Over the past two years, President Biden has worked to advance racial equity and ensure the promise of America for Black Americans and all communities across the country. From increasing access to homeownership and rooting our discrimination in the housing market to promoting entrepreneurship, from reducing child poverty to historic lows to expanding access to quality affordable healthcare, from advancing voting rights and police accountability to ensuring equal access to a good education, the Biden-Harris Administration is ensuring that all African American families and communities can live with dignity, safety, and respect and enjoy true equal opportunity.
Economic Opportunity for Black Families and Communities. By signing into law the historic American Rescue Plan (ARP), Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and implementing robust regulatory reform, President Biden has led the most equitable economic recovery on record, creating more than 12 million jobs since coming to office and helping create new economic opportunities for African Americans, including Black-owned businesses, and made long overdue investments in Black communities. The President’s economic agenda has led to historically low unemployment, including among Black Americans.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s vital policies and programs include:
- Lowering Energy Costs and Creating Economic Opportunities Through the Inflation Reduction Act. By signing the Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden is delivering on his promise to build an economy that works for working families, including Black families. President Biden and Congressional Democrats successfully fought to pass this historic legislation to help all Americans, including African Americans, who have been at the frontline of climate change, by lowering costs, advancing environmental justice while building a cleaner future, and growing the economy from the bottom up and the middle out by creating good-paying, union jobs across the country. The IRA will also lower the deficit and ask the ultra-wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share. No one earning under $400,000 per year will pay a penny more in taxes. It’s also the most aggressive action we have taken to confront the climate crisis.
- Making Home Efficiency Upgrades More Affordable. Households can save up to 30% with tax credits for efficient heating and cooling equipment that will save them hundreds of dollars on utility bills. Households can also save up to 30% with tax credits for home construction projects on windows, doors, insulation, or other weatherization measures that prevent energy from escaping homes. When families need to replace or upgrade stoves, ovens, or other home appliances, they can receive direct rebates when buying more energy efficient and electric appliances that can lower future utility bills by at least $350 per year. Families in affordable housing units will benefit from resources to support projects that boost efficiency, improve indoor air quality, make clean energy or electrification upgrades, or strengthen their climate resilience.
- Creating Economic Opportunities and Good Paying Jobs. The IRA spurs solar project development in environmental justice communities by providing a 20% bonus credit for solar projects on federally-subsidized affordable housing projects and a 10% bonus credit for solar projects in low-income communities. It also creates a new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator that will seed state and local clean energy financing institutions, support the deployment of distributed zero-emission technologies like heat-pumps and community solar and EV charging, while prioritizing over 50% of its investments in disadvantaged communities. The IRA expands clean energy tax credits for wind, solar, nuclear, clean hydrogen, clean fuels, and carbon capture including a bonus credit for businesses that pay workers a prevailing wage and hire using registered apprenticeship programs – so that the clean energy we use creates good-paying jobs.
- Providing Relief to Farmers. The Inflation Reduction Act includes $5.3 billion that will provide relief to tens of thousands of farmers. Of that money, $3.1 billion will help distressed borrowers pay off their farm debts without ultimately taking the land or making the farmer ineligible for future assistance. An additional $2.2 billion will go to farmers who have suffered discrimination by USDA farm programs.
- Making Critical Investments in Black Families & Communities in the American Rescue Plan. When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law, it provided a lifeline to millions of families who were struggling from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
- Historic Expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) – cutting child poverty to record lows for Black children. ARP provided cash relief directly to low- and middle-income Americans, and cut Black child poverty by more than half in 2021. The expanded Child Tax Credit provided a critical lifeline to millions of Black families during the nation’s recovery from the economic crisis created by the pandemic, and the President continues to urge Congress to extend this life-changing tax relief. In addition, the ARP increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15% through September 2021. Beginning on October 1, 2021, USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan update increased SNAP benefits by $36.30 per person per month.
- Supporting Child Care Providers and Reducing Child Care Costs for Black Families. Black families are nearly two times more likely than white parents to have to quit, turn down, or make a major change in their job due to child care disruptions. The American Rescue Plan provided a $39 billion lifeline to help child care providers stay open and compensate early childhood educators, as they provide safe and healthy environments for children and help parents work. States have already delivered American Rescue Plan stabilization grants to more than 200,000 child care providers, 1 in 5 of whom are Black, serving as many as 9.5 million children and their families. In most states, providers in 98% of persistent poverty counties received aid and more than half of the providers receiving funds were operating in the most racially diverse counties in the country. One survey finds that 92% of providers receiving funds relied on them to help stay open and nearly half used them to repay debt incurred during the pandemic. Many states also used funds to help boost compensation of the child care workforce, which is disproportionately led by Black women. The ARP also helped lower child care costs for all families, including Black families, including by expanding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit—allowing a median income family with two kids under age 13 to receive up to $8,000 towards their child care expenses, compared with a maximum of $1,200 previously.
- The American Rescue Plan tripled the EITC for 17 million workers without dependent children. The American Rescue Plan nearly tripled the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without dependent children for 2021 from $540 to $1,500 and extended the credit to younger and older workers. This was the first increase in the credit in real terms since 1993, and especially impacted front-line workers, including cashiers and retail salespeople, cooks and food prep workers, and childcare workers.
- Helping Black Americans Stay in their Homes. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan has helped Americans, including Black Americans, stay in their homes by providing emergency rental assistance. Over 8 million households were served by Emergency Rental Assistance. As of June 2022, Black Americans were the largest group that received this help, representing more than 41% of aid recipients. The Administration implemented a series of measures that protected homeowners from foreclosure, including a foreclosure moratorium, increased options for mortgage payment forbearance, enhanced loan modifications to resolve delinquencies. In addition, the ARP is helping struggling homeowners catch up with their mortgage payments and utility costs through the Homeowner Assistance Fund. As a result of these protections, foreclosure filings in 2021 were at a historic low with 29% fewer filings than in 2020 and 95% below the 2010 peak experienced in the previous economic downturn during the Great Recession. In addition, the ARP provided $10 billion in funding for families and individuals who are recovering from or at risk of homelessness.
- Extending a Lifeline to Struggling Small Businesses and Expanding Access to Capital. Through the American Rescue Plan and the equitable implementation of emergency relief programs, President Biden and Vice President Harris have fostered the most equitable economic recovery on record. Over the last two years, Americans have applied to start 10.5 million new businesses, making 2021 and 2022 the strongest two years on record for new business applications, and with new business creation especially strong among entrepreneurs of color. The American Rescue Plan provided emergency grants, lending, and investment to hard-hit small businesses – including Black businesses – so they can rehire and retain workers and purchase the health and sanitation equipment they need to keep workers safe. This includes the new $10 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative, which will provide growth capital to early-stage companies and main street small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas, including minority-owned businesses.
