Two years ago this week, President Biden signed an executive order reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (the “Partnerships Office”). The mission of this office is to serve people in need by collaborating with interested faith-based and community organizations. The Partnerships Office is an essential part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to bring people of all backgrounds and beliefs together to meet our challenges, build a more perfect union, and restore the soul of our country.
The Partnerships Office works with agency Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (“agency Centers”) at the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs; the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Small Business Administration; and staff at AmeriCorps, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Transportation. Over the past year, this team has collaborated with a wide range of faith-based and neighborhood organizations to advance shared priorities such as safeguarding the right to practice faith without fear; expanding opportunity, especially for disadvantaged or underserved communities; responding to disasters; helping people struggling with mental health and substance use problems; improving maternal and child health; addressing hunger and nutrition; welcoming refugees; protecting the environment; and assisting with preparedness, response, and recovery from COVID-19.
Administration achievements that promote these priorities include:
Safeguarding the right to practice faith without fear and other aspects of religious freedom
- Hosted the first-ever White House United We Stand Summit on countering hate-motivated violence, including attacks on houses of worship, in September 2022. Faith and community leaders played prominent roles at this event, including by leading the program’s opening moment of silence, serving as panelists and moderators at the event, receiving honors for their bridge-building work across the country, and launching new bridge-building efforts. For example, Interfaith America, the YMCA, and Habitat for Humanity, launched A Nation of Bridge Builders, a new partnership that is training 10,000 Americans to be bridge builders in their neighborhoods and hosting over 1,000 bridge-building events in over 300 communities.
- On December 12, 2022, President Biden announced the establishment of a new interagency policy committee (IPC), led by Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council staff, to increase and better coordinate our efforts to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination and bias in our country. As its first order of business, the President directed the IPC to develop a national strategy to counter antisemitism. Earlier in December 2022, Second Gentleman of the United States Douglas Emhoff, Ambassador Susan Rice, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt held a roundtable meeting with diverse Jewish stakeholders on the alarming spike in antisemitism in the United States.
- Through the Protecting Places of Worship Interagency Policy Committee (IPC), coordinated efforts to support the safety and security of places of worship. On the tenth anniversary of the heinous attack on the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the IPC announced an initial set of steps to protect places of worship and congregants, and IPC leaders participated in memorial events at the Sikh Temple. Under the IPC’s leadership, products such as the Threats Against Houses of Worship Highlight the Importance of Religious Community Outreach were updated, the first Protecting Places of Worship Week of Action was held, and a network promoting peer-to peer learning for faith leaders launched.
- In fiscal year 2022, implemented a nearly 40% increase in funding – from $180 million to $250 million – in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which provides support for increasing the physical security of nonprofit organizations, including houses of worship and other religious affiliated entities. In his fiscal year 2023 budget proposal, President Biden called for $360 million for this key program. The omnibus spending package for fiscal year 2023 funded this program at $304 million.
- Reestablished the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council (FBSAC), which provides organizationally independent and actionable advice to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The FBSAC offers advice and recommendations to the DHS Secretary on matters related to protecting houses of worship, preparedness, and enhanced coordination with the faith community.
- Provided technical assistance to more than 10,000 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 sharing the Mitigating Attacks on Places of Worship publication. Included diverse faith leaders and their recommendations in engagements and publications such as: Security Resources for Protecting Places of Worship, Building Partnerships that Promote Safety and Security for Places of Worship and Community Spaces, and 5 Ways to Improve the Safety and Security of Your Place of Worship or Community Spaces.
- Further advanced President Biden’s call for religious freedom and equity for all by proposing a new rule to restore religious liberty protections for beneficiaries of federally funded social services, such as job training and job search assistance, academic enrichment opportunities, and housing services.
- Protected places sacred to Tribal Nations and their citizens, including the President’s designation of the Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument; the restoration of protections to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments; and an interagency Sacred Sites Memorandum of Understanding that creates a framework through which agencies can better protect Tribal sacred sites.
- Hosted the second annual naturalization ceremony to mark Religious Freedom Day in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus. Second Gentleman Emhoff provided welcoming remarks; 15 individuals became our newest citizens; and Melissa Rogers, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, offered keynote remarks. Also, the Rev. Eugene Cho received the Outstanding American by Choice Award.
- Held listening sessions with Muslim, Jewish, and other faith-based, civil rights, and educational organizations on concerns related to antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination and bias. Promoted a new Fact Sheet: Protecting Students from Discrimination Based on Shared Ancestry or Ethnic Characteristics, which describes ways this protection covers students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, or of another religious group. Also hosted a webinar on how pre-K-12 schools can prevent and address bullying against students because of their actual or perceived religious affiliation.
