Partnerships have helped heal, unite, and rebuild, with expanded collaborations expected in the year ahead
A year ago today, President Biden signed an executive order reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and urged the Office to “work with leaders of different faiths and backgrounds who are the frontlines of their communities in crisis and who can help us heal, unite, and rebuild.” In keeping with its proud bipartisan tradition, the Office’s mission is to promote partnerships to serve people in need by working with interested religious and secular leaders and organizations.
To advance this mission, the White House Office has worked closely with agency Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Agriculture (USDA), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Education (ED); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); and the Small Business Administration (SBA); as well as staff at AmeriCorps, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Treasury (UST) and Commerce (DOC). In turn, this team has partnered with faith and community leaders across the nation and around the world.
Our country has made great progress thanks to neighborhood partnerships and compassionate leaders of all faiths and beliefs, whether it was hosting vaccination clinics, preventing evictions, helping to ensure that children get back to school and workers get jobs, or countless other acts of service. The Biden-Harris Administration is also working tirelessly to advance policies promoting religious equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility and protecting the fundamental right to practice faith without fear, especially in light of the troubling rise of antisemitic, xenophobic, and bigoted attacks against people of faith—targeting synagogues, predominantly Black churches, and Muslim and Sikh communities, among other communities. In addition, the Administration has prioritized the cultivation of a spirit of welcome for people of all religious, political, and ideological stripes; a commitment to treating everyone with equal respect and dignity; and the hard but essential work of building bridges across differences in background and beliefs.
Administration achievements that advance these partnerships and policies include:
Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic and Boosting Economic Recovery
- Strongly advocated for collaborations between the government and faith and community organizations to convey the facts about the COVID-19 virus and the vaccine and widely promoted guidance for faith and community leaders on how to organize vaccination clinics.
- Encouraged greater faith and community involvement in vaccinations through visits by President Biden and the First Lady to pop-up vaccination clinics in houses of worship.
- Enlisted diverse faith and community leaders as founding members of COVID Community Corps, the group committed to taking action to encourage their families, friends, and members of their communities to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Faith and community partners account for close to a third of all founding Corps members.
- Identified, scheduled, coordinated, and monitored volunteers as they facilitated more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the nation.
- Worked with faith and community groups to publicize COVIDtests.gov and distributed millions of face coverings to community and faith-based partners in line with the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) COVID-19 prevention recommendations.
- Produced and promoted videos to address vaccine concerns featuring faith and community leaders, including “Trusted Voices on COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance: Reverend Walter Kim,” and Facebook Live with My Halal Kitchen by Yvonne Maffei.
- Promoted the adoption of best practices on COVID-19 through webinars such as The Impact of Federal, Faith and Community Partnership on the Frontlines of COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution.
- Met with faith-based and community partners to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on students’ social, emotional, and academic needs.
- Provided weekly updates for faith and community leaders on vaccine safety and COVID-19 variants; how to host vaccination clinics and promote vaccination in communities; and on COVID-19 treatment and calls for plasma donations.
- Conducted more than a dozen trainings for hundreds of faith-based and community-based organizations on the Child Tax Credit, and connected congregations and nonprofits around the country with multilingual toolkits and resources to help members of their communities access this tax credit and other American Rescue Plan relief programs.
- Helped prevent evictions by increasing awareness of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) among faith and community leaders across the nation, including outreach commitments from more than 250 faith and community partners representing reach to more than 5 million people. Also encouraged more than 850 faith and community leaders to make sure landlords in their communities know how to connect renters to supports available through ERAP and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Increasing Opportunity and Mobility for Historically Disadvantaged Communities and Combatting Systematic Racism
- As part of its equity focus, AmeriCorps awarded grants to support projects aimed at removing structural racial inequities, advancing racial equality, and increasing economic opportunity in order to achieve sustainable change in communities.
- Deployed to several disasters, including Hurricane Ida and the Kentucky tornadoes, to help facilitate response and recovery efforts. This included engaging underrepresented communities and amplifying FEMA’s policy to advance equity for disaster survivors, which includes improving access to disaster assistance for underserved communities.
- Led efforts to bolster engagement in the COVID-19 National Action Month, including with a national collaboration with the Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) through HBCU COVID-19 Awareness and Resilience Day, which spurred more than 30 HBCUs to take action.
- Augmented outreach to communities of color by inviting a diverse array of faith and community-based organizations to be included in the U.S. Food Systems Dialogues hosted by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
- In partnership with the President’s Interagency Task Force, Senior Policy Operating Group on Public Awareness and Outreach on Trafficking in Persons and Blue Campaign, invited more than 3,500 faith-based and community organizations to get involved in combating human trafficking, including by adopting practices highlighted in the Blue Campaign faith-based and community toolkit. Engagements included recommendations on Addressing Racial Equity in Communities Vulnerable to Human Trafficking.