- Investing in Equitable Workforce Training. The President is committed to creating pathways to the middle class, especially for people from underserved communities, by expanding skills-based hiring and increasing access to Registered Apprenticeship and workforce training. States, localities, community colleges, and community-based organizations have leveraged $40 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to deliver training, expand career paths, encourage more Registered Apprenticeships, provide retention and hiring bonuses in critical industries, and power efforts to help underserved Americans and those who face barriers to employment secure good jobs. In 2022, the Department of Labor awarded $121 million in grants to expand, diversify, and improve access to Registered Apprenticeships for underserved communities. The agency is also awarding $95 million help people in marginalized and underrepresented populations overcome barriers to career and technical education programs they need to connect with quality jobs.
- Ensuring Black Homeowners Get Full Value for their Homes. In March 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration’s Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) released the PAVE Action Plan, which represents the most wide-ranging set of reforms ever put forward to advance equity in the home appraisal process. Federal agencies are taking action on bias across all stages of the valuation process. For example, in January 2023, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed new guidance to make it easier and quicker for prospective borrowers applying for FHA-insured loans to request a Reconsideration of Value on a property if the initial valuation is lower than expected or there is indication of illegal bias.
- Protecting Black Americans’ Access to Housing by Combating Housing Discrimination. Following President Biden’s Presidential Memorandum directing his Administration to address racial discrimination in the housing market, in January 2023, HUD published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to fulfill obligations under the Fair Housing Act to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing. This rule will help overcome patterns of segregation and to hold state, localities, and public housing agencies that receive federal funds accountable for ensuring that underserved communities have equitable access to affordable housing opportunities.
- New Actions to Protect Renters and Promote Rental Affordability. In January 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new actions to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing. This includes actions to identify practices that may unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing such as the use of tenant background checks, the use of algorithms in tenant screenings, and how an applicant’s source of income factors into housing decisions. These actions align with a new Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights. The Blueprint lays out a set of principles to drive action by the federal government, state and local partners, and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections and encourage rental affordability.
- Leveraging Federal Procurement to Narrow the Racial Wealth Gap for Black Entrepreneurs and Families. Federal procurement is one of our most powerful tools to advance equity and build wealth in underserved communities, but only around 10% of federal agencies’ total eligible contracting dollars typically go to small disadvantaged businesses, a category under federal law that includes Black-owned businesses. Recognizing the importance of using the government’s purchasing power to advance opportunity and equity, the Biden-Harris Administration has launched an all-of-government effort to expand contracting opportunities for underserved small businesses, including Black-owned businesses. President Biden has set a goal of increasing the share of federal contracting dollars to small disadvantaged businesses by 50% by 2025— projected to translate to an additional $100 billion to minority-owned businesses, and helping more Americans realize their entrepreneurial dreams. In December 2021, the Administration announced reforms to the federal procurement process to help meet the President’s ambitious target and deliver new opportunities for Black-owned and other small disadvantaged businesses.
- Advancing Equitable Employment Outcomes and Boosting Wages for Black Federal Workers. On June 25, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in the Federal Workforce. This Executive Order launched a whole-of-government initiative to cultivate a federal workforce that draws from the full diversity of the Nation and that advances equitable employment opportunities for workers from underserved communities. In September 2022, the Administration established a Chief Diversity Officers Executive Council to help implement and sustain efforts to advance DEIA across the federal workforce. Further, the President has taken a series of executive actions leading to a $15 minimum wage for employees of federal contractors and federal employees. These actions impacted more than 370,000 workers in 2022 alone, including Black workers who disproportionately make up this population, helping to address longstanding wage disparities.
- Reversing Decades of Disinvestment Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. For years, politicians have talked about investing in our national infrastructure, but up until now they have failed to follow through. The lack of investment has fallen most heavily on Black communities and other underserved communities. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will: replace lead pipes; increase access to training and good-quality jobs; expand affordable high-speed internet, reliable public transit, and clean drinking water; reconnect Black neighborhoods divided by legacy highway infrastructure; and provide other resources to finally give Black communities a fair shot at the American Dream.
During the 20th century, federally funded infrastructure projects too often segregated and harmed low-income communities, especially predominantly Black neighborhoods. Construction of the federal highway system in particular cut off once thriving Black communities from resources and opportunity.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law launched a new Reconnecting Communities program, which will invest $1 billion to help reconnect communities that were previously cut off from economic opportunities by transportation infrastructure. In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act includes $3 billion for the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program to help advance transportation projects in disadvantaged or underserved communities. Over the past year, DOT has awarded grants to multiple projects to reconnect communities including an interstate capping project in Atlanta, a greenway project in St. Louis, and the I-375 Detroit Community Reconnection Project.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law permanently authorized the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) for the first time since its inception and elevated the agency head to the position of Under Secretary, granting the agency expanded power to support Black- and other minority-owned businesses. Don Cravins – former Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Urban League – was unanimously confirmed by the Senate this August to serve in this post.
- EPA announced in 2022 that it has already allocated $2.9 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for lead service line replacement— the first allocation of $15 billion over five years dedicated to lead service line replacement. States can also leverage expanded eligibilities under the EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) to spend up to $11.7 billion in additional DWSRF funds on lead service line replacement, plus funds from the American Rescue Plan to work towards the Administration’s goal of replacing 100% of the lead pipes and service lines. EPA will encourage states to use these funds to advance proactive lead line replacement programs with a particular focus on disadvantaged communities, including Black communities. Moving forward, EPA will continue to encourage states to prioritize communities with the highest lead levels and those with environmental justice concerns.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest ever investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history by: cleaning up Superfund and Brownfield sites; reclaiming abandoned mine land; and capping orphaned oil and gas wells. More than one in four Black Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site – a higher percentage than for Americans overall.
- Assisting Black Land Owners in Resolving Title Issues. An estimated 60% of Black-owned land in the South is heirs’ property—property that passes through inheritance without a will and that, as a result, has historically rendered owners ineligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, including lending. In July 2021, the USDA rolled out the Heirs’ Property Relending Program, which primarily aids underserved communities, including Black Americans. The new program provides funds to assist heirs in resolving ownership and succession issues on farmland with multiple owners.
- Dismantling Barriers to Accessing USDA Programs and Services. In February 2022, USDA launched an Equity Commission Advisory Committee using ARP funds. The Equity Commission Advisory Committee advises the Secretary of Agriculture by identifying USDA programs, policies, systems, structures, and practices that contribute to barriers to inclusion or access, systemic discrimination, or exacerbate or perpetuate racial, economic, health, and social disparities. USDA is also investing $550 million in ARP funds for projects benefiting underserved agricultural producers and minority serving institutions that create career development opportunities for next generation leaders.
- Launched an initiative to cut “junk” fees. In September 2022, the President announced an initiative to reduce or eliminate hidden fees, charges, and add-ons for everything from banking services to cable and internet bills to airline and concert tickets. While the extra costs of junk fees affect everyone, many fees disproportionately impact lower-income households and people of color. Agencies have already taken a number of steps; for example CFPB has proposed a rule to slash excessive credit card late fees by an estimated $9 million per year, and has issued guidance to ban surprise overdraft fees and depositor (or “bounced check”) fees.
