Ambassador Susan Rice Remarks at Virtual National Briefing on Equity
As Prepared For Delivery:
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you to the members of the public who are tuning in. I’m Susan Rice, President Biden’s Domestic Policy Advisor. It’s my pleasure to kick off today’s National Briefing on Equity. As I hope you’ve seen, earlier this morning President Biden signed a new Executive Order to further advance racial equity and support for underserved communities.
The President has made equity and racial justice a day one priority for this Administration. Literally, on Day One, he signed his first Executive Order on equity. This historic mandate charged the entire federal government to tackle the challenges that generations of discrimination, exclusion, and disinvestment cause for communities across our nation.
We know, however, that the fight for equity is not a one-day project, a one-year project, or a two-year project. As the President has said, it’s a generational commitment. This work gets to the heart of our success as a nation. We’re working to ensure that everyone—including rural communities, communities of color, Tribal communities, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities, women and girls, first-generation Americans, and communities impacted by persistent poverty—has every opportunity to realize the promise of America. Despite what some politicians may say about equity efforts, the truth is when we lift each other up, everyone benefits.
Under the first Executive Order on equity, President Biden tasked agencies with changing the way they do business, ensuring that equity is at the forefront of their work. It was a whole-of-government endeavor. Agencies assessed their high-impact services to uncover where systemic barriers to access may exist. Last April, 90 agencies used those findings to produce more than 300 new strategies to support underserved communities.
These strategies include bold actions such as working with states to expand postpartum coverage for a year after childbirth to address the maternal mortality crisis that disproportionately affects Black and Native women; shifting the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil rights enforcement from being complaint-driven to proactive to advance environmental justice; translating more of the Justice Department’s public safety programs into additional languages so that everyone can access vital information about law enforcement; and providing better technical assistance to rural communities so farmers and ranchers can secure federal funding to sustain and grow their businesses.
Agencies are also prioritizing equity in implementing new programs that invest in American communities under landmark legislation, including the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPs and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act.
To give you just a few examples, through these landmark laws, we are:
- Replacing poisonous lead pipes that go into 10 million homes and 400,000 schools and childcare centers, so every child in America can drink clean water;
- Replacing the nation’s existing fleet of school buses with clean and zero-emission buses, ensuring cleaner and healthier air for children and families;
- Relieving debt obligations for tens of thousands of distressed farm loan borrowers and farmers who have experienced discrimination;
- Deploying record investments to Tribal Nations and Native communities to provide affordable high-speed internet, safer roads and bridges, modern wastewater and sanitation systems, clean drinking water, reliable and affordable electricity, and programs for climate resilience and drought mitigation;
- Closing long-standing loopholes that enabled for-profit colleges to aggressively target veterans and service members and low-income students; and
- Conducting robust outreach to veterans, particularly veterans in underserved communities, to ensure that they know they are eligible for benefits and health care under the PACT Act.
Already, we’ve achieved the most equitable economic recovery in memory and created a record 12 million jobs, including 800,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs. We have brought down unemployment nationwide—in particular for Black and Latino workers, for whom unemployment rates are near 50-year lows.
And we’re keeping our foot on the gas. Equity remains a key priority for the President, and he reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to this equity mandate with today’s second Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.
This new Executive Order strengthens the Administration’s commitment to build an America in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.
- The Executive Order directs federal agencies to publish annual action plans about how each agency is leveraging all of its resources and programs to advance more equitable outcomes.
- In developing these action plans, the Executive Order directs agencies to engage regularly in consultation with underserved communities—especially those communities that face legacy exclusions in engaging with the federal government.
- The President’s renewed mandate directs federal agencies to increase support for rural and urban communities alike to ensure that there is more equitable development in all communities.
- The executive order also recognizes the importance of fully delivering the promise of our civil rights laws by reinvigorating federal civil rights offices, while preparing to address the emerging threats to civil rights posed by technology and algorithmic discrimination.
- It also directs agencies to strengthen their internal efforts on equity—establishing senior leadership teams to coordinate this whole-of-government mandate.
- And, the Executive Order directs agencies to use the federal budget, regulations, and other important tools to advance equity for all communities.
- For example, it formalizes the President’s goal of increasing the share of federal contracting dollars awarded to small disadvantaged business by 50 percent by 2025.
This work matters deeply for communities across the country, and we’re excited to continue implementing this equity mandate.
With that, I’ll turn it over to Shalanda Young, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.