April 21, 2024

Biden signs β€˜racial equity’ order requiring federal agencies to build β€˜equity action plan’

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed an executive order that directs all federal agencies to produce an annual “equity action plan” aimed at removing barriers to agency resources for “underserved communities.”

The move follows Biden’s 2021 executive order, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” which asked agencies to launch a “whole-of-government approach to equity.” That order has already directed billions of dollars in federal resources to “disadvantaged” communities since it was signed.

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Biden’s new order, “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” is aimed at building on that progress, and the White House said more still needs to be done.

“Despite the meaningful progress that the Biden-Harris Administration has made, the reality is that underserved communities β€” many of whom have endured generations of discrimination and disinvestment β€” still confront unacceptable barriers to equal opportunity and the American Dream,” the White House said in a statement. “It is imperative that we reject the narrow, cramped view of American opportunity as a zero-sum game.”

The new order asks agencies to create annual plans that explain what steps they’ll take to “address the barriers underserved communities may face in accessing and benefiting from the agency’s policies …”

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It calls on federal agencies to build “agency equity teams” and create senior leadership positions that will be held accountable for carrying out the order. Those teams will be involved in carrying out another requirement to improve efforts to reach out to “impacted communities.”

The order instructs the Office of Management and Budget to support the implementation of these efforts by reserving money in the budget, which the Biden administration has yet to deliver this year despite an early February deadline required by law.

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Also related to funding, the order says 50% of federal contracting dollars at federal agencies should be awarded to “small disadvantaged businesses.” It also includes new instructions on how agencies should deal with “emerging civil rights risks.”

“The Executive Order instructs agencies to focus their civil rights authorities and offices on emerging threats, such as algorithmic discrimination in automated technology; improve accessibility for people with disabilities; improve language access services; and consider opportunities to bolster the capacity of their civil rights offices,” the White House said. “It further directs agencies to ensure that their own use of artificial intelligence and automated systems also advances equity.”

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