- Reconvened the Small Business Administration’s Council on Underserved Communities and worked with its field offices, stakeholders, and others to host webinars for faith and community leaders on COVID-EIDL, EIDL Targeted Advance, and EIDL Supplemental Grants.
- In coordination with Operation Allies Welcome, launched a webinar series for faith and community leaders on supporting the resettlement of Afghan allies in the United States.
- Assisted with implementation of a comprehensive strategy for the improvement of Colonias communities, which are substandard housing areas that lack basic services such as potable water, electricity, paved roads, proper drainage, and waste management.
- Hosted a series of calls, roundtables, and workshops on nutrition security to increase the capacity of faith and community-based organizations in this area. These events have also addressed the intersections of food security and equity; conservation; rural food insecurity; emergency feeding and supply chain resilience; urban and community agriculture; access to nutrition benefits; as well as climate-smart agriculture and forestry.
- Conducted over 34 nationwide webinars for faith and community leaders on serving and honoring veterans, including 14 veteran suicide-prevention webinars and a webinar focusing on the needs of LGBTQI+ individuals and communities. In this and related work, consistently focused on outreach to a diverse range of communities.
- Engaged faith-based and community organization leaders about their eligibility to apply for and participate in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program.
- Coordinated multiple events on COVID-19 in Spanish for Spanish-speaking audiences.
Strengthening Pluralism and Protecting the Right to Practice Faith Without Fear
- Provided technical assistance to more than 7,000 faith-based and community leaders on taking action to protect places of worship, including by providing information on the Non-Profit Security Grant Program and the Mitigating Attacks on Places of Worship. Engagements included elevating featured multi-faith voices and recommendations for “Preventing Targeted Violence and Protecting the Safety and Security of Houses of Worship through Faith and Community Based Approaches in the US and in Europe.”
- Implemented a major funding increase for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which makes funding available to threatened nonprofits, including houses of worship and other religious affiliated entities, to improve their safety and security.
- Established the Protecting Places of Worship Interagency Policy Committee to address increased threats and acts of violence against houses of worship.
- Strengthened the federal workforce with President Biden’s executive order promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, including on the basis of religion.
- President Biden raised the refugee ceiling from historic lows to 125,000 for FY 2022 and expanded the categories of those eligible to participate in the program, enabling many more persecuted people, including people persecuted because of their faith and beliefs, to find a home here in the United States.
- Demonstrated commitment to advancing religious freedom around the globe with President Biden’s nomination of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain, who was overwhelmingly confirmed by the United States Senate, and with diverse appointments to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. President Biden also nominated Professor Deborah Lipstadt, a renowned scholar of the Holocaust and antisemitism, to serve as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism with the Rank of Ambassador.
- Marked holidays celebrated by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and other communities, including hosting the first-ever virtual Passover, Easter, and Eid White House events that were open to the public and included the participation of both the President and First Lady.
- Held the first naturalization ceremony in honor of National Religious Freedom Day.
Advancing Global Development and Humanitarian Work
- Partnered with Faiths4Vaccines, an inclusive, multifaith movement composed of local, national and international religious leaders and medical professionals working on COVID-19 response, to launch a Year of Action to drive demand for vaccination, overcome access and distribution barriers, and build long-term sustainable solutions to ensure that the most vulnerable, marginalized, and hard-to-reach populations have equal access to the vaccine.
- Updated religious-engagement training curriculum for USAID and State Department foreign service officers and reconstituted the Strategic Religious Engagement and International Religious Freedom Sector Council within USAID, creating communities of practice in Washington, D.C., as well as in USAID missions around the world.
- Engaged leaders globally, including through meetings in Rome, Berlin, Bologna, Honduras and Guatemala, to strengthen faith-based engagement at USAID and demonstrate the administration’s recommitment to multilateral engagement.
- Launched USAID’s Centroamérica Local initiative which will support locally-led actors, including faith-based and indigenous organizations, to address drivers of irregular migration through a $300 million regional investment in aid localization, with $100 million in Guatemala over the next five years.
- Worked with the journal Review of Faith & International Affairs to publish a special edition representing the first-ever compilation of peer-reviewed evidence in the growing academic field of religion in development. This publication lays the groundwork for future research on the role of faith-based engagement in global development.
- Continued relationships with Global Religious Communities via HUD’s Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation (OIPI). OIPI advances HUD’s strategic priorities and policy and collaborates with international non-governmental organizations, foreign government agencies, and domestic and international foundations.
Working with Faith and Community Groups to Protect Our Environment
- Prepared to implement a new program that will help nonprofits and religious institutions upgrade churches, synagogues, mosques, and community centers to become more energy efficient, advance climate solutions, and save money.
- The Detroit 2030 District used ENERGY STAR tools, training, and tech support over nine months in 2021 to help inner-city congregations reduce utility costs and carbon emissions, and also promote economic and environmental justice in the community. EPA plans to leverage this success with 22 additional 2030 Districts across the country.
- Presented an EPA Resources for the Faith Community webinar in August 2021, explaining ten major programs and additional resources of value to worship facilities.