Lowering Health Care Costs and Improving Health Outcomes for Black Communities. President Biden is committed to keeping health care costs down for individuals and families and improving access to health care to address disparities in Black communities. These policies and programs include:
- Lowering Health Care Costs and Expanding Coverage. Millions of lower- and middle-income Black families enrolled in health insurance marketplaces saw their premiums lowered or eliminated as a result of the ARP and will continue to benefit from provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act. After substantially increasing Affordable Care Act Marketplace outreach and education, and with the American Rescue Plan’s enhanced and expanded premium tax credits, from 2020 to 2022 there was an increase of 400,000 Black Americans enrolled in ACA coverage – a 49% increase.
- Almost 3.9 million Black people were uninsured in 2019 before President Biden took office and over 570,000 Black people fell into the Medicaid “coverage gap” and were locked out of coverage because their state refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA. The Administration’s efforts to expand access to coverage has driven the uninsured rate to historic lows, with more than 3.6 million people gaining coverage during last year’s recording breaking 16.3 million ACA enrollment period.
- The Inflation Reduction Act locks in lower monthly premiums – more than three quarters of uninsured Black Americans had access to a plan with a monthly premium of $50 or less and about two thirds could find a plan for $0-premium plan in 2021.
- By continuing the improvements made through ARP, the Inflation Reduction Act keeps free or low-cost health insurance available. Over half a million more Black Americans will have health insurance coverage in 2023, compared to without the IRA.
- As outlined in his February 2023 State of the Union address, the President is calling on Congress to make permanent the improved ACA tax credits that lower health care premiums for millions of Americans and to close the Medicaid coverage gap.
- Almost 3.9 million Black people were uninsured in 2019 before President Biden took office and over 570,000 Black people fell into the Medicaid “coverage gap” and were locked out of coverage because their state refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA. The Administration’s efforts to expand access to coverage has driven the uninsured rate to historic lows, with more than 3.6 million people gaining coverage during last year’s recording breaking 16.3 million ACA enrollment period.
- Lowering Prescription Drug Costs. Among adults 65 and older, Black Medicare beneficiaries were roughly 1.5 times as likely as White beneficiaries to have trouble affording medications, and about 2 times as likely to not fill needed prescriptions due to cost. The President’s prescription drug law caps the amount that seniors will have to pay for insulin at $35 per monthly prescription; as noted in his State of the Union address, the President calls on Congress to extend this commonsense, life-saving protection to all Americans, not just people with Medicare. This law also caps the amount that seniors will have to pay for prescription drugs they buy at the pharmacy at $2,000 a year and will further lower prescription drug costs for seniors by allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of high-cost drugs and requiring drug manufacturers to pay Medicare a rebate when they raise prices faster than inflation.
- Saving Americans $3,000 on hearing aids. In October 2022, over-the-counter hearing aids hit the shelves following a rule from the Food and Drug Administration. Now, millions of Americans can buy hearing aids for low to moderate hearing loss without a prescription or exam. This is anticipated to save Americans as much as $3,000 per pair, providing more breathing room for the estimated 30 million Americans with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
- Protecting Black Maternal Health. The Administration is also committed to protecting Black moms and improving maternal health outcomes, including addressing the unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity that disproportionately impact Black mothers and families.
In June 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration’s Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis was released to ensure a whole-of-government approach to combatting maternal mortality and morbidity through several key initiatives:
- The Administration has approved requests from 35 states and DC to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months The Administration continues to encourage all states to take up this option so women can get the care they need to stay healthy.
- In December 2021, Vice President Harris issued a nationwide call to action to both public and private sectors to improve health outcomes for Black mothers and their children. As part of this call to action, HHS announced it would create a new “Birthing Friendly” hospital designation. This is the first-ever publicly reported, public-facing hospital designation on the quality and safety of maternity care. Already more than 25 health plans have committed to displaying it in their provider directories, ensuring that more than 150 million Americans will have the opportunity to make informed decisions about their birth options for care.
- The Bipartisan year-end omnibus that the President signed in December 2022 advances many key pieces of the Blueprint, including: making permanent the state option to extend postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months; supporting and expanding maternal mental health screening programs, bolstering the maternal mental health hotline, and establishing a maternal mental health task force; reauthorizing and increasing funding for the Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Program, which serves families at risk for poor maternal and child health outcomes; adding new workplace protections for pregnant and nursing workers; and supporting expansion of Maternal Mortality Review Committees and Perinatal Quality Collaboratives to all 50 states and territories.
- A More Diverse Maternal Care Workforce: Federal agencies will invest more in hiring, training, and deploying more physicians, certified nurse midwives, doulas, and community health workers to support women during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum. The federal government will work to ensure these providers come from diverse communities and backgrounds.
- Better Access to Doulas and Midwives: The Administration will work with states to expand access to doulas and midwives, and encourage insurance companies to cover their services.
- Protecting Public Health. Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color. Through the Inflation Reduction Act, the law will create Environmental Justice Block Grants, a $3 billion program to invest in community-led solutions, and another dedicated program to tackle pollution in port communities – where air pollution is especially dense and deadly. It will also fund programs to reduce outdoor and indoor air pollution, including for fenceline monitoring and screening near industrial facilities, clean energy retrofits in public housing, air quality sensors in disadvantaged communities, new and upgraded multipollutant monitoring sites, and monitoring and mitigation of methane and wood heater emissions. These grants will also help protect our children with investments to monitor and reduce pollution at public schools in disadvantaged communities.
- Hosting the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The Biden-Harris Administration hosted the first conference on hunger, nutrition, and health in more than 50 years and released a National Strategy to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases and disparities by 2030. The National Strategy outlines actions the federal government will take and includes calls on other sectors to drive solutions to achieve the President’s goal. This includes: creating a pathway for free, healthy school meals for all; expanding coverage of nutrition and obesity counseling in Medicare and Medicaid; extending the Child Tax Credit—which the President called on Congress to do during his State of the Union address—and ending the federal prohibition on SNAP benefits for formerly incarcerated individuals, which disproportionately impacts Black Americans. It also includes strategies to diversify the nutrition workforce, such as HHS partnering with HBCUs to recruit and train more Black nutrition professionals. The White House Conference galvanized stakeholders around the National Strategy and spurred over $8 billion in commitments from the public- and private-sectors.
- Proposing Rules to Significantly Reduce Tobacco-Related Disease and Death. Cigarette smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. and is the leading cause of preventable death. In April 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two proposed rules to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Studies estimate that banning menthol cigarettes could prevent as many as 654,000 deaths in the US – up to 238,000 among African Americans – over the next 40 years. Banning flavored cigars – which are used by over half a million youth in the US – will help reduce nicotine dependence and improve health outcomes long-term. The Administration is also working to help people avoid smoking in the first place and support Americans who want to quit.
