Joe Biden

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Releases Annual Agency Equity Action Plans to Further Advance Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government

February 14, 2024

Since Day One, the Biden-Harris Administration has championed an ambitious equity and racial justice agenda to ensure the full and fair participation of all communities in American life. Despite progress being made, entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies have often denied equal opportunity to historically underserved communities, including rural communities, communities of color, Tribal communities, LGBTQI+ individuals, religious minorities, people with disabilities, women and girls, and other communities impacted by persistent poverty. Redressing these opportunity gaps can drive stronger economic growth for all Americans. For example, research finds that the gaps in labor market opportunities for women and people of color cost the U.S. $2.6 trillion in foregone GDP in 2019; closing these gaps would increase economic output by an additional $3.1 trillion in 2029 alone. A report released this week from Brookings and MIT illustrated the success of these efforts – supporting economic comebacks in communities across the country.

Through the implementation of two historic Executive Orders on equity and the President's landmark Investing in America Agenda and other key legislation, the Biden-Harris Administration is working to advance opportunity and make real the promise of America for everyone.

Today, marking the first anniversary of the signing of President Biden's second Executive Order on equity, federal agencies, including all Cabinet-level agencies, are releasing their 2023 Equity Action Plans, which include over 100 community-informed strategies and actions to address systemic barriers in our Nation's policies and programs. The Biden-Harris Administration also released a new White House Progress Report on Equity, which highlights examples of the more than 650 actions agencies have undertaken since the release of their 2022 Equity Action Plans. Agencies acted to increase access to federal contracting dollars, capital, and lending programs for small disadvantaged businesses; reduce discrimination in the housing market; advance environmental justice and invest in disadvantaged communities; address health disparities, including disparities in maternal health outcomes in communities of color; build economic prosperity in rural communities; promote equity and fairness in the justice system; support victims and survivors of gender-based violence; root out bias in the design and use of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence; and bolster civil rights enforcement.

"Since day one of our Administration, President Biden and I have been fully committed to ensuring that every person in America has equitable access to opportunity and the ability to thrive – whether that be supporting small businesses, forgiving $137 billion in student loan debt, investing billions of dollars in our Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions, removing lead pipes, cutting prescription drug prices, and taking on the maternal health crisis with the urgency it demands," said Vice President Kamala Harris. "As we mark the one-year anniversary of the second equity Executive Order, we celebrate the hundreds of government-wide equity accomplishments and recommit to addressing the barriers that remain. Together, we will continue to advance equity across the federal government, not only in hiring and appointments but in the historic investments we are making in communities that had been overlooked for far too long."

Now more than ever, it is critical to reject the narrow, cramped view of American opportunity as a zero-sum game. When we lift each other up, we are all lifted up. Across the Federal Government, agencies will take new actions to advance equity and justice for underserved communities, including by:

Addressing Inequity in Economic Opportunity

  • Improving Financial Health of Underserved Businesses and Communities. Families build wealth by starting small businesses, yet many entrepreneurs who are veterans, women, or people of color still face discrimination by U.S. banks, are charged higher interest costs, and experience difficulties when trying to obtain the fair and affordable financing options needed to grow their businesses. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), such as banks and credit unions, serve as frontline financial supports to low- and moderate-income communities by providing loans, grants, and financial products to businesses and consumers who otherwise are unable to access capital and services through traditional banking institutions. The Department of the Treasury invested nearly $9 billion through investment through the Emergency Capital Investment Program that scales the capacity of these low- and moderate-income community financial institutions in providing loans, grants, and forbearance for businesses and consumers, especially in low-income and underserved communities. In addition, for the first time in 40 years, the Small Business Administration issued new Small Business Lending Company licenses for nonbank lenders to expand capital access to traditionally hard to reach small businesses. These actions will enable these critical institutions to better serve their local communities and ensure that all people have equal opportunity to prosper through business ownership.
  • Ending Gender-based Workforce Discrimination. Women have persistently lower wages and fewer workplace benefits than men, with disparities that are even more pronounced for many women of color. The Department of Labor (DOL) will implement Good Jobs Principles aimed at improving wages in female dominated sectors and administer the Fostering Access, Rights, and Equity grant program for women impacted by gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace. DOL will also work to reduce caregiving penalties for women and low-paid workers by expanding and tailoring the National Database of Childcare Prices, key analytical tools to evaluate how childcare prices are linked with gender and racial inequality in the labor force.

