The Biden administration wants to know its blindspots and biases in operating federal programs.
The White House is asking for public input to help federal agencies better advance equity and deliver for underserved communities as part of the Biden administration’s initiative to overhaul government services to root out discrimination.
The Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday solicited advice to better ensure agency programs are serving groups based specifically on race, sexual orientation and identity, religion, disabilities and others affected by inequality. It issued a request for information seeking input from the public sector, private sector, advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations and philanthropists. The effort will boost communication between federal agencies and community and civil rights groups, OMB said.
The RFI followed an executive order Biden issued his first week in office to launch a governmentwide effort to advance racial equity. Agencies will provide preliminary assessments of their current efforts and shortcomings related to equity in August and full plans to improve their delivery of services in January.
The public input OMB requested will inform agencies as they assess the state of equity in their operations and develop their action plans. OMB asked for input related to five main topics. Groups were asked to provide input on how agency policies advance equity, which the White House said could lead to a restructuring of the budgeting and regulatory process. It is looking to local governments for their best practices and to the general public for suggestions to improve data collection, trainings and other efforts.
Agencies will also seek to reduce barriers to the services they provide, and OMB is asking how work hours, childcare, transportation, literacy and stigmas related to those services may impede citizens from accessing them. OMB asked what requirements, documents and overly complex eligibility formulas might inhibit equitable access to services, as well as for advice on balancing program integrity and resource constraints with addressing deeply rooted discrimination.
The White House is looking to boost equity in federal procurement and contracting, noting agencies make $650 billion in purchases annually. It asked what specific benchmarks agencies should use to ensure those dollars—including a recent deluge of COVID-19 relief funds—go toward underserved communities. It is also looking to overhaul federal grant programs to ensure fair access to those funds. The RFI requested strategies for maintaining engagement with underserved communities, including how to better include input from groups that cannot travel to Washington.
The solicitation marked a significant rhetorical shift from the Trump administration’s approach to equity within the government, which included banning federal agencies and contractors from engaging in diversity and inclusion training. Biden’s order to boost equity in agency operations also revoked that initiative. The president has identified advancing racial equity as one of the key pillars of his administration and has talked frequently about how his key initiatives would do so.
Respondents must make their submissions to OMB by July 6.