- Improving the quality of home- and community-based services (HCBS) and promoting equity for Black older adults and individuals with disabilities. Medicaid’s home- and community-based services (HCBS) provide support to older adults and individuals with disabilities who may need assistance with daily activities. Over 7 million people receive HCBS. However, research has shown that Black HCBS beneficiaries are less likely to receive case management services, equipment, technology, environmental modification services, and nursing services. In July 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the first-ever HCBS quality measure set to promote both consistent quality measurement within and across state Medicaid HCBS programs. CMS is encouraging states to adopt the measure set to improve the quality of HCBS but also as a critical step to promoting health equity in that it can help states identify racial, ethnic, and other disparities in quality, experience of care, and outcomes among the millions of people receiving long-term services and supports.
- Promoting equitable disability determinations. Although African American people make up just 12% of the United States population, they make up about 35% of people with kidney failure. In 2022, the Social Security Administration ended the agency’s use of a race-based estimated glomerular filtration rate (or eGFR) to measure kidney impairment, which was leading to the misdiagnosis of kidney impairment as less severe for many African Americans. Adjudicators will now use a single eGFR for all claimants regardless of race. This change in policy conforms with scientific advancements and recommendations from the medical community and kidney patients.
- Building the Pipeline of Black Health Care Providers. The Administration made a historic $1.5 billion investment to help grow and diversify the nation’s health care workforce, and bolster equitable health care in the communities that need it most during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the years to come. This funding is supporting the National Health Service Corps, Nurse Corps, and Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery programs. These programs address workforce shortages and health disparities by providing scholarship and loan repayment funding for health care students and professionals, in exchange for a service commitment in hard-hit and high-risk communities. With funding from the American Rescue Plan, the investment supports over 22,700 providers—the largest field strength in history for these programs and a record number of skilled doctors, dentists, nurses, and behavioral health providers committed to working in underserved communities during a moment when we need them the most. Only about 5% of physicians in the United States identify as Black despite the fact that Black Americans account for 12% of the nation’s total population; over 13% of physicians serving through the National Health Service Corps identify as Black. SAMHSA will also announce new funding to support efforts to recruit future mental health professionals from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and to expand the Minority Fellowship Program to support more Black Americans joining the mental health workforce.
- Implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. President Biden released a new National HIV/AIDS Strategy to provide the framework and direction for the Administration’s policies, research, programs, and planning through 2025 and lead us toward ending the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030. Black people made up 42% of new HIV diagnoses in 2019 and 2020, while representing 12% of the total U.S. population. The new National HIV/AIDS Strategy incorporates the latest data on HIV incidence, prevalence and trends; expands the focus on addressing the social determinants of health that influence an individual’s HIV risk or outcomes; encourages reform of state HIV criminalization laws; adds a new focus on opportunities to engage the private sector in novel and important ways in the nation’s work to end the HIV epidemic.
- Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response. The ARP provided $160 billion for the vaccines, tests, personal protective equipment, and public health workforce needed to address the spread of COVID-19, an investment that is helping to drive down racial disparities in prevention and care. Due to the ARP and the President’s commitment to center equity in our vaccination effort, multiple studies show that the gap in COVID-19 vaccination rates in Black adults compared to White and Latino adults has closed. Data as of December 2022 show that 90% of Black adults, 88% of Latinos and 86% of White adults have received at least one shot, compared to 56%, 57%, and 65%, respectively, in May 2021.
- In January 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery, creating a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to provide specific recommendations to the President for mitigating the health inequities caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing such inequities in the future. The Task force transmitted its final report to the White House Office of the COVID-19 Response in November 2021, including recommendations on addressing interpersonal stress linked to racism, the pandemic’s mental health impact on communities of color, and access to and trust in vaccines, testing, and therapeutics. By the end of 2021, the Administration had begun action on over 80% of the Task Force recommendations, and remains committed to engaging these recommendations within the historic initiatives and programs built to promote and sustain equity across the federal government. In 2023, the Administration continues to ensure our progress on COVID-19 equity is reflected and embedded in U.S. health policy more broadly.
The Administration built channels to increase access in our hardest-hit, highest-risk communities with funding from the American Rescue Plan. President Biden centered equity in his historic vaccine effort, going into communities to close the racial vaccination gap to make sure all Black Americans — no matter where they live, no matter what their circumstance has access to vaccines:
- Offering updated COVID-19 vaccines for free at tens of thousands of trusted locations, with convenient appointment and walk-in hours. The Administration has secured over 270 million doses of the updated COVID-19 vaccines, which are made available to the American people for free at tens of thousands of convenient locations nationwide, including pharmacies, doctor’s offices, health centers, and state and local health departments. Americans can visit Vaccines.gov to find locations near them, with the updated vaccines. And the Administration remains committed to maximizing continued access to COVID-19 vaccines beyond the end of the federal Public Health Emergency.
- Engaging community organizations to reach people with trusted information on the new, updated COVID-19 vaccines. Building on the successful efforts that have gotten over 650 million shots in arms since January 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services is engaging national, regional, and local community-based organizations, and houses of worship, including those with strong reach among racial and ethnic minority communities, to host community health expos and vaccine drives in cities. Over 50% of vaccines administered at the federally-run community vaccination centers went to Black Americans and other people of color, and more than 75% of people vaccinated at Community Health Centers are people of color. This continued collaboration will help meet people where they are, and foster conversations with trusted members of their communities.
- Expanding crisis response and access to treatment. Our country faces an unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages. Two out of five adults report symptoms of anxiety or depression. And, Black and brown communities are disproportionately undertreated – even as their burden of mental illness has continued to rise. Ensuring timely access to crisis intervention saves lives.
- In July, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) successfully transitioned to the new easy to remember number 9-8-8, making it easier for individuals in crisis to access life-saving crisis counseling. The Biden Administration has invested $500 million – a 20-fold increase in federal support from the prior administration – to help states with the transition and launch of the program and growth of local crisis-center capacity.
Promoting Mental Health for Black Youth. Studies have documented that over the past decade rates of mental illness and substance use disorder have increased among Black youth 12-17 years of age. Studies have also shown that Black children under 13 years are twice as likely to die by suicide than White peers. In March 2022, and in support of the President’s strategy for tackling the mental health crisis, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health announced $3 million in funding for up to 8 awards to evaluate the effectiveness of general health and wellness policies for improving Black youth mental health. These awards complement the ongoing work within the SAMHSA funded African American Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, which provides resources and tools to promote greater equity and effectiveness in behavioral health services for African Americans.
Tackling the Mental Health Crisis. Over the last year, the Administration invested critical resources to provide mental health and substance use supports to Americans, including by expanding Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, investing unprecedented resources in the 988 suicide prevention hotline, and taking steps to help address the harms of social media on youth. The President has called for additional actions to support youth, including by:
- Protecting kids online. There is compelling and growing evidence that social media and other tech platforms can be harmful to mental health, wellbeing and development. Children, adolescents, and teens are especially vulnerable to such harm. Far too often, the platforms do not enforce their own terms of service with respect to minors who use their products and services. Children are also subject to the platforms’ excessive data collection vacuum, which they use to deliver sensational and harmful content and troves of paid advertising. Children also suffer from bullying, harassment, abuse, and even sexual exploitation by other users online. And platforms use manipulative design techniques embedded in their products to promote addictive and compulsive use by young people in the name of “user engagement” – all to generate more revenue. Platforms and other interactive digital service providers should be required to prioritize the privacy and wellbeing of young people above profit and revenue in their product design, including safety by design standards and practices for online platforms, products, and services. The President is calling for bipartisan support to ban targeted advertising online for children and young people and enact strong protections for their privacy, health and safety online.
