By Ben Reynolds
Under the directive of the Biden administration’s Executive Order 13985, federal agencies developed Equity Action Plans, which focus on incorporating equity in to their mission deliveries. These plans involve strategies federal agencies are using to embed equitable practices in their day-to-day operations through eight areas of equity improvement identified. Several areas are highlighted below. Find out more about the plans here.
One common way federal agencies are incorporating equity is by adding equitable program designs and requiring equity to be a part of competitive grants.
The Department of Treasury is working to ensure underserved communities are receiving mission-driven capital. The Final Rule for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund contains strong equity provisions to address the needs of communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic and address pre-existing disparities. States are required to report how they plan to incorporate equity in their spending plans. Treasury also issued program guidance to eligible states, Tribal communities and territories to present plans for expanding access to capital for underserved communities and to expend funds for businesses owned by Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individuals.
The Department of Commerce will intentionally design programs and Notices of Funding Opportunities using equitable program designs. Programs are intended for partnering with different government and external parties to reach communities of color and rural communities. Commerce, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, works to expand universal access through state and community level broadband grants.
Advancing Equity in K-12 Education
The Department of Education requires states and school districts to use diverse and inclusive community engagement when developing plans on how to utilize federal funding. Education also provides guidance and technical assistance to help educators meet the needs of all students, especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The commitment to investing in under-resourced public institutions and supporting schools to raise completion rates for underserved students was re-emphasized.
The Environmental Protection Agency will develop a comprehensive framework and utilize community science and research to determine how to ensure underserved communities are receiving project awards. The Department of Energy is improving access to its Weatherization Assistance Program for low-income persons.
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing disparities in health outcomes and health care delivery. The Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to advancing health equity for underserved communities. HHS is working with states to extend postpartum coverage in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to address the increase in pregnancy and postpartum morbidity. Equity considerations also are being added to HHS’s Notice of Funding Opportunities when considering grant applications.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also expanding equitable assistance to nutrition programs. The USDA will be working to reduce barriers and increase the current 57% of eligible individuals participating in Women, Infants, and Children nutrition programs, as well as investing at least $100 million in partnerships with technical assistance providers that serve underserved communities.
Housing Justice and Community Investment
Federal agencies are strengthening their roles in combatting discriminatory housing, transportation and community investment policies. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is widening the procurement system to help sustain, build and retain individual and community wealth. The department is also incorporating equity requirements in its Notice of Funding Opportunities for competitive grants and will expand resources to grantees to advance equity.
To ensure equitable access in transportation investments, the Department of Transportation will be advancing equity when awarding competitive grants.
The Department of Commerce is administering approximately $50 billion in grants to broadband infrastructure deployment. Commerce will focus its investments on communities that have lagged in the modern digital economy and implement equitable program design in the Notification for Funding Opportunities.
Federal agencies are also working to ensure equity in criminal justice, civil rights and global equity.
Full details of the Agency Equity Plans can be found at whitehouse.gov/equity.