Source: Federal Register :: Identifying Barriers in USDA Programs and Services; Advancing Racial Justice and Equity and Support for Underserved Communities at USDA

Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, states:

Equal opportunity is the bedrock of American democracy, and our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths. But for too many, the American Dream remains out of reach. Entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies, and in our public and private institutions, have often denied that equal opportunity to individuals and communities. Our country faces converging economic, health, and climate crises that have exposed and exacerbated inequities, while a historic movement for justice has highlighted the unbearable human costs of systemic racism. Our Nation deserves an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.

It is therefore the policy of my Administration that the Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically Start Printed Page 32014underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government. Because advancing equity requires a systematic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making processes, executive departments and agencies (agencies) must recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity.

By advancing equity across the Federal Government, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone. For example, an analysis shows that closing racial gaps in wages, housing credit, lending opportunities, and access to higher education would amount to an additional $5 trillion in gross domestic product in the American economy over the next 5 years. The Federal government’s goal in advancing equity is to provide everyone with the opportunity to reach their full potential. Consistent with these aims, each agency must assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups. Such assessments will better equip agencies to develop policies and programs that deliver resources and benefits equitably to all.


  • The term “equity” means the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.
  • The term “underserved communities” means populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life, as exemplified by the list in the preceding definition of “equity.”

Required Assessment and Plan

Within 200 days of the date of Executive Order 13985 (by August 8, 2021), agencies must submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy an assessment of the state of equity for underserved communities and individuals, including on the following points, for example:

  • Barriers that underserved communities and individuals may face to enrollment in and access to benefits and services in Federal programs;
  • Barriers that underserved communities and individuals may face in participation in agency procurement and contracting opportunities;
  • Barriers that underserved communities and individuals may face in participation in agency grant programs and other forms of financial assistance;
  • Opportunities in current agency policies, regulations, and guidance to address affirmatively and equitably the underlying causes of systemic inequities in society;
  • Opportunities in agency community engagement processes to engage with and empower marginalized, vulnerable, or underserved communities more directly to advance equitable policymaking; and
  • The operational status and level of institutional resources available to agency offices or divisions responsible for advancing civil rights or required to serve underrepresented or disadvantaged communities.

Within one year of the date of Executive Order 13985 (by January 19, 2022), the head of each agency will develop a plan for addressing any barriers to full and equal participation in programs and procurement opportunities identified in its assessment. Such a plan could include establishing ongoing routines to assess and rectify gaps in full and equal participation in programs and procurement opportunities.

Key Principles

Advancing equity must be a core part of management and policy making processes. Achieving equity must go beyond delivering special projects or programs that focus on underserved communities. Equity must be a central component of the decision-making framework that all agency functions are routed through.

Successful equity work yields tangible changes that positively impact the lives of people in the United States. Equity is not just a set of values; it must also be a set of outcomes.

Equity benefits everyone. If we close the gaps in income, wealth, and financial security for families across the country, our economy will grow. It’s up to all of us as leaders to carry this message, and to demonstrate that advancing equity is not a zero-sum game that benefits some communities at the expense of others.