Addressing Inequity in Housing and Community Investment

  • Ending Discrimination in Home Appraisals. Every American deserves the opportunity to be a homeowner. But many Black and Brown families still face housing discrimination, like the indignity of removing family photos from their walls just to obtain a fair valuation when they put their home up for sale. One study by Freddie Mac found that 12.5% of appraisals for home purchases in majority-Black neighborhoods and 15.4% in majority-Latino neighborhoods resulted in a value below the contract price (the amount a buyer is willing to pay for the property), compared to only 7.4% of appraisals in predominantly white neighborhoods. To combat property appraisal bias, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the PAVE Initiative. As part of the Equity Action Plan, HUD will partner with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers to tackle appraisal bias and discrimination in the housing market. The new collaboration will include online training for counselors, roundtable discussions on bias and discrimination, educational material distribution, and appraisal-related training—all aimed to promote fairness in the housing market.
  • Expanding Safe, Accessible, Affordable Transportation. The Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that at least 1 million people and businesses were displaced by decades of harmful urban renewal projects and legacy policy decisions in the buildout of the Federal highway system. From 1955 to 1977, the federal government selected land that cut through low-income communities and communities of color to build the Nation's highway system – destroying once vibrant and affordable neighborhoods, exacerbating racial segregation, stifling economic mobility, widening disparities in health outcomes and furthering community isolation in areas with low access to jobs and institutions such as grocery stores and banks. DOT will redress these chronic disinvestments by implementing the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhood Grants Program, a first-of-its-kind federal program funded through the President's Investing in America agenda. Over $4 billion is available over five years through this program, with nearly $3.4 available in the latest round. In the first round of the program DOT awarded a total of $185 million to 45 projects through the Reconnecting Communities Program, aimed at restoring community connectivity through the removal, retrofit, mitigation, or replacement of eligible transportation infrastructure facilities. As these place-based construction projects begin to reach completion in 2024, they will cumulatively help combat transit-related burdens faced by 47% of the U.S. population who spend at least 15% of their annual income on transportation and the 8% of American households without access to vehicles.

    Addressing Inequity in Health

  • Making Childbirth and the Postpartum Period Safer. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will improve maternal health outcomes to combat the maternal health crisis which disproportionally impacts Black women, Native women, and women in rural communities by addressing gaps in insurance coverage and disparities in the birthing care infrastructure. This includes expanding postpartum coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program from 60 days to 12 months of continuous care, with the potential to reach an estimated 720,000 Americans annually who would be eligible for essential care for a full year after pregnancy if all states extended postpartum coverage. Data from Medicaid and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than one-half of pregnancy-related mortality occurs in the 12-month postpartum period and about one-third occurs between 7 and 365 days post-delivery. Additionally, pregnancy-related deaths are three to four times more common among Black or African American and American Indian/Alaska Native women than among white women.
  • Combatting Child Food Insecurity. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) will help close the summer hunger gap for children eligible for free and reduced price school meals by implementing new summer nutrition options, including to-go or home-delivered summer meals in certain rural communities and a summer grocery benefit for children known as Summer EBT. For Summer EBT's inaugural year this summer, 36 states, D.C., all five U.S. territories, and four Tribes launched the program in January 2024, which will serve close to 21 million children with a total of nearly $2.5 billion in grocery benefits. This is around 70% of the total population of children eligible for Summer EBT. USDA expects additional states and Tribes will provide Summer EBT in 2025. Rigorous evaluations of a multi-year demonstration project showed that summer grocery benefits decreased the number of kids with very low food security by about one-third and supported healthier diets featuring more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