- Promoting youth resilience. While rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm among youth have been on the rise over the past several years, there are also remarkable stories of hope and resilience. To help foster innovation in promoting resilience, HHS will launch a new Children and Youth Resilience Prize Challenge, awarding a total of $750,000 in a new pilot program.
- Investing in youth mental health. President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which makes unprecedented investment in youth mental health and supports school-based health services. This law is providing critical support to expand culturally competent, trauma informed services and prevent violence – vital steps which can reduce the likelihood of mental health problems in Black youth. The Biden Administration also encouraged states to better address youth mental health for those with Medicaid coverage.
Understanding health related social needs for Black populations. For many Black Americans, the social situations in which they live impair their ability to lead healthy lives. Few affordable housing options, difficulty accessing reliable transportation, a lack of nutritious foods to buy, and numerous other social factors impact the health of communities, some of which disproportionately affect Black communities. In order to better understand the impact of social circumstances on health, the National Institutes of Health invested over $3.4 billion in social determinants of health research and training including funding over 38 research projects to understand the impact of structural racism and discrimination on minority health. This research will inform new initiatives to improve the lives of Black Americans.
Reducing the Burden of Medical Debt on Black Americans. Black households are more likely to hold medical debt than white households. Following the Vice President’s April 2022 announcement on the Administration’s actions to reduce the burden of medical debt and increase consumer protections, medical debt was eased for many Americans. This week, the Administration announced that it is continuing its efforts in this space by relieving certain veterans’ medical debt; reducing the role of medical debt in lending decisions; helping more Americans sign up for health insurance; and working to create a more fair and transparent health care system for consumers by implementing the No Surprises Act and advancing hospital price transparency so patients know the upfront price of hospital services.
Ensuring Equitable Educational Opportunity in K-12 Schools and an Education Beyond High School. President Biden has delivered the support necessary to enable every school to return to full-time, in-person instruction and ensure student success by accelerating academic recovery and addressing the mental health needs of students. President Biden has also made college more affordable, provided college students with supports for completion, and helped federal student loan borrowers as they recover from the pandemic. He has also worked to ensure equitable access to high-quality education for Black students. These policies and programs include:
- Historic Investments to Safely Reopen Schools and Address the Needs of Students. The American Rescue Plan provided $130 billion to help elementary and secondary schools safely reopen and address the academic, social and emotional and mental health needs of all students, with funding set-aside to address the needs of students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including Black students. In addition to funding the implementation of COVID-19 protocols, these funds are being used to provide tutors, establish and expand summer and after-school programming, and provide a wide range of supports that address the needs of Black students. It is the largest one-time investment in public education. These funds are also being used to hire counselors and social workers. Compared with the pre-pandemic period, the number of school social workers is up 36%, the number of school counselors is up 11%, and the number of school nurses is up 28%. This particularly benefits Black students due to higher student-to-counselor and student-to-psychologist ratios at schools that enroll a majority of students of color, compared to schools that enroll a majority of white students.
- Protecting Students from Funding Cuts. The American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program includes a first of its kind maintenance of equity requirement to ensure that high-poverty school districts and schools are protected in the event of state or local education funding cuts. The Department of Education has provided resources and technical assistance to states and school districts as they implement this new requirement. This will ensure that school districts and schools serving a large share of students from low-income backgrounds will not experience disproportionate cuts, and that school districts with the highest poverty levels do not experience decreases in state per-pupil funding below their pre-pandemic level.
- Increasing Funding for Schools in Low-Income Communities. The President secured a 5% increase for the Title I grants in the most recent FY23 omnibus. Title I grants assist more than half of our Nation’s public schools in their efforts to raise student achievement, particularly for students attending high-poverty schools to meet college and career-ready state academic standards.
- Supporting the Holistic Needs of Students. Meeting the needs of the whole child is essential to help students grow academically and improve their well-being. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration has supported the adoption of community school models across the country. Community schools meet the unique needs of the neighborhoods they serve by leveraging local non-profit, private sector, and public partnerships to bring wraparound services into school buildings, such as mental health supports, dental services, and assistance with shelter and nutrition. They operate with the assistance of school staff who coordinate with school administrators, stakeholders, and local organizations to deliver these services to students, their families, and members of the community. In the most recent bipartisan funding bill, the President secured $150 million for the Full-Service Community Schools program, making the program twice as large as last year and five times as large as when President Biden came into office.
- Helping Working Families Afford Child Care. The high cost of child care continues to make it hard for parents – especially women — to work outside the home and provide for their families. Difficulty in finding high-quality, affordable child care leads some parents to drop out of the labor force entirely, some to reduce their work hours, and others to turn down a promotion. When a parent drops out of the workforce, reduces hours, or takes a lower-paying job early in their careers—even temporarily—there are lifetime consequences on earnings, savings, and retirement. As part of the end-of-year omnibus, the Administration secured a 30% increase in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which will more families afford child care and access better child care options. 40% of children benefiting from this program are come from Black families. The new law also made significant investments in programs Head Start, which disproportionately serves Black children and families. Greater availability and affordability of high-quality early care and education will help women with young children to enter and stay in the workforce.
- Providing Support to Borrowers. President Biden believes that a post-high school education should be a ticket to a middle-class life, but for too many Black Americans, the cost of borrowing for college is a lifelong burden that deprives them of that opportunity. In August 2022, President Biden announced a plan that:
- Provides one-time debt relief to low- and middle-income borrowers to make sure financial harms related to the pandemic don’t leave borrowers worse off with respect to their loans. President Biden’s one-time debt relief plan provides up to $20,000 in debt relief to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, and up to $10,000 in debt relief to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples). More than 70% of Black undergraduate borrowers are Pell Grant recipients and Black borrowers are twice as likely to have received Pell Grants compared to their white peers. No one in the top 5% of incomes will benefit from this action. By targeting relief to borrowers with the highest economic need, the Administration’s actions are likely to have the effect of helping narrow the racial wealth gap. While litigation is currently preventing the Administration from providing this debt relief, the Administration remains confident that the program is legal. In the less than four weeks that the application was available, 26 million people either applied for debt relief or had already provided sufficient information to the Department of Education to be deemed eligible for relief. Over 16 million of those borrowers’ applications were fully approved by the Department and sent to loan servicers.
- Makes the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers. These steps include:
- Cutting monthly payments in half for undergraduate loans. The Department of Education is proposing an income-driven repayment plan that protects more low-income borrowers from making any payments and caps monthly payments for undergraduate loans at 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income—half of the rate that borrowers must pay now under most existing plans. This means that the average annual student loan payment will be lowered by more than $1,000 for both current and future borrowers.
