- The Washington Times
Thursday, April 14, 2022

More than 90 federal agencies on Thursday unveiled hundreds of ambitious strategies aimed at addressing what they say is racial and gender inequity across the federal government.

The agencies proposed 300 strategies and commitments they say will improve government services for underserved communities, with officials touting the initiative as key to boosting the U.S. economy.

A White House virtual event to celebrate the initiative received little fanfare. Neither President Biden nor Vice President Kamala Harris took part in the event, although Mr. Biden did appear in a video statement to kick off the event.

In his remarks, Mr. Biden said the initiative will remove barriers to inequity but acknowledged there is “more work to be done.”

“Advancing equity is not a one-year project, it is a generational commitment,” the president said. “These plans are an important step forward.”

The equity measures include efforts such as providing more public transportation to national parks, more health care options for LGBTQ+ military veterans and expanding broadband access for poor communities.

Black voters were key to Mr. Biden’s election victory in 2020 and gave him Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. But Mr. Biden has been relatively silent in recent months on racial justice issues.

He only made a brief mention of voting rights in his State of the Union speech last month after a failed yearlong push for an overhaul of the country’s election and policing laws. 

His biggest win on issues of race so far has been fulfilling his promise to appoint the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court with the confirmation this month of Jude Ketanji Brown Jackson for the high court.

Now, the Biden administration has shifted to incremental steps to address racial equity in the government.

Under the new initiative, the Justice Department will make it easier for non-English speakers to report crimes, the Interior Department will work to improve racial communities’ access to federal parks and green spaces, the Department of Housing and Urban Development pledged to reduce bias in home equity appraisals, and NASA committed to releasing its data in more accessible formats to show environmental challenges in underserved communities.

In addition, the Department of Homeland Security will use its training to improve airport screenings based on race and the Department of Defense will partner with historically Black colleges and universities to reduce bias in algorithms in its computer programs.

Several agencies will also simplify grant programs to make it easier for people of color to access federal dollars.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the initiative will boost the U.S. economy.

“It’s not only the right thing to do, but it will spur our economic growth because diversity is America’s competitive advantage,” she said. “Homogeneity is the enemy of innovation and growth. And if we truly want to compete on the global stage, then we must give everyone in America the opportunity to participate in the economy.”

The efforts stem from an executive order Mr. Biden signed on his first day in office aimed at advancing racial equity and improving support for underserved communities across the government.

After a year-long review, the government adopted specific proposals for its agencies. The program will include metrics to ensure that agencies are achieving their goals of improving access to federal government resources among the underserved communities.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s name.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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