Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet: Advancing Equity

A Summary of the Biden Administration’s Efforts in Its First Year To Implement a Racial Equity Agenda

This fact sheet summarizes a recent Center for American Progress report on the Biden administration’s efforts to advance racial equity through the federal government.

A group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators protest about the minimum wage in New York City, July 2020.
A group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators protest about the minimum wage in New York City, July 2020. (Getty/Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency)

Read the full report: "Advancing Equity: Review of the Biden Administration’s Efforts in Its First Year To Implement a Racial Equity Agenda"

The report reviews the Biden administration’s key efforts and accomplishments to advance equity in its first year and outlines future policies needed to build a better and more dynamic nation that equitably respects the rights and meets the needs of all Americans.

President Joe Biden entered the oval office at a pivotal moment in the long-standing struggle for racial justice in America. The COVID-19 pandemic, accompanying economic fallout, and growing climate crisis have all significantly exacerbated deeply entrenched structural racial inequities in America’s health and economic systems and environmental policies. At the same time, a massive movement for systemic criminal justice reform galvanized the nation following the loss of too many Black lives at the hands of current and former police officers.

Recognizing the urgent need to pursue a bold and comprehensive approach to address these pervasive and intersecting inequities, on day one of his administration, President Biden issued a historic executive order calling for a “whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.”1 This fact sheet outlines the administration’s efforts to advance equity in year one and offers additional policy solutions to accelerate and further advance equity in the years ahead in four core and interconnected areas.

1. Restoring social trust and strengthening democracy

In its first year, the administration made numerous efforts to reform public institutions and restore social trust, including key steps in the following areas.

The criminal justice system:

  • Prohibited certain unjust federal law enforcement practices, such as chokeholds,2 to combat the continued prevalence of police brutality
  • Updated federal prosecutor guidelines3 and reenacted the Access to Justice Initiative4 to rectify harmful and discriminatory sentencing and legal practices
  • Invested in community violence intervention programs5 to address pervasive gun violence and create safer communities

Democratic and political systems:

  • Expanded voting rights staff at the U.S. Department of Justice6 to combat state-level voting restrictions and intimidation tactics
  • Expanded the role of federal agencies in voter registration and voting information distribution7 to promote fair democratic participation
  • Took executive action8 and created a national strategy9 to combat violent white supremacy to address threatening and harmful acts against people of color

Technology, media, and information systems:

  • Undertook the development of a framework for an artificial intelligence (AI) Bill of Rights10 to address harmful inequities in emerging technologies, including discriminatory use of AI

In its second year and beyond, the administration must further reform the justice and political institutions to ensure they work for and benefit all Americans by:

  • Enacting executive actions to collect and publish enhanced demographic data on federal stops, arrests, and use-of-force incidents to combat injustice and police brutality in the criminal justice system
  • Advancing programs and policies to support enhanced access to counsel and reentry for justice-impacted individuals in order to build a fairer justice system
  • Promoting and supporting meaningful voting rights legislation that secures access to the ballot for people of color and prevents racial discrimination through voter ID laws, in order to strengthen U.S. democracy and enhance access to participation
  • Promoting and supporting legislation that prevents racial gerrymandering in the redistricting process to fight targeted, state-level dilution of voting power for people of color
  • Developing rules at the Federal Trade Commission that prevent widespread discriminatory uses of data to protect people of color from harmful data extraction and surveillance practices

2. Creating an economy for all

In its first year, the administration also worked to provide equitable economic relief and build a stronger, more equitable economy, including by taking key steps in the following areas.

Financial and tax systems:

  • Provided vital and equitable stimulus payments and created tools for 26 million nontax-filing individuals to receive payments11 to address economic hardship due to the pandemic
  • Expanded and made the child tax credit refundable to increase the amount of aid per child,12 supporting families and lifting 9 million children above or close to the poverty line
  • Initiated a postal banking pilot program13 to support communities across the country and minimize the reliance on predatory lenders among communities of color

Employment and labor systems:

  • Enhanced pathways for entrepreneurs of color to succeed and for minority-owned small businesses to access capital14 to promote a diverse workforce and address barriers to labor
  • Removed barriers that block Black farmers from accessing federal programs15 to address historical barriers in farming

Opportunity and access systems:

  • Fostered an equitable approach to investments for community highway,16 broadband,17 and transit infrastructure18 to address structural obstacles to economic opportunity for people of color
  • Advanced equitable housing relief in the nation’s homeownership19 and rental20 systems to address the disproportionate impacts of the housing crisis on people of color
  • Provided targeted relief funds to schools, colleges, and early childhood programs that disproportionately serve minority students21 to support fair and equitable access to education