- Fixing the broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program by ensuring that borrowers who have worked at a nonprofit, in the military, or in federal, state, Tribal, or local government, receive appropriate credit toward loan forgiveness. These regulatory changes build on temporary changes the Department of Education made to PSLF, under which roughly 360,000 public servants received more than $24 billion in loan forgiveness.
- Ensuring targeted student loan forgiveness programs work. To date, the Department of Education has approved a total of $48 billion in relief to nearly 2 million student loan borrowers who were defrauded by their college, enrolled in a college that abruptly closed, are permanently disabled and unable to work, and borrowers who serve our country through government or non-profit work.
- Protecting future students and taxpayers by reducing the cost of college and holding schools accountable when they hike up prices. The President championed the largest increase to Pell Grants in the last decade – a combined increase of $900 to the maximum award for students over the last two years – and has a plan to double the maximum Pell Grant by 2029 to nearly $13,000. To further reduce the cost of college, the President will continue to fight to make community college free. Meanwhile, colleges have an obligation to keep prices reasonable and ensure borrowers get value for their investments, not debt they cannot afford. This Administration has already taken key steps to strengthen accountability, including in areas where the previous Administration weakened rules such as holding career colleges accountable for leaving their students with mountains of debt that they cannot repay.
- Providing Historic Support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Biden-Harris Administration has delivered nearly $6 billion cumulative investment through the Department of Education to support HBCUs, including:
- The ARP and other pandemic relief programs have provided approximately $3.7 billion to HBCUs since President Biden took office. An estimated. 450,0000 HBCU students have received emergency financial aid grants through this funding since the start of 2021.
- In April 2021, the Department of Education provided approximately $1.6 billion in institutional debt relief to 45 HBCUs, including 13 public institutions and 32 private institutions.
- In July and August of 2021, the Department of Education awarded more than $500 million in grant funding to HBCUs for academic capacity-building and fiscal stability.
- The Department of Education has awarded over $1.4 million through Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) grants to eight HBCUs that experienced bomb threats.
- Re-establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). In September 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order re-establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for HBCUs, which has created a government-wide approach to support the needs of HBCUs and the communities they serve and eliminate systemic barriers impeding HBCU participation in Federal programs. The Initiative helps to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education for students, increase opportunities for these institutions to participate in and benefit from Federal programs, and ensure that HBCUs can continue to be engines of opportunity.
- Re-establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans. In October 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order reestablishing and expanding the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans. The Initiative works to strengthen the Nation by improving educational outcomes for Black Americans of all ages, and to help ensure that all African Americans receive an education that properly prepares them for college and productive careers. The Initiative manages a cross-agency effort to improve student achievement and advance educational equity and economic opportunity for African American and Black students, families, and communities.
Appointing and Confirming a Historic Number of Black Women to the Bench. President Biden is committed to ensuring that the judiciary is filled with highly qualified individuals who bring both personal and professional diversity to the bench. Since January 2021, President Biden has nominated a total of 154 individuals for federal judgeships, 48 of whom are African American, and 15 individuals for local judgeships in Washington, D.C., 6 of whom are African American. In April 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the United States Senate as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the first Black woman to ever serve on the Court. Of the 100 individuals who have been confirmed to positions on federal courts, 33 are African American.
Signed the Respect for Marriage Act. In December 2022, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, which requires that interracial marriages and same-sex marriage must be recognized as legal in every state in the nation. The is a vital step towards advancing the civil rights of all Americans.
Launching a Whole-Of-Government Initiative to Advance Equity and Justice for Underserved Communities, Including Black Communities. On his first day in office, President Biden signed the historic Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. The President’s Order emphasized the enormous human costs of systemic racism, persistent poverty, and other disparities, and directed the Federal Government to advance an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the challenges we face as a country and the opportunities we have to build a more perfect union. Over the last two years, the Biden-Harris Administration has championed racial equity and advanced equal opportunity for underserved communities. During the President’s first year in office, 90 federal agencies across the federal government, including all Cabinet-level agencies as well as over 50 independent agencies, conducted equity assessments of 3-5 of their agency’s high-impact services for the American people, to uncover where systemic barriers to access may exist. Using those findings, agencies developed Equity Action Plans for addressing—and achieving—equity in their mission delivery for all Americans. Equity Action Plans were required to include accountability mechanisms and to identify success metrics and key milestones toward progress.
To strengthen the federal government’s equity mandate, on February 16, 2023, President Biden signed a second Executive Order on equity that directs the federal government to continue the work to make the promise of America real for every American including communities of color, Tribal communities, rural communities, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities, women and girls, and communities impacted by persistent poverty. This second equity Executive Order requires agencies to designate senior leaders accountable for implementing the equity mandate; directs agencies to produce Equity Action Plans annually and report to the public on their progress; requires agencies to improve the quality, frequency, and accessibility of their community engagement; formalizes the President’s goal of increasing the share of federal contracting dollars awarded to small disadvantaged business by 50 percent by 2025; directs agencies to spur economic growth in rural areas and advance more equitable urban development; instructs agencies to consider bolstering the capacity of their civil rights offices and focusing their efforts on emerging threats like algorithmic discrimination in automated technology; directs the White House Office of Management and Budget to support agencies’ Equity Action Plans and invest in underserved communities each year through the formulation of the President’s budget; and further promotes data equity and transparency.
Making the promise of equal justice a reality for all. President Biden is committed to doing everything he can to make our communities safer, including by advancing effective, accountable policing. Our criminal justice system must protect the public and ensure fair and impartial justice for all. These are mutually reinforcing, not competing, goals. The Biden-Harris Administration has taken action to advance effective, accountable policing, build trust, and improve public safety so that we make the promise of equal justice under the law a reality for all. President Biden believes that it is time that we acknowledge the legacy of systemic racism in our criminal justice system and work together to eliminate the racial disparities that endure to this day. Doing so serves all Americans.
- Reforming Federal Marijuana Laws to Promote Equity and Fairness in the Justice System. The President took bold action to address our failed approach to marijuana. The criminalization of marijuana possession has upended too many lives—for conduct that is now legal in many states. While white, Black, and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are disproportionately arrested, prosecuted and convicted for it. In October 2022, the President announced a full, unconditional, and categorical pardon for prior federal and D.C. offenses of simple possession of marijuana. This pardon lifts barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities for thousands of people with those prior convictions. The President also called on every state governor to follow his lead, as most marijuana prosecutions take place at the state and local level. And because this Administration is guided by science and evidence, he called on the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to expeditiously review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.
- Re-issuing the Call for Congress to Pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The President has repeatedly called for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, including in his February 2023 State of the Union, to advance accountability, transparency, and public trust in law enforcement. Real change at the state and local level requires Congressional action.
