Biden touts recovery act at Chicago conference

Joe BidenVice President Joe Biden touted the $787 billion federal stimulus effort on Friday, saying he sees signs that the recession could end soon, but also called the package “the most misunderstood” piece of legislation.

“What part of this act is about was not keeping people from falling through the cracks, but keeping them from falling in a deep black hole,” he said in a speech at the National Urban League conference. “We had to build a foundation for a newer and stronger economy.”

He said women, minorities and veterans have been hit hardest by unemployment and that he’s tasked members of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet with educating business owners in those groups about opportunities for them, like loans, in the economic recovery act.

Biden said he is meeting next week with Cabinet members, including the Small Business Administration. After that agencies would hold workshops for about 90 days.

“They’re making sure the communities we care most about … get the help they need and get the help they need to compete,” he said.

In the half-hour speech, Biden credited legislation by the Obama administration on housing and banks as part of the economic solution. He also said he sees private capital markets being revived.

“I don’t want to exaggerate the progress we’ve made,” he said, “but it’s real, concrete.”

Biden said $4 billion has been given in unemployment benefits and $6 billion has been spent to lower health care costs.

“We will come out of the recession,” he said. “We will not be leaving people behind.”

Biden praised the Urban League’s role in helping lift many blacks from poverty and into the middle class. The civil rights group’s conference was scheduled to end Saturday.

The organization was founded in 1910 to help marginalized blacks who moved to New York City to flee oppression in the South.

“The Urban League has never backed down,” Biden said. “There’s a greater need for you today in this new century … than there was 99 years ago.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.