President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on February 16 aimed at strengthening the federal government’s ability to address barriers to equal opportunity faced by underserved communities. The EO, Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, builds on a previous EO signed by the President on his first day in office that directs federal agencies to conduct equity assessments and identify systemic barriers to access faced by underserved communities.
The new EO charges federal agencies – including HUD – with developing an annual public Equity Action Plan that assesses and provides recommendations to overcome systemic barriers impacting equitable access to federal programs. The Order also encourages federal agencies to develop and strengthen relationships with community partners and stakeholders and encourages targeting of federal resources to small, disadvantaged businesses and locally led development.
In a fact sheet on the EO, the White House notes that since HUD released its Equity Action Plan in April 2022 (see Memo, 4/18/22), the department has started administering $2.8 billion in competitive funding to homeless services organizations across the country for housing people experiencing homelessness and providing them with wrap-around services. HUD also released its updated Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule to help ensure entities receiving HUD funding were actively working to overcome patterns of segregation and housing discrimination (see Memo, 2/13).
While the Biden-Harris administration has made meaningful efforts towards advancing racial equity, it is also vital for the administration to lead by example and follow the best practices laid out in its federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Just a day before the new EO was released, the Biden-Harris administration, in collaboration with the Bowser administration in Washington, D.C., forcibly removed unhoused people from an encampment in McPherson Square park, just blocks from the White House.
Forced removals disconnect people experiencing homelessness from service providers and frequently lead to lost documentation and possessions, making it more difficult for individuals to exit homelessness. The destruction of the encampment defies the Biden-Harris administration’s work towards racial equity and ending homelessness – Black people represent 45% of the general population in D.C. but 93% of people experiencing homelessness in the city. The National Coalition for Housing Justice, of which NLIHC is a member, issued a statement on the sweep, urging the Biden-Harris administration to stop all future efforts to forcibly remove unhoused people from national parks and instead to prioritize connecting individuals to housing paired with supportive services when needed.
Read Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government at: https://bit.ly/3lMyrO8
Read a fact sheet on the new Executive Order at: https://bit.ly/3KhbInJ