Several Biden administration officials met Thursday to discuss steps they are taking to advance racial equity in the government, saying the moves 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,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo 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.”
President Biden didn’t take part in the event at the White House but did release a video statement before it started.
In his remarks, Mr. Biden said the initiative will remove barriers to inequity but acknowledged there is more work that needs 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.”
Thursday’s event came just hours after the Biden administration unveiled hundreds of strategies among more than 90 agencies aimed at addressing what it says is racial and gender equality in the federal government.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris knew, like so many of us, that it was past time for us to live up to the ideal of equal opportunity at the core of American democracy,” said White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice.
The Justice Department will offer more language-accessible programs to help individuals with limited English proficiency better report crimes and access its services.
The Transportation Department will increase its investments in underserved communities to reduce barriers to accessing public transportation.
And the Department of Defense will partner with historically Black colleges and universities to reduce bias in algorithms in its computer programs.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, said her agency “hasn’t always used the lens of equity” when making policy decisions. She said that has contributed to the “marginalization” of color and poor communities.
Ms. Haaland said her agency is working to improve racial communities’ access to federal parks and green spaces. She noted that most of the U.S.’ most prominent federal parks are away from urban centers and not accessible to people of color.
To address that issue, she said the Interior Department will offer free or low-cost experiences to bring the outdoors to urban communities. Ms. Haaland also said her agency is working with the Transportation Department to increase public transit to federal parks.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said his agency is expanding grant programs to make them more accessible to underserved communities. He also said the Agriculture Department will use its procurement power to contract with minority-owned businesses.
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.