In its second year and beyond, the administration must further tackle the pervasive barriers to economic opportunity entrenched in the nation’s economic systems by:

  • Closing tax loopholes and making permanent vital tax credits, including the expanded child tax credit, to build a fair system of taxation
  • Developing permanent and expansive postal banking and accessible savings opportunities for un- and underbanked people
  • Guaranteeing paid family leave, subsidized child care, and universal preschool programs to foster greater workforce participation and equity
  • Developing and funding equitable workforce development programs that target people of color to address disproportionate job recovery
  • Building housing supply and striking down discriminatory barriers to homeownership to expand opportunities of homeownership and wealth building
  • Reducing costs and barriers to colleges and universities and providing relief to those already facing educational debt, to make higher education more accessible

3. Advancing racial equity in health 

The administration also made significant strides to equitably respond to the pandemic and advance health equity in its first year, including by taking key steps in the following areas.

The pandemic response:

  • Formed a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to equitably allocate resources and relief funds; conduct effective outreach to underserved and minority populations; and improve data collection across race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity22 to center equity in its pandemic response
  • Located federal COVID-19 vaccination sites in vulnerable communities who have disproportionately higher levels of adverse outcomes related to infection23 to reach communities of color and distribute vaccines equitably

Public health systems:

  • Distributed $2.25 billion to states and localities to address health disparities related to COVID-19 among racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities for capacity, improved data collection, including by race and ethnicity, and community partnerships24 to strengthen public health systems
  • Invested $7.4 billion to strengthen the public health workforce and develop an employment pipeline in underserved communities, including funding for state and local health departments to hire diverse and representative staff and educate and train workers25

Health care and coverage:

  • Built upon provisions of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, including increasing coverage subsidies and supporting community-based health centers,26 to expand insurance coverage and care, particularly to low- and medium-income people
  • Increased federal support for Indian Health Service Providers and extended postpartum coverage to new mothers to 12 months to improve access to critical maternal health services and combat racial disparities in maternal mortality27

In its second year and beyond, the administration must further tackle pervasive health inequities and ensure all people can receive the medical care they need by:

  • Investing in pandemic preparedness and surveillance, data capabilities, public health laboratories, community partnerships, and other public health infrastructure to protect against future outbreaks
  • Investing in community resources that center social determinants of health28 to address health inequities
  • Strengthening and supporting federally funded health care systems, including community-based care providers, to meet the needs of people of color
  • Enacting a policy to expand coverage to close the Medicaid coverage gap, which prevents 2.2 million low-income uninsured people in states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act from accessing affordable insurance
  • Increasing access to critical services; enhancing the quality of care provided to pregnant and postpartum people; and providing supports, including home visiting and other community-based services, to families before and after birth in order to improve maternal health in the United States and, specifically, to eliminate racial disparities in maternal health outcomes

4. Tackling climate change and environmental justice

Finally, the administration took important steps to promote environmental justice and a more equitable and sustainable climate in its first year, including key efforts in the following areas.

Government systems:

  • Launched the Justice40 Initiative, which directs 40 percent of the administration’s climate and clean energy investment benefits to disadvantaged communities29 to remedy the high levels of pollution and chronic disinvestment in these communities resulting from discriminatory policies
  • Created the first White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council30 to ensure the voices of environmental justice communities influence federal decision-making

Energy systems:

  • Invested $90 billion in public transit, including a plan to replace diesel and deficient vehicles with lean, zero-emission vehicles,31 to fund pollution-free transportation and emit less greenhouse gasses
  • Created a rule at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandating the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons, which are more harmful than carbon dioxide,32 to end harmful chemical use that contributes to global warming

Communities:

  • Granted the EPA an additional $50 million to monitor pollutants of greatest concern in communities with health outcome disparities and environmental justice concerns33 to protect communities from pollution
  • Invested $15 billion through the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act toward remediating lead pipes in communities and schools, with plans to prioritize underserved communities34 to address lead pipes and harmful contamination

In its second year and beyond, the administration must further tackle pervasive environmental injustices and protect communities and people of color from environmental harm and displacement by:

  • Using emissions and environmental impact data in federal investment criteria to ensure environmentally friendly application of new investments
  • Modernizing investment laws to include key environmental provisions, benchmarks, and community engagement to protect communities from the impacts of new projects
  • Finalizing the public Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and utilizing its data to meet the administration’s Justice40 commitments and maximize benefits
  • Providing rebates and incentives for renewable energy and efficiency to incentivize and speed up adoption of clean pollution-free energy
  • Investing further in environmental justice initiatives, including pollution-free energy, remediation and reduction of legacy pollutants, and transportation to protect communities from harmful toxins
  • Implementing equity standards in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief funds and other federal programs to ensure equitable recovery from natural disasters
  • Including explicit anti-displacement protections in implementation of new investments to keep communities in place to prevent gentrification and displacement due to new infrastructure investments

Conclusion

The Biden administration’s commitment to a whole-of-government approach to advancing equity has provided a unique opportunity to adopt large-scale policy solutions. With these efforts, the administration can help rebuild America’s core democratic institutions, economy, health systems, and climate to be stronger and more equitable for all. Implementing these key policy solutions in the years ahead will be vital to ensuring that all Americans, and the nation overall, can thrive and reach their potential.