- Supported the launch of the Thriving Communities Program, a program aimed at ensuring that disadvantaged communities have the technical tools and organizational capacity to compete for federal aid and deliver quality infrastructure projects that enable neighborhoods to thrive. As part of this program, direct support is provided to governmental, non-profit, philanthropic, neighborhood and faith-based organizations to collectively plan for, design, and deliver community-driven transportation projects. Philanthropic and community partnerships have been invited to leverage these federal investments. Also shared a guide on Promising Practices for Meaningful Public Involvement in Transportation Decision-Making to help recipients of federal funding improve their ability to involve communities in making decisions about transportation.
- Partnered with faith and community leaders to enroll people in eligible households in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP helps ensure that eligible households can afford the high-speed internet and devices they need for work, school, healthcare, and more.
- Fostered partnerships among businesses, community-based organizations, and faith leaders through roundtables in all 50 states to promote job creation, economic growth, and equity at the local level. Lists of Department of Commerce programs and services relevant to communities’ needs were shared at these roundtables, including information on small business loans, export promotion assistance, climate resilience support, and increased community access to data and technology.
- In response to President Biden’s Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, AmeriCorps issued its civil rights and non-harassment policy, which affirms equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity protections for AmeriCorps staff, AmeriCorps members, and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers.
- Met with over 150 faith-based and community organizations seeking to partner with USAID and encouraged utilization of WorkwithUSAID.org, a free resource hub that provides the knowledge and networks for organizations to collaborate with the agency. The website is designed for new partners, existing partners, and USAID staff around the world.
- Conducted capacity-building and grant-writing trainings for faith-based and neighborhood organizations in cities such Tallahassee, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; and Detroit, Michigan.
Responding to disasters
- In the wake of heinous attacks such as the racist massacre at Tops supermarket in East Buffalo, New York, and the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, mobilized key federal resources and other supports for these and other communities in crisis. Staff traveled to Buffalo, Uvalde, and other communities to work with local faith and neighborhood leaders on responding to needs and developed guides to relevant federal resources for these leaders. In the summer of 2022, organized a Day of Hope and Healing in partnership with Buffalo schools and faith and community leaders, offering over 1,000 residents access to resources such as school supplies, nutritious food, mental and behavioral health resources, assistance for substance use disorders, and COVID-19 vaccinations. Also shared other key resources with affected communities, including the Resource Guide for LGBTQ+ Organizations and Service Providers in the wake of the tragedy at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a fact sheet with resources for Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders communities in the aftermath of mass violence, including the despicable attacks in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California.
- Teams from the DHS Center and AmeriCorps deployed to facilitate response and recovery efforts for communities impacted by Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Fiona. They engaged underrepresented communities and amplified best practices to help houses of worship apply for FEMA’s Public Assistance.
- Led efforts to bolster engagement for National Preparedness Month, including through a national collaboration with the Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Emergency Management Workforce Consortium and the first-ever national launch of a National Preparedness Month Public Service Announcement with a Historical Black College and University.
- Hosted a webinar for faith and community leaders on preventing human trafficking in disasters and updated resources for such leaders on combating human trafficking, including the Faith-Based Community Leaders Awareness Guide in English and Spanish.
Helping people struggling with mental health and substance use problems and preventing suicide
- Trained 45,000 faith and community leaders on the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and on emergency mental health services. Created a Youth Mental Health Toolkit, developed and shared a PSA featuring African American clergy, which features lived experience with mental illness and suicide. Updated the Practical Toolkit for Preventing Drug Overdose and Supporting Recovery in Faith and Community Settings and translated the toolkit into Spanish.
- Hosted fourteen suicide prevention webinars for faith-based and community organizations that focused on the Department of Veteran’s Affairs S.A.V.E. training. Also shared information regarding the new benefits available for toxic-exposed veterans in the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.
- Provided technical assistance during Mental Health Awareness Month to thousands of faith and community leaders from rural and underserved communities on the resources available to address behavioral health, farm stress, and prevent suicide. The national convening, Sustainable Livelihoods and Behavioral Health: Strategies and Partnerships to Address Farm Stress and Suicide, provided information about the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network program as well as about the 988 hotline.
Improving maternal and child health and addressing hunger and nutrition
- Held three regional events in Philadelphia, Houston, and New York City to highlight ways faith and community leaders can get involved in addressing concerns about maternal and child health. Before, during, and after childbirth, women in our country are dying at a higher rate from pregnancy-related causes than in any other developed nation. That problem is particularly pronounced for many women from Black, Native, and rural communities.
- Hosted a series of webinars on workplace protections for new and expecting mothers. Workers, worker advocates, employers, and other stakeholders were provided with information on federal laws that protect pregnant workers from discrimination, provide time off for the birth or adoption of a child, and ensure nursing workers can take breaks to pump breast milk while at work.
- Included community and faith-based organizations in the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 50 years and in the development and implementation of the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Feedback from these stakeholders has assisted in informing new school meal investments, food package rules for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program, and expanding nutrition services in Medicare and Medicaid, all of which will provide robust food and nutrition security outcomes for children and families across the country.
