US assesses COVID stimulus package equity; NZ unveils vaccine tech platform; and Canada introduces gun control law: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 02/06/2022 | Updated on 02/06/2022
A nurse wearing a face mask waits to make an order outside a small business in New York.
The White House says the American Rescue Plan has helped to improve equity in part by helping small businesses through the pandemic. Photo by Laura James via Pexels

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American Rescue Plan successful in enhancing equity but more needs to be done, says White House

The Biden administration has published a report detailing how the American Rescue Plan – the country’s US$1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus package – has advanced equity, and the lessons for ensuring progress continues throughout the recovery and beyond.

The relief package was signed into law by president Joe Biden in March 2021, and became central to the federal government’s aim of delivering equity across the US through better support for traditionally underserved businesses and communities.

The 300-page interim report from the American Rescue Plan Implementation Team and the Domestic Policy Council focuses on 32 programmes delivered through the package, which represents about 60% of the budgeted funds. It details how implementation of the plan has worked to improve equity through, for example, decreasing unemployment among people of colour; helping small businesses; reducing child poverty and health disparities; and investing in Tribal communities. 

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

The report includes a learning agenda, “which is intended to formulate questions that agencies are attempting to address through rigorous data analysis and collection and experimental design,” a senior White House official said, as reported by Government Executive.

“We put this report out now not to say we’re done or mission accomplished, but the opposite: to continue the process of sharing information, hearing what is working, but also hearing what isn’t working,” the official added.

New Zealand allocates NZ$40m to RNA platform to improve health crisis response

The Government of New Zealand has put NZ$40m (US$26m) of its 2022 Budget towards building an ribonucleic acid (RNA) technology development platform, with the aim to better prepare the country for future public health crises.

RNA technology is used to create COVID-19 vaccines and other modern inoculations. It uses a copy of a certain molecule to produce an immune response.

The new platform seeks to forge international RNA research and development collaborations, as well as commercial partnerships.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is expected to agree a set of high-level delivery priorities with ministers. It is also tasked with identifying a host to manage the platform, which will be decided through an open procurement process.

It is hoped that the new platform will create high-value jobs, support clinical testing, and foster connections between domestic and overseas institutions in the field.

Canada to implement tougher gun control laws

The Canadian federal government has introduced legislation that would freeze the buying, selling, and importing of handguns across the country.

The new regulations, which are expected to be enacted in the autumn, come in the wake of two mass shootings in the US last month in which a total of 19 children and 12 adults were killed in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.

Canada already had plans to ban 1,500 types of military-style firearms and offer a mandatory buyback programme that will begin at the end of the year.  

Bill Blair, minister of emergency preparedness said that “in Canada, gun ownership is a privilege not a right”.

The government plans to tackle the smuggling of guns into Canada by increasing criminal penalties, providing more tools to investigate firearms crimes, and strengthening border measures, including through increased funding.

Malta fosters ambition to be ‘best possible environment’ for AI with six new government projects

The Maltese government plans to launch six new artificial intelligence (AI) projects to improve citizen services and further its aim of becoming a major development and testing hub for local and foreign firms specialising in the technology.

The projects will cover transportation, energy, health, education, tourism, and online government services, and will receive €4.1m (US$4.4m) in funding through the Malta Digital Innovation Authority.

Silvio Schembri, the country’s minister for the economy, European funds and lands, said that Malta’s National Artificial Intelligence Strategy will be the focal point of its efforts to provide ideal conditions for innovation in the field, adding that this was “just the beginning” for the island nation.

“Malta aspires to become a hub of artificial intelligence implementation. The ambition is… to provide the best possible environment for this technology to flourish,” he said. “In the coming months and years, artificial intelligence will be increasingly used in our daily lives, and Malta should be the leader of such ideas and developments.”

Read more: Malta fosters ambition to be ‘best possible environment’ for AI with six new government projects

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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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