alternative lenders. This would enable the federal government to reach more small business owners and entrepreneurs who traditionally struggle with raising capital from traditional financial institutions.
    • Expand federal funding for small businesses through the State Small Business Credit Initiative. The Small Business Jobs Act in 2010 created the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), providing $1.5 billion to new and existing state programs that support private-sector lending to, and investment in, small businesses and manufacturers. To be eligible for funds, a state must demonstrate a reasonable expectation it would be able to leverage each dollar from the federal government to generate $10 in new small business lending or investing. Clinton will double funding for the SSBCI and expand it to include training and counseling programs that focus on minority- and women-owned small businesses.
    • Enforce the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that large banks serve small businesses in hard-hit and underserved communities. Clinton will work to enforce the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that large and regional banks are serving small business customers, including small businesses in low-income and minority communities.

Building on the above proposals, Clinton will put forward a comprehensive small business agenda during this campaign. Her agenda will include bold measures to provide tax relief and simplification, cut red tape, increase access to capital, open up new markets, and ensure equal opportunity for women and minority small business owners.


Clinton has put forward a comprehensive, $275 billion infrastructure plan, including a $25 billion infrastructure bank, to make much-need improvements across America. And today she is announcing that $50 billion of this total will be allocated to an Infrastructure for Opportunity Fund dedicated solely to creating economic opportunity in underserved communities. Using these funds and others, Clinton will:

  • Connect more Americans to opportunity through investments in public transit. Lack of public transportation can make it impossible for many low-income communities to access employment, health care, education, and other necessities—creating a huge barrier as these Americans attempt to build better lives. Clinton will prioritize and increase investments in public transit and ensure that these investments are connecting the unemployed and underemployed to the jobs they need.
  • Make infrastructure investments that protect the environment, enhance public safety, and improve quality of life. Clinton will make substantial investments in rebuilding crumbling drinking water and wastewater systems—saving billions of gallons of drinking water, cutting energy costs, and safeguarding public health. And she will support bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in our cities—reducing carbon emissions, improving public health and safety, and further providing Americans with affordable transportation options.
  • Connect more Americans to opportunity in the digital economy. Clinton believes that high-speed Internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity for equal opportunity and social mobility in a 21st century economy. That’s why she will finish the job of connecting America’s households to the Internet, so that by 2020 every household in America will have access to affordable broadband. And that’s why she will push forward on the Obama Administration’s ConnectEd agenda, ensuring that urban and rural public schools have the high-speed broadband they need to allow their young people to participate in personalized learning and reach of the Internet from their desks.
  • Support “Modernize Every School” Bonds. In November, Clinton announced her plan to reauthorize the Obama Administration’s hugely successful Build America Bonds program, which broadened the market for municipal borrowing by attracting new sources of capital that do not receive benefits associated with traditional tax-exempt debt. She also put forward an innovative “super-BABs” proposals that would provide even greater federal government support than would otherwise be available for deserving projects. Today, Clinton is announcing that, as part of her “super-BABs” initiative, she would create “Modernize Every School Bonds” that will double the BABs subsidy for efforts to fix and modernize Title I schools—from increasing energy efficiency and tackling asbestos to upgrading science labs and high-speed broadband.
  • Put more infrastructure money in the hands of local governments. Federal infrastructure investment provides a crucial source of support and growth for America’s cities and local communities. But federal infrastructure funding is overwhelmingly funneled through state governments—sometimes producing unnecessary delays, administrative costs, and red tape. Clinton believes that we need to find ways to give local governments more direct access to the federal funding on which they rely. She will increase funding for competitive programs like the Department of Transportation’s TIGER and TIFIA programs and ensure that such funding is available to communities of all sizes. And she will launch a pilot program to explore new ways of getting formula funding, including formula highway funds, directly into the hands of local governments, while linking these distributions to performance measures and transparency standards. Applications for participation in the pilot would be open to join proposals from state and local leaders.
  • Cut red tape. Clinton understands that it’s simply not enough to invest more in our infrastructure: we need to be more efficient in the way we make these investments. Clinton will work to streamline our bloated federal permitting system to increase transparency and remove barriers to investment in the communities that need it most. These reforms would do more than save taxpayers money—they would encourage private capital currently sitting on the sidelines to invest in a better future for communities being left out and left behind.


Too many communities today remain pockets of distress, in which concentrations of abandoned buildings and poverty cut entire neighborhoods off from jobs, from commerce, and from hope. Clinton will empower underserved communities with the resources and flexibility they need to connect housing to economic opportunity. She will:

