More than 90 federal agencies released their first-ever equity action plans on Thursday, outlining more than 300 strategies to better help underserved communities.
This follows an executive order issued by President Biden on the first day of his administration, which directed agencies to conduct equity assessments of their top three to five high-impact services for Americans to determine where to stand. found systematic obstacles. These findings helped agencies develop their plans.
“Taken together, these 300 actions demonstrate what it means to take a whole-of-government approach to advancing equity,” a senior administration official said on a conference call. “For the first time, Americans will see a complete picture of what it looks like for the entire federal government to advance equity at the same time.”
For example, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to better help people with limited English proficiency access federal health programs; the General Services Administration seeks to assess the impact on communities of its extensive real estate portfolio; and the Office of Personnel Management is looking to invest in data to examine potential barriers to the federal hiring process.
Themes common to all plans — released by all Cabinet agencies as well as more than 50 independent bodies — use federal procurement to advance fairness and strengthen civil rights laws.
The White House said the plans advance the administration’s work on diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and environmental justice, as well as addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation. and/or gender identity.
The plans also include provisions for how agencies will “integrate fairness into day-to-day governance,” the White House said, such as through data collection and reporting, streamlining government services, expanding access to grant opportunities, among others.
A second senior administration official said on the call that “[The Office of Management and Budget] worked very closely with [the Domestic Policy Council] and our agencies since day one to help center equity in the day-to-day operations of government,” particularly supporting agencies as they develop their plans.
The OMB also released guidance in December on how agencies can use federal procurement to advance fairness and released guidance Wednesday on reducing administrative burdens when the public accesses government services and benefits, noted the manager. Additionally, the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2023 included several “key equity investments,” such as climate justice, healthcare infrastructure, public transit services, and civil rights offices.
During the information call, government executive asked whether the OMB or the Biden administration would oversee agencies’ implementation of policies and programs in their equity plans.
“Yes,” said a senior administration official. “You will see in the plans that are released today that the agencies have established parameters against which their process can be measured and accountability mechanisms; how they’re going to hold their own employees, including senior management, accountable for delivering on the priorities they’ve listed in their plans and that will also help us in the White House drive that process and ensure that agencies have both the support they need and the oversight to make sure they accomplish the president’s mission.
There will also be regular reporting to the OMB, the official said.
Mid-morning Thursday, Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice and OMB Director Shalanda Young hosted a virtual event on equity with several members of the Cabinet as part of the launch of the reports. Additionally, Biden made remarks about it in a video message.
Representatives Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., member of the committee, applauded the administration’s actions. Lawmakers sent a letter to administration officials in October urging them to ensure agencies have enough data to execute the presidential fairness executive order.
“Systems change is possible when we rely on the power and authority of the federal government and today’s announcement is historic,” Pressley wrote. However, “our work is far from done”.