- Making Federal Policing the Gold Standard of Effectiveness and Accountability. After Senate Republicans blocked passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act last year – even though law enforcement groups supported a deal – President Biden signed a historic Executive Order to advance effective, accountable policing and strengthen public safety. The order requires federal law enforcement agencies to: ban chokeholds; restrict no-knock warrants; mandate the use of body-worn cameras; implement stronger use of force policies, including with the duty to intervene and duty to render medical aid; provide de-escalation training; submit officer misconduct records into a new national database; and restrict the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, among other things. While the President cannot mandate changes at the state and local level, the order incentivizes state and local reforms through grantmaking, new accreditation standards, and training and technical assistance. The Administration is actively implementing the order. For example, agencies have already prohibited chokeholds and restricted no-knock entries, updated their use of force-policies, and prohibited the transfer of military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
- Justice Department Action to Ensure Accountability and Encourage Reform. In just two years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened eight pattern-or-practice investigations of law enforcement agencies for systemic misconduct and rescinded a Trump-era memo that inhibited the use of consent decrees, an important tool to reform troubled police departments. DOJ also restored and improved the voluntary Collaborative Reform program, providing technical assistance to police departments that ask for help to reform their practices and build trust, and has awarded millions of dollars in grants for de-escalation and anti-bias training.
- Improving Prosecutorial Guidance to Prevent Unduly Harsh Sentencing. The DOJ withdrew guidance issued in the previous Administration that required prosecutors to always charge the harshest sentences, replacing it with guidance that restored discretion to make decisions about charging, plea agreements, and advocacy at sentencing based on an individualized assessment of relevant facts.
- Prioritizing Action to End Racial Disparities in Cocaine Sentencing. As President Biden first advocated in 2007, he continues to call on Congress to end once and for all the racially discriminatory crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity and make the change fully retroactive. This step would provide immediate sentencing relief to the 10,000 individuals, more than 90% of whom are Black, currently serving time in federal prison pursuant to the crack/powder disparity. The Administration has urged the swift passage of the EQUAL Act. As an initial step, in December 2022 the Attorney General issued guidance to federal prosecutors on steps they should take to promote the equivalent treatment of crack and powder cocaine offenses—but Congress still needs to act.
- Implementing an Executive Order Limiting Use of Private Prisons. The President ordered DOJ not to renew contracts for privately-operated criminal detention facilities, covering the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS). To date, over 8,000 people have been moved out of privately owned or operated facilities.
- Initiating a whole-of-government effort to promote reform of the criminal justice system. The President’s Policing EO also established a new interagency Alternatives and Reentry Committee to develop a strategic plan with recommendations on how to safely reduce unnecessary criminal justice system interactions, improve rehabilitation, and support successful reentry while addressing existing disparities in the federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial juvenile and criminal justice systems.
- Supporting Second Chances. In April 2022, in honor of Second Chance Month, the President announced grants of clemency to 78 individuals, along with a series of over 20 actions from a dozen federal agencies to support returning citizens.
- To expand employment opportunities, the Administration is also leveraging historic investments in infrastructure to promote the hiring of formerly incarcerated persons, using over $5 billion in grant programs in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to prioritize grantees who hire formerly incarcerated persons and other historically marginalized groups.
- The Department of Justice and Department of Labor announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration to invest $145 million over FY22-23 to provide job skills training and intensive individualized employment and reentry plans for people incarcerated in select Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities to enhance their successful return to their communities.
- To protect equal housing opportunity, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is undertaking a comprehensive review to identify changes to its programs to ensure that they appropriately include individuals with arrest and conviction records.
- To expand educational opportunities, the Department of Education expanded its Second Chance Pell Program, which provides Pell Grants to incarcerated students, to 73 schools that will educate thousands of additional students. This raises the total number of participating schools to 200 and will help the Department prepare for the full expansion of Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated students in July 2023.
- The Department of Labor also opened solicitations for $140 million in new grant funding for justice-involved youth and adults.
- The Department of Health and Human Services is starting the process to establish a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare for people who miss their enrollment periods while incarcerated, which will reduce coverage gaps and penalties for people returning home from prison.
- To support veterans, a new collaboration among the Social Security Administration, Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of Veterans Affairs will automate information-sharing among these agencies, accelerating the restoration of benefits and reducing red tape for returning veterans.
Advancing Public Safety for Black Communities. Violence is not impacting all of us equally. We know that Black and brown communities bear the most significant share of the harm. Black boys and young men ages 15-34 make up 2% of the population, but are 37% of homicide victims. Homicide is the leading cause of death for Black men under the age of 44, and has been for years. It is the second leading cause of death for young Latino men. The homicide rate for Black women and Native American women is twice the rate for women overall. Half of gun homicides in the United States remain unsolved, and victims of non-fatal shootings too often lack the support they need to recover. Cases involving Black and brown victims go unsolved at substantially higher rates than those involving white victims—leaving their families and communities with no justice and little support. The cost of gun violence is not only the lost lives and physical injuries, it is also the lasting trauma that impacts survivors, families, and communities. This violence also interrupts education, leads to disinvestment in the communities that need it the most, and has cascading consequences for our national economy to the tune of $280 billion in lost economic opportunity per year. The President continues to call on Congress to take action to end this gun violence public safety and public health epidemic. But he knows we cannot afford to wait a single day while lives are being taken, which is why he has taken more action to reduce gun violence than any other President at this point in their Administration. These policies and programs include:
- Enacting the First Significant Gun Safety Law in 30 years. In June 2022, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law. It includes actions he has long called for and that will save lives, including funding crisis intervention like red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves and to others; finally closing what’s known as the “boyfriend loophole” so if you assault your girlfriend or boyfriend you cannot buy or own a gun; requiring young people aged 18-21 to undergo enhanced background checks; making gun trafficking and straw purchases distinct federal crimes; clarifying who needs to register as a federally licensed gun dealer and run background checks before selling a gun; providing historic funding to address the youth mental health crisis in this country, especially the trauma experienced by survivors of gun violence; and investing in anti-violence programs to work directly with people who are most likely to commit gun crimes or become victims of gun crimes. President Biden continues to call on Congress act, including by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and requiring background checks for all gun sales.
- Additional Funding to Prevent and Fight Crime. The President’s Safer America Plan requests new funding to recruit, train, and hire police officers consistent with the standards in the President’s Executive Order to advance safe, effective, accountable, community policing in order to enhance public trust and public safety; and to invest in crime prevention and a fairer criminal justice, including by investing $20 billion in services that address the root causes of crime and by incentivizing the reform of laws that increase incarceration without redressing public safety.
- Keeping Especially Dangerous Weapons and Repeat Shooters Off Our Streets. The Justice Department issued a final rule to rein in the proliferation of ghost guns, which are un-serialized, privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes. The Department is also more strictly regulating stabilizing braces that attach to pistols and essentially turn these weapons into short-barreled rifles. The Attorney General directed every U.S. Attorney’s Office nationwide to increase resources dedicated to district-specific violent crime strategies.