  • Revitalize communities being dragged down by physical decay. In many communities, the first step in revitalization is removing the physical decay that holds back prospects of renewal. The Obama Administration has tackled such blight through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Hardest Hit Fund, which have helped cities like Detroit and Cleveland begin to address these challenges. But Congress has not made nearly enough resources available through these programs to approach the scale of the challenges we face. Clinton’s anti-blight initiative will strengthen and expand on these efforts:
    • Give local governments the resources and flexibility they need to make a major impact. Clinton will give local communities the resources and flexibility they need to make scalable, multi-block investments to turn around decaying areas—because while tearing down blight itself brings real social and economic benefits, our goal should be to rebuild and rehabilitate in its place. This is not only the right thing to do: it’s also smart economic policy, as these investments return multiples in the form of higher property values, job creation, and economic prosperity.
    • Provide funding to address both commercial and residential blight. Too often, communities have been unable to use federal resources to address commercial blight, leaving them unable to address pockets of distress that serve to discourage investments in Main Street. Clinton’s plans will allow communities to expand their efforts to help revitalize commercial districts as well as residential neighborhoods.
    • Ensure that job creation stays in the community. Clinton will support strategies to overcome blight that ensure that local workers and opportunity youth are employed in the project attacking blight—and that labor is not all brought in from the outside.
  • Connect housing support in high-poverty neighborhoods to economic opportunity. Today, by tying support for subsidized housing to high-poverty neighborhoods cut off from commerce, we too often force poor families to live in the very conditions that make escaping poverty most difficult. Rather than helping these families break the cycle of poverty, we’re reinforcing it. Clinton will instead link our housing assistance programs to policies that connect their recipients to economic opportunity. This means both connecting housing support to efforts to improve the health of communities, and strengthening programs that give families a choice in where they live:
    • Connecting housing assistance to community development. Clinton will build on the Choice Neighborhoods and Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative programs, both of which provide communities with support for housing as part of a multifaceted strategy to address the complex challenges of poverty. She will make resources available for economic development, health care, environmental improvement, and more.
    • Giving recipients of assistance more choice. Clinton will work to expand the choices that recipients of housing vouchers have in deciding where to live. Today those with vouchers must often choose among the very pockets of poverty the vouchers are intended to allow them to leave. Clinton believe we should expand their range of options to include neighborhoods with more jobs and better schools.
  • Remove barriers to sustainable homeownership. Homeownership is about more than just owning a home. It is about putting roots down in a community with better schools, safer streets and good jobs. And it is about building wealth, as homeowners build equity in their home one mortgage payment at a time. But this opportunity is increasingly out of reach for too many families, particularly families of color. Today in America, 42 percent of black households and 47 percent of Latino households own a home, while the homeownership rate among white households stands at 72 percent.We must make sure that everyone has a fair shot at homeownership. And Clinton believes strongly that we must not do this by lowering the standards of the market to reach families not prepared to become sustainable homeowners. Instead, we should lift more families up to enter a housing market that remains strong and inclusive. To put more families in a position for sustainable homeownership, Clinton will empower local communities to take four critical steps:
    • Help responsible homeowners save for a down payment. Hard-working families of modest means often find that saving the money needed for a down payment on their first home presents an insurmountable barrier to homeownership. So Clinton’s plan will provide funding for initiatives in underserved communities to match up to $10,000 in savings for responsible homeowners who earn less than area median income to put towards a down payment on a first home. This will both incentivize savings and put the opportunity of homeownership within the reach of more families living in communities that will be well-served by more homeowners.
    • Support counseling programs for the significant financial commitment of homeownership. Clinton will increase funding and broaden credit terms for housing counseling programs shown to help borrowers become sustainable homeowners.
    • Update underwriting tools to reflect today’s job market. To better equip government agencies to assess credit risk in today’s increasingly dynamic economy and broaden the pool of credit-worthy borrowers eligible for a loan, Clinton will push them to use the new generation of credit testing tools.
    • Clarify the rules of the road to expand access. Lending in many communities, particularly communities of color, has been held back by uncertainty over the rules of the road. Clinton will give every government agency that supports mortgage lending 90 days to present a plan to clarify their lending requirements. With this clarity, good lenders will finally have the confidence to make loans to all sustainable borrowers, and bad ones will think twice before violating the rules.
    • Defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Clinton believes we must never again allow borrowers to be taken advantage of in the rush for corporate profits. Even before the crisis, Clinton pledged to create a “Financial Product Safety Commission,” like the Dodd-Frank Act’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), to crack down on abusive and predatory lenders and to protect consumers. As President, Clinton will defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and make sure that it has the independence and resources needed to provide families across the country with the strong advocate they deserve.
    • Enforce fair housing and fair lending laws. Clinton will make sure that the Department of Justice enforces fair lending and fair housing laws and will work closely with regulators to make sure that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the nation’s lenders meet their responsibility to provide lending in communities that have been historically underserved.
  • Check the skyrocketing rise of rental costs in areas of opportunity. Nearly half of all renters between age 25 and 34 pay 30 percent or more of their monthly income on rent, and one-fourth pay over half of their income on rent. High rents not only weigh heavily on the pocketbooks of these families but often displace entire communities in the face of local growth. There is simply not enough affordable rental housing in many parts of the country to keep up with new demand, driving prices in these areas to a level that is unaffordable for large segments of the population. To tackle this problem, Clinton will increase the supply of affordable rental housing by increasing incentives for new affordable rental housing development and easing the local barriers to building affordable housing in areas of economic opportunity:
    • Reducing the cost. Clinton will defend the current supply of Low Income Housing Tax Credits and provide additional credits in communities where the demand for these credits far exceeds the supply. The additional credits will be allocated through a competitive process to those cities and states that are in the best position to use them effectively.
    • Easing local barriers. Clinton will encourage communities to implement land use strategies that make it easier to build affordable rental housing near good jobs by increasing funding available to those that do through both her infrastructure bank and competitive grant programs, like the Department of Transportation’s TIGER initiative.