Endnotes

  1. The White House, “Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” January 20, 2021, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/20/executive-order-advancing-racial-equity-and-support-for-underserved-communities-through-the-federal-government/.
  2. Claire Rafford, “Justice Department announces ban on no-knock entries, chokeholds,” Politico, September 14, 2021, available at https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/14/justice-department-no-knock-chokeholds-ban-511785.
  3. Sheena Foye and James R. Wyrsch, “DOJ Issues Interim Policy Allowing for Prosecutorial Discretion in Criminal Prosecutions,” American Bar Association, March 22, 2021, available at https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/criminal/practice/2021/doj-issues-interim-policy-allowing-for-prosecutorial-discretion-in-criminal-prosecutions/.
  4. The White House, “Memorandum on Restoring the Department of Justice’s Access-to-Justice Function and Reinvigorating the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable,” May 18, 2021, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/05/18/memorandum-on-restoring-the-department-of-justices-access-to-justice-function-and-reinvigorating-the-white-house-legal-aid-interagency-roundtable/.
  5. The White House, “Fact Sheet: More Details on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investments in Community Violence Interventions,” Press release, April 7, 2021, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/07/fact-sheet-more-details-on-the-biden-harris-administrations-investments-in-community-violence-interventions/.
  6. Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan, “Garland announces expansion of Justice Department’s voting rights unit, vowing to scrutinize GOP-backed voting restrictions and ballot reviews,” The Washington Post, June 11, 2021, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/merrick-garland-voting-rights/2021/06/11/47906eda-cad1-11eb-81b1-34796c7393af_story.html.
  7. The White House, “Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting,” March 7, 2021, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/03/07/executive-order-on-promoting-access-to-voting/.
  8. Ned Price, “United States Joins Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online,” U.S. Department of State, Press release, May 7, 2021, available at https://www.state.gov/united-states-joins-christchurch-call-to-action-to-eliminate-terrorist-and-violent-extremist-content-online/; Zolan Kanno-Youngs, “Homeland Security Will Assess How It Identifies Extremism in Its Ranks,” The New York Times, April 26, 2021, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/26/us/politics/homeland-security-extremism-white-supremacy.html.
  9. National Security Council, “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism” (Washington: 2021), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/National-Strategy-for-Countering-Domestic-Terrorism.pdf.
  10. Eric Lander and Alondra Nelson, “Americans Need a Bill of Rights for an AI-Powered World,” Wired, October 8, 2021, available at https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-bill-of-rights-artificial-intelligence/.
  11. Gabriel Zucker, “Opportunities and limitations of using data to reach non-filers with the CTC,” New America, August 20, 2021, available at https://www.newamerica.org/new-practice-lab/blog/data-and-non-filers/.
  12. Megan A. Curran, “Research Roundup of the Extended Child Tax Credit: The First 6 Months” (New York: Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, 2021), available at https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5743308460b5e922a25a6dc7/t/61c499b72338bb0fb7012b6b/1640274362155/Child-Tax-Credit-Research-Roundup-CPSP-2021.pdf.
  13. Nicole Ndumele, “Opinion: Postal banking would help lift millions out of poverty,” The Virginian-Pilot, October 17, 2021, available at https://www.pilotonline.com/opinion/columns/vp-ed-column-ndumele-1018-20211017-ibjua7wvsfgihbc2rsqqz3gr24-story.html.
  14. S. Department of the Treasury, “Emergency Capital Investment Program: Supporting the Efforts of Low- and Moderate-Income Community Financial Institutions,” available at https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/coronavirus/assistance-for-small-businesses/emergency-capital-investment-program#main-content (last accessed February 2022); U.S. Department of the Treasury Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, “Programs: CDFI Rapid Response Program,” available at https://www.cdfifund.gov/programs-training/programs/rrp (last accessed February 2022); Gabrielle Bienasz, “A Key Piece of the Infrastructure Bill Aims to Help Minority-Owned Businesses,” Inc., November 8, 2021, available at https://www.inc.com/gabrielle-bienasz/infrastructure-bill-minority-business-development-agency-house-codified.html.
  15. S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, “Lenders Can Now Apply for New Heirs’ Property Relending Program,” Press release, August 30, 2021, available at https://www.fsa.usda.gov/news-room/news-releases/2021/lenders-can-now-apply-for-new-heirs-property-relending-program.
  16. National Association of Counties, “Legislative Analysis for Counties: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” available at https://www.naco.org/resources/legislative-analysis-counties-infrastructure-investment-jobs-act (last accessed February 2022).
