US federal agencies publish first-ever plans to enhance equity and inclusion

By on 21/04/2022 | Updated on 22/04/2022
Joe Biden at his desk in the Oval Office poses for a photo with his team
US president Joe Biden signed an executive order in which he instructed agencies to carry out equity assessments of their top three to five high-impact citizen services

More than 90 departments and agencies have published a combined 300 actions designed to help the US federal government better serve marginalised groups.

The strategies, released last week, aim to support people of colour, women, LGBTQ+ communities, people with disabilities, tribes, and rural and low income communities.

The move follows an executive order signed by president Joe Biden on the first day his administration took office, which instructed agencies to carry out equity assessments of their top three to five high-impact services for Americans.

A senior administration official said that the plans “demonstrate what it means to take a whole-of-government approach to advancing equity”, as reported by Government Executive.

“For the first time Americans will see a full picture of what it looks like for the entire federal government to advance equity at once,” they added.

The action plans explain how agencies will “embed equity in day-to-day governing”, the White House said, including through approaches to data gathering, service improvement, and grant access.

The White House conceded that though federal funding in the form of grants can have a positive impact on fields from medical research and infrastructure to public housing and disaster assistance, “persistent barriers make it difficult for under-resourced and underserved communities to compete for and effectively deploy such funds”.

Examples of the equity actions include the Health and Human Services Department’s plans to help those with limited English access federal health programmes and the General Services Administration undertaking an assessment of how its large real estate portfolio impacts communities.

OPM aims to improve federal hiring process

In its action plan summary, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – the federal government’s HR agency – wrote that its policies and practices “influence the composition, compensation and work experiences of the federal workforce”, and that “advancing equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility are fundamental to delivering on OPM’s mission to build and support a federal workforce that represents and delivers for America”.

Read more: US government publishes metrics for workforce reforms – and names officials responsible for them

As part of its strategy, the OPM is seeking to invest in data to identify barriers in the federal hiring process. The agency said it wanted to make data on job applicants more useful in assessing the effectiveness of hiring protocol. Such data could help explain why drop-off patterns occur and how these can be reduced, for example.

The agency’s plans also include two education initiatives: improving financial literacy among young federal employees from underprivileged communities; and making it easier for federal employees to use the Federal Employee Health Benefits Programme so that they choose the health insurance plan best suited to them.

“Resources for early and midcareer financial planning are often limited or non-existent,” it wrote. “[We] will examine how key decisions in early and midcareer can improve the trajectory of wealth building and will work with benefits officers across government to examine existing agency financial education plans and specific government financial education programmes.”

Read more: Biden to ‘address use of salary history’ in pay deals to tackle inequality

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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