President Joe Biden signed an executive order Thursday that directs every federal agency to produce an annual “equity action plan” to remove hurdles to agency resources for “underserved communities.”
The step follows the president’s 2021 executive order, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” which requested agencies launch a “whole-of-government approach to equity.” Since it was signed, the order has already directed billions in federal funds to “disadvantaged” communities.
President Biden’s recent order, “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” is directed at building on the progress. The White House has said a lot still needs to be done.
“Despite the meaningful progress that the Biden-Harris Administration has made, the reality is that underserved communities — many of whom have endured generations of discrimination and disinvestment — still confront unacceptable barriers to equal opportunity and the American Dream,” said the White House in a statement. “It is imperative that we reject the narrow, cramped view of American opportunity as a zero-sum game.”
The new executive order requires each agency to design annual plans to address barriers to the underserved
The new executive order asks each agency to design annual plans that explain the actions that will be taken to “address the barriers underserved communities may face in accessing and benefitting from the agency’s policies … .”
Federal agencies will be required to build “agency equity teams” and create positions in senior leadership that will be accountable for implementing the order. The teams will be closely involved in executing another requirement to improve efforts to connect to “impacted communities.”
The new order directs the Office of Management and Budget to support the implementation of these moves by setting aside money in the budget, which the Biden administration still needs to deliver this year, even though the law requires it was due in early February.
Regarding funding, the order says 50% of dollars for federal contracting utilized by federal agencies should be given to “small disadvantaged businesses.” The order also contains new instructions on how agencies need to 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 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.”