Newswire: White House unveils steps to advance equity in America

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The Department of Health and Human Services said its increasing outreach to communities of color to encourage enrollment in free and low-cost health care, and the agency will address the maternal mortality crisis that disproportionately impacts Black and Native families, including by working with states to extend postpartum coverage in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security said its working to ensure that underserved communities are treated fairly in airport screenings by improving systems and enhancing training for officers.
DHS officials said they’re also engaging with and improving underserved communities’ access to grant programs that help counter domestic violent extremism to better address the terrorism-related threat to the country posed by white supremacists and other domestic terrorists.
The U. S. Department of Agriculture says in its statement, “All too often in the past, USDA programs and services were designed to benefit those with land, experience, money, and education while leaving behind those without means, resources or privilege of one kind or another. Over the course of decades, congressional reports, internal data, civil rights investigations, court actions, and stakeholder testimony have documented this long history of inequity and discrimination.”

The USDA Equity Action Plan highlights a set of actions USDA will take to advance equity; these particular actions are highlighted in the plan because of their potential high impact for underserved farmers and ranchers, families and children, and rural communities. Below is a summary:

Partner with trusted technical assistance providers
Reduce barriers to USDA programs and improve support to underserved farmers, ranchers, landowners, and farmworkers
Expand equitable access to USDA nutrition assistance programs
Increase USDA infrastructure investments that benefit underserved communities
Advance equity in federal procurement
Uphold Federal trust and treaty Responsibilities to Indian Tribes
Institutionalize an unwavering commitment to and actions towards ensuring civil rights

On Thursday, April 14, each government agency also released plans that mesh with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ strategies and commitments in an overall Equity Action Plan.
The plan results from an executive order that Biden almost immediately after taking office. The president said he’d set his sight on advancing racial equity and supporting underserved communities throughout the federal government.
The White House said the order marked a first for a U.S. president.
“We set the mission and the mandate for every agency, the entire federal government, to center equity in all that we do,” stated Chiraag Bains, deputy assistant to the president for racial justice and equity.
Following an extensive review, each federal agency released separate – but similar – action plans.
Biden outlined the plan in January 2021 when he revealed over 300 strategies and commitments aimed at making federal policy fair for everyone, particularly poorer communities and neighborhoods of color.
The president also detailed his desire to provide equal opportunity to individuals with disabilities and women and girls. “Advancing equity is not a one-year project – it is a generational commitment,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
“These plans are an important step forward, reflecting the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to make the promise of America real for every American, including by implementing the first-ever national strategy on gender equity and equality; working to ensure the federal government is a model for diversity equity, inclusion, and accessibility; working to deliver environmental justice through the Justice40 Initiative; and working to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
To ensure the broadest cross-section informs the government policies of Americans, the White House said agencies are engaging trusted intermediaries and tailoring outreach to make meaningful and authentic participation possible for a broader range of Americans.
Also, as the largest buyer globally, the federal government will address racial and gender wealth gaps by leveraging the power of federal procurement to drive more significant investment in minority-owned and women-owned small businesses, officials stated.
The White House has also pledged to deliver equity through grantmaking opportunities. The administration noted that persistent barriers make it difficult for under-resourced and underserved communities to be aware of, compete for, and effectively deploy federal grants for everything from infrastructure to medical research.
“Agencies are addressing these barriers by helping underserved communities learn about and navigate federal funding opportunities, expanding capacity-building federal grants,” administration officials said.

The implementation of the president’s American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also will help advance equity, the White House said.
“The President has made equity a priority in the implementation of two of the most ambitious legislative packages in generations, with the goal of ensuring an inclusive response and recovery from the pandemic and in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,” the officials concluded.

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