- Keeping Dangerous Weapons Out of Dangerous Hands. The Justice Department published model extreme risk protection order legislation to make it easier for states that want to adopt these red flag laws to do so. The Justice Department also issued a series of reforms: the first two volumes of its new, comprehensive report on firearms commerce and trafficking; new policy to underscore zero tolerance for willful violations of the law by federally licensed firearms dealers that put public safety at risk; and the launch of five new law enforcement strike forces focused on addressing significant firearms trafficking corridors that have diverted guns to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Washington, D.C.
- Tackling and Preventing Violence Crime through Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Programs. Black boys and young men ages 15-34 make up 2% of the population but are 37% of homicide victims, and homicide is the leading cause of death for Black men under the age of 45. Until this Administration, however, CVI programs like violence interrupters and hospital-based programs, which are demonstrated to reduce violence by up to 60%, have been badly underfunded. Under President Biden, the Treasury Department and Education Department issued guidance stating that CVI programs are eligible uses of American Rescue Plan funds—both the $350 billion in aid to state, Tribal, and local governments and the $122 billion to school districts. The Administration pivoted 26 existing grant programs across five agencies to support CVI. President Biden secured a total of $100 million for the first-ever dedicated CVI funding in each of Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023, through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the appropriations process. The President continues to advocate Congress for $5 billion in dedicated funding for CVI programs. These historic funds, along with new funding to support accountable, community-oriented policing, would help curtail the epidemic of gun violence that hits Black communities hardest.
- Addressing Domestic Violent Extremism. President Biden directed the U.S. government to assess the threat of domestic violent extremism in the United States. In January, Secretary of the Department of Defense (DOD) Lloyd J. Austin III ordered a DOD-wide stand down to discuss the problem of extremism in the ranks, and in April he established a countering extremism working group, directing DOD officials to review and update the definition of extremism contained in DOD Instruction 1325.06, and calling on the services to update transition instructions to prevent those leaving the military from being recruited by extremist groups. In March 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the unclassified executive summary of the comprehensive assessment acknowledging that enduring domestic violent extremism motivations stem from biases against minority populations. In April 2021, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ordered an internal review to root out white supremacy and extremism within DHS.
- United We Stand Summit. The Biden-Harris Administration hosted the United We Stand Summit to counter the corrosive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety. The Summit featured survivors and leaders from communities impacted by hate-fueled violence, including the mass shootings in Buffalo and at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The Administration announced a historic package of new actions the federal government, civic communities, faith communities, and business leaders will take to address hate-fueled violence and advance national unity. These included the establishment of the White House Initiative on Hate-Motivated Violence to strengthen interagency coordination, leverage federal research and resources, and enhance engagement in preventing and responding to hate-motivated violence, as well as the mobilization of over $1 billion in new investments to increase support for programs that build bridges among Americans of different backgrounds to foster unity. Bipartisan former White House officials also launched Dignity.us, a Citizens’ Initiative to Address Hate-Fueled Violence in America, to foster dialogue in communities across the country and identify solutions to address hate-fueled violence.
- Expanding Access to Justice. To expand the promise of equal justice under law, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum in May 2021 that asked the Attorney General to consider expanding the Department of Justice’s access to justice work and that reinvigorated the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable to prioritize and expand access to legal services and federal programs in criminal and civil legal proceedings. In October 2021, the Attorney General announced the reestablishment of the Office for Access to Justice as a standalone component within the Justice Department dedicated to improving the federal government’s understanding of and capacity to address the most urgent legal needs of communities across America. In May 2022, the Attorney General announced the office’s Director and its efforts to address the housing and eviction crisis, ensure equal access to justice for veterans and service members, and reduce and remove barriers to successful reentry for previously incarcerated individuals.
Protecting the Sacred Right to Vote. These policies and programs include:
- Implementing the Executive Order Promoting Access to Voter Registration and Voting. On the 2021 anniversary of Bloody Sunday, President Biden signed an Executive Order to leverage the resources of the federal government to provide information about the election process and increased access to voter registration opportunities. Agencies across the federal government have announced steps they are taking to respond to the President’s call for an all-of-government action to enhance the ability of all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ commitment to make it easier for consumers using HealthCare.gov to connect to voter registration services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ commitment to a pilot project seeking to have VA Medical Centers formally designated as voter registration agencies in six states.
- Pressing for Legislation to Protect the Right to Vote. President Biden recognizes the anti-democratic impact of state attacks on voting and judicial decisions gutting the Voting Rights Act and has repeatedly and forcefully called on Congress to pass essential legislation, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. And when a minority of Senators representing a minority of Americans blocked these historic voting rights bills from getting even a debate, President Biden called for a change in the Senate rules to defend our democracy.
- Ensuring Compliance with Voting Rights Laws. The Department of Justice has taken strong action to help protect the right to vote, including doubling the number of voting rights attorneys, taking steps to ensure compliance with voting rights statutes, launching a task force to combat the increase of threats against election officials and election workers, and issuing guidance on (1) the civil and criminal statutes that apply to post-election audits, (2) methods of voting, including early voting and voting by mail, (3) the vote-dilution protections that apply to all jurisdictions under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as they engage in redistricting, and (4) the state voting rules that apply after criminal convictions.
- Protecting our democracy. The President signed into law the bipartisan Electoral Reform Count Act, which establishes clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for President and Vice President, to preserve the will of the people and to protect against the type of attempts to overturn our elections that led to the January 6 insurrection.
Restoring Fairness and Humanity to Our Immigration System. President Biden is committed to reforming our immigration system, promoting racial equity in our immigration policies, and providing legal protections for Black noncitizens who call this country home.
- Revoking the Discriminatory Muslim and African Ban. On his first day in office, President Biden signed a Proclamation revoking the previous administration’s discriminatory Muslim and African Ban, a policy that was rooted in racial and religious animus and xenophobia.
- Expanding Existing Lawful Pathways for Haitian Family Reunification. The Obama-Biden Administration created the Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) Program in 2014, allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for parole on behalf of family members in Haiti who have approved immigrant visa petitions. The prior administration announced its intention to terminate this program and discontinued processing under it in 2019. The Biden-Harris Administration restored the HFRP Program, as well as reinvigorated immigrant visa processing for Haitian nationals to help Haitian-American families reunify in our country.
- Creating New Lawful Pathways to the United States for Haitian Nationals. In January 2023, the Biden Administration announced it would expand a sponsorship-based parole process already in place for Venezuelans to include nationals from Haiti, Nicaragua, and Cuba. Under this process, up to 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries, who have an eligible sponsor and pass vetting and background checks, can come to the United States for a period of two years and receive work authorization.
- Extending, Re-designating, or Designating Cameroon, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The Administration extended legal protections to nationals of these countries who have lived in the United States for years. TPS is a form of immigration relief available to noncitizens in the United States who cannot return home due to dangerous conditions in their countries; it enables those individuals to live with their families and work in our communities lawfully without fear of removal.
- Promoting Naturalization. President Biden is committed to making the naturalization process more accessible for eligible noncitizens, directing the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State to improve naturalization processing, identify and remove barriers to naturalization, and reduce backlogs for naturalization applications. To advance these goals, the President established an Interagency