    Addressing Inequity through Environmental and Climate Justice

  • Tackling Environmental Injustice. Every person in this country deserves to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy environment. However, for far too long, communities across our country – including many communities of color, Tribal communities, low-income communities, and people experiencing persistent poverty – have faced environmental injustices, such as bearing the brunt of toxic pollution, enduring underinvestment in infrastructure and critical services, and suffering disproportionate impacts from climate change. President Biden is advancing the most ambitious environmental justice agenda in history to address this, including signing a historic Executive Order that calls on the Federal Government to bring clean energy and healthy environments to all and mitigate harm to those who have suffered from toxic pollution and other environmental burdens like climate change; replacing lead pipes and taking action to protect communities from PFAS pollution; accelerating Superfund cleanups; tightening air quality enforcement near polluting facilities; and more. HUD's Green and Resilient Retrofit Program, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, has already awarded nearly $300 million in loans and grants to improve the homes of thousands of low- and moderate-income Americans through clean energy and climate resilience projects.
  • Delivering on the Justice40 Initiative and Reducing Pollution. President Biden's Justice40 Initiative set a goal to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of certain climate, clean air, clean water, and other federal investments to disadvantaged communities that have historically been left behind or overlooked. Over 500 programs across 19 federal agencies are being reimagined and transformed through the Justice40 Initiative to maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities such as cleaner air, good-paying jobs, and affordable clean energy. Key categories of federal investments included in the Justice40 Initiative are: climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, pollution remediation and reduction, and water and wastewater infrastructure. The President's Inflation Reduction Act also makes historic investments in environmental justice for all, including the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) single largest investment in environmental justice in EPA history through the new competitive Community Change Grants program. The program will deliver $2 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding to support new community-driven projects that deploy clean energy, strengthen climate resilience, and build capacity for communities to achieve a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future for all.
  • Reforming Disaster Assistance Program to Help Survivors Recover Faster. Studies have found that people of color and low-income communities experience significant barriers to recovery following natural disasters. To improve the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Individual Assistance program to advance equity, FEMA will be simplifying processes, removing barriers, and increasing eligibility to reach more disaster survivors. FEMA will expand home repair assistance, allow for the re-opening of the applicant registration period when the President adds new counties to the major disaster declaration, and simplify the documentation requirements for continued temporary housing assistance.
  • Today's announcements build on actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to advance equity, as outlined in the new White House Progress Report on Equity. Below are examples of recent accomplishments included in the new Equity Action Plans. Explore the 2022 and 2023 Equity Action Plans at
  • Supporting Disadvantaged Farmers. USDA has helped more than 39,000 farmers and ranchers who were in financial distress retain their farms and continue farming. President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act allocated $3.1 billion for USDA to provide relief for distressed borrowers with certain direct and guaranteed loans, and to expedite assistance for those whose agricultural operations are at financial risk due to factors outside their control, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the law was signed in August 2022, USDA's Farm Service Agency has provided over $2.1 billion and counting in immediate assistance (as of February 12, 2024).
  • Ensuring Contracting Opportunities for Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDBs). The Department of Treasury awarded $1.2 billion in FY 2023 to SDBs, representing for the first almost 12% of eligible small business dollars available for Treasury contracts. In addition, Treasury awarded a total of over $2 billion to businesses of all sizes, including to Women-Owned Businesses and Minority-Owned Businesses. These steps further President Biden's goal of ensuring 15% of federal contracts go to SDBs by 2025.
  • Expanding Mental Health Support Services for Students. The Department of Education funded 264 grants with $1 billion in Bipartisan Safer Communities Act funds to more than 40 states to increase the supply of school-based mental health professionals under the School-Based Mental Health Services Grant and the Mental Health Services Professional Demonstration (MHSPD) Grant Program. At least 40 states used "high poverty" in their definition of high-needs school. The Department estimates these 5-year grants will result in an increase of 14,000 mental health professionals. In FY 2023, nearly 50% of the MHSPD grants include a partnership with Minority Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), or Tribal Colleges. Additionally, the Department aims to ensure that school districts serving historically underserved student groups, including students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students who are English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and others have the resources they need to support learning recovery. This includes the allocation of $122 billion in ARP funds to school districts based on their level of poverty under Title I and the ARP's Maintenance of Equity requirements to protect high poverty schools from reductions in State and local education funding.
  • Fostering Community Development in Rural and Tribal Communities. The Department of the Interior's (DOI) made $725 million in FY 2023 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Abandoned Mine Land grants available to eligible states and the Navajo Nation. The funding will provide good-paying jobs to coal communities and at the same time return legacy coal sites to productive uses, fostering community and economic development. Additionally, DOI announced new regulations to improve implementation of the Buy Indian Act to promote economic development opportunities in Indian Country. The final rule was developed in consultation with Tribes and ultimately is working to eliminate barriers that inhibit Indian Economic Enterprises (IEEs) from competing on certain construction contracts and expanded IEEs' ability to subcontract construction work consistent with other socio-economic set-aside programs.
  • Using Rental Payment History to Advance Home Ownership. HUD has taken additional steps through the Office of Single-Family Housing (SFH) to support wealth-generation activities for prospective and current homeowners. Specifically, SFH expanded access to credit by incorporating a borrower's positive rental payment history into the mortgage underwriting process. Using rental payment history promotes a more inclusive credit evaluation, which in turn can expand homeownership opportunities to first-time homebuyers. This guidance is expected to continue to expand homeownership opportunities for borrowers where a positive rental payment history can make a difference when combined with other assessment factors for determining eligibility for Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage financing. HUD estimates this policy change will enable up to 5,500 borrowers per year to qualify for an FHA-insured loan.

Joseph R. Biden, FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Releases Annual Agency Equity Action Plans to Further Advance Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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