  17. James K. Willcox, “Infrastructure Law Includes $65 Billion for Improving Internet Access,” Consumer Reports, August 5, 2021, available at https://www.consumerreports.org/internet/infrastructure-bill-includes-65-billion-for-internet-access-a6861027212/.
  18. Pete Buttigieg, “The U.S. Department of Transportation Title VI Program” (Washington: U.S. Department of Transportation, 2021), available at https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/Final-for-OST-C-210312-002-signed.pdf.
  19. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “National Homeownership Month Fact Sheet: Secretary Fudge Prioritizes Access to Homeownership, Sustainability for Existing Homeowners and Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap,” Press release, June 2021, available at https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/nhm_fact_sheet.
  20. U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Homeowner Assistance Fund Guidance” (Washington: 2022), available at https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/HAF-Guidance.pdf; Carl Romer and Andre M. Perry, “As the eviction moratorium ends, we need a long-term solution to housing insecurity,” Brookings Institution, August 2, 2021, available at https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2021/08/02/as-the-eviction-moratorium-ends-we-need-a-long-term-solution-to-housing-insecurity/.
  21. The Education Trust, “The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 – What’s in It for Equity,” March 19, 2021, available at https://edtrust.org/resource/the-american-rescue-plan-act-of-2021-whats-in-it-for-equity/.
  22. The White House, “Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery,” January 21, 2021, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/21/executive-order-ensuring-an-equitable-pandemic-response-and-recovery/.
  23. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “FEMA Supports Community Vaccination Centers,” Press release, March 1, 2021, available at https://www.fema.gov/press-release/20210301/fema-supports-community-vaccination-centers.
  24. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “National Initiative to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities Among Populations at High-Risk and Underserved, Including Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations and Rural Communities,” available at https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/partnerships/COVID-19-Health-Disparities-OT21-2103.html (last accessed February 2022).
  25. The White House, “Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration to Invest $7 Billion from American Rescue Plan to Hire and Train Public Health Workers in Response to COVID-19,” Press release, May 13, 2021, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/05/13/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-to-invest-7-billion-from-american-rescue-plan-to-hire-and-train-public-health-workers-in-response-to-covid-19/.
  26. Amy Simmons, “American Rescue Plan Provides Resources to Health Centers Fighting COVID-19,” National Association of Community Health Centers, March 10, 2021, available at https://www.nachc.org/american-rescue-plan-provides-resources-to-health-centers-fighting-covid-19/.
  27. Emily E. Petersen and others, “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy-Related Deaths—United States, 2007–2016” (Washington: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019), available at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/pdfs/mm6835a3-H.pdf.
  28. Marquisha Johns, “Maximizing Federal Investments To Address Social Determinants of Health” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2022), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/maximizing-federal-investments-to-address-social-determinants-of-health/.
  29. Cathleen Kelly and Mikyla Reta, “Implementing Biden’s Justice40 Commitment To Combat Environmental Racism” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2021), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/implementing-bidens-justice40-commitment-combat-environmental-racism/.
  30. The White House, “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” January 27, 2021, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/.
  31. National Association of Counties, “Legislative Analysis for Counties: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Act.”
  32. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Phasedown of Hydrofluorocarbons: Establishing the Allowance Allocation and Trading Program Under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act,” Federal Register 86 (190) (2021): 55116–55222, available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/10/05/2021-21030/phasedown-of-hydrofluorocarbons-establishing-the-allowance-allocation-and-trading-program-under-the.
  33. S. Environmental Protection Agency, “EPA Announces an Additional $50 Million Under the American Rescue Plan to Enhance Air Pollution Monitoring,” Press release, July 7, 2021, available at https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-announces-additional-50-million-under-american-rescue-plan-enhance-air-pollution.
  34. Shepard Price, “White House announces plan to replace all lead water pipes in nation,” Huron Daily Tribune, December 17, 2021, available at https://www.michigansthumb.com/news/article/White-House-announces-plan-to-replace-all-lead-16710469.php.

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Authors

Lorena Roque

Senior Policy Analyst

Justin Dorazio

Research Associate

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