13-2 I.D.E.A.S. Update: Biden Administration Unveils Equity Action Plans to Address Systemic Barriers

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an historic executive order, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” directing the federal government to advance an ambitious equity and racial justice agenda. The White House then held a virtual convening on April 14 to announce the release of its racial justice and equity plan, and more than 90 federal agencies have now released their own first-ever Equity Action Plans, as called for by the executive order.

The Equity Action Plans developed by members of President Biden’s cabinet – including U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge – provide concrete strategies and articulate clear commitments to address the systemic barriers in policies and programs that hold too many people in underserved communities back from prosperity, dignity, and equality.

HUD’s department-wide plan includes actions to reduce the racial homeownership gap and center equity in the delivery of services to people experiencing homelessness. The plan emphasizes the differences in the ways homelessness is experienced in cities, suburbs, rural areas, and tribal lands; across races and ethnicities; by families and individuals, young and old; and among male, female, transgender, and gender non-conforming people. Even within homeless populations, some groups are less likely to have safe access to homeless shelters, and some are likely to experience homelessness for longer periods.

“Equity is central to HUD’s founding principles and the daily work we do as a department,” said Secretary Fudge. “We are excited to take this opportunity to join the rest of the federal government in emphasizing our commitment to making equity a leading compass within this administration.”

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) also released an equity action plan. The plan focuses on four values: racial equity, Housing First, decriminalization, and inclusion. The plan also identifies several actions that will be undertaken by USICH in pursuit of racial equity, including (1) centering racial equity in its upcoming Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, (2) engaging tribal nations and re-establishing the Interagency Working Group on Native American Homelessness, and (3) assessing internal USICH policies and employees’ views of racial equity within the organization.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) equity action plan establishes an Equity Commission within USDA that will conduct a review and provide recommendations to the Secretary “for how the Department can take action to advance equity.”

The equity action plans released by HUD and other agencies will expand federal investments in and support for communities and groups that have been locked out of opportunities for too long, including communities of color, tribal communities, rural communities, LGBTQI+ communities, disability communities, communities of faith, women and girls, and communities impacted by persistent poverty. Officials have stated that President Biden’s agenda is not a “one-year project” but “an important step forward” in line with a “generational commitment.”