- Moved to make kosher and halal foods more available to nutrition assistance customers, including by engaging with faith institutions, food banks, and other external stakeholders. Published a Federal Register Notice seeking input addressing the barriers faced by small and disadvantaged businesses, including businesses selling kosher and halal foods, and worked with USDA’s Commodity Procurement Program to ensure that such businesses could become approved vendors, which would increase kosher and halal products in National Nutrition Programs.
Welcoming refugees, including Ukrainians and Afghan allies, and new Americans
- Supported the launch of the Welcome Corps by connecting faith and community leaders with this new service opportunity for Americans to welcome refugees seeking freedom and safety and, in turn, make a difference in their own communities. Together, sponsor groups welcome refugee newcomers by securing and preparing initial housing, greeting refugee newcomers at the airport, enrolling children in school, and helping adults find employment.
- In coordination with Operation Allies Welcome, continued a webinar series for faith and neighborhood organizations on supporting the resettlement of Afghan allies in the United States. Hosted webinars focusing on partnerships with local education agencies in resettlement efforts and helping Afghan allies participate in business development. Also, AmeriCorps NCCC has worked with local partners to support nineteen projects in ten states that help Afghan families resettle in the United States. Teams have assisted more than 6,500 Afghan allies at mass care facilities and sorted through more than 122,000 pounds of donations. Those interested in supporting the resettlement of Afghan allies can go to Welcome.us to learn more about how to get involved.
- Partnered with community and faith leaders in support of Uniting for Ukraine, an innovative approach to provide a safe and orderly process for displaced Ukrainians who have been impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to come to the United States with the support of a sponsor. Also, President Biden sent Easter greetings to Ukrainian American Christians, giving thanks for the extraordinary unity and resolve we are seeing around the world in support of Ukrainians and promising to continue to stand with the people of a free and democratic Ukraine.
- Connected leaders of secular and religious nonprofit organizations with the Task Force on New Americans, a body that coordinates the federal government’s efforts to ensure that lawfully present immigrants, including refugees, receive the support they need to fully participate in and contribute to our country and their communities. The Task Force is working to catalyze state and local integration and inclusion efforts and continues to engage with diverse stakeholders to develop a welcoming and integration action plan for the President.
Protecting the environment
- Expanded efforts to integrate climate change adaptation, mitigation, and resilience across AmeriCorps programming. Efforts support community-based organizations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve lands and waters, and adapt to the changing climate. This expansion builds on 2021 efforts, where 16,000 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Senior volunteers improved more than 400,000 acres of parks and public lands; treated more than 14,500 miles of trails or rivers; weatherized or retrofitted more than 7,000 homes or public structures; protected or restored nearly 1,000 structures after natural disasters; and provided environmental stewardship education and training to more than 200,000 Americans.
- Made it easier and more efficient for congregations to reduce pollution, including by launching a new webpage featuring 18 EPA programs with tools and resources for congregations, updating the ENERGY STAR Action Workbook for Congregations, and facilitating webinars with nonprofit partners on Inflation Reduction Act-funded grants through the Efficiency Materials Pilot Program for Nonprofits.
- Convened over 400 faith and community leaders to foster dialogue and partnerships on climate smart agriculture, climate smart commodities, and ways to help historically underserved communities.
Promoting protection and recovery from COVID-19
- As part of a “Year of Action” working with civil society on COVID-19 response efforts, USAID awarded $1.5 million in technical support and capacity-strengthening services to three USAID Missions to implement activities that engage and strengthen the capacity of local faith-based and community organizations to assist in COVID-19 response.
- Connected faith and community-based organizations with two Biden-Harris Administration initiatives to promote academic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis: The National Partnership for Student Success (a public-private partnership with AmeriCorps and the Department of Education) to recruit, screen, train, support, and engage an additional 250,000 caring adults in roles serving as tutors, mentors, student success coaches, wraparound service coordinators, and post-secondary transition coaches; and the Engage Every Student Initiative, which is working to ensure that every student who wants a spot in a high-quality out-of-school-time program has one.
- In spring 2022, Public Health AmeriCorps invested in 82 programs across the country to support COVID-19 pandemic recovery and meet the public health needs of local communities. As of January 2023, more than 1,100 Public Health AmeriCorps members are providing much-needed capacity and support in local public health settings and advancing more equitable health outcomes for historically and currently underserved communities. AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers provided COVID-19 pandemic related assistance to more than 12.3 million Americans, supporting vaccination, contact tracing, testing, and wellness checks, among other public health services. In addition, these programs assisted food banks and meal-delivery programs and helped students stay on track through services such as virtual teaching, tutoring, and mentoring.
- Over the last year, AmeriCorps has invested in thousands of nonprofit, faith, and community-based organizations across the nation addressing COVID-19 pandemic response, economic opportunity, and environmental conservation, among other critical needs. This includes a $580 million investment through the AmeriCorps State and National program, the largest investment in agency history supported by AmeriCorps’ historic $1 billion American Rescue Plan investment from the Biden-Harris Administration.