US Federal Agencies Release First-Ever Plans to Strengthen Equity and Inclusion

By Jack Aldane on 04/21/2022 | Updated on 04/21/2022

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing agencies to conduct equity assessments of their top three to five high-impact citizen services

More than 90 departments and agencies released a set of 300 actions designed to help the US federal government better serve marginalized groups.

The strategies, released last week, aim to support people of color, 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 his first day in office, which directed agencies to conduct fairness assessments of their top three to five high-impact services for Americans.

A senior administration official said 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 complete picture of what it looks like for the entire federal government to advance equity at once,” they added.

The action plans outline how the agencies “will integrate equity into day-to-day governance,” the White House said, including through approaches to data collection, service improvements and access to grants.

The White House conceded that while federal funding in the form of grants can have a positive impact on areas ranging from medical research and infrastructure to public housing and disaster relief, “persistent obstacles make it difficult for underfunded and underserved communities to compete and effectively deploy these funds.”

Examples of equity actions include plans by the Department of Health and Human Services to help people with limited English access to federal health programs and the General Services Administration undertaking an impact evaluation of its vast real estate portfolio on the communities.

OPM Aims to Improve Federal Hiring Process

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

Read more: US government releases measures for workforce reforms – and names officials responsible for them

As part of its strategy, the OPM seeks to invest in data to identify barriers to the federal hiring process. The agency said it wanted to make job applicant data more useful in evaluating the effectiveness of the hiring protocol. This data could help explain why dropout 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 disadvantaged communities; and make it easier for federal employees to use the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program so they can choose the health insurance plan that’s right for them.

Resources for early and mid-career financial planning are often limited or non-existent,” he writes. “[We] examine how key early and mid-career decisions can improve the wealth-building trajectory and work with benefits officers across government to review existing agency financial education plans and government-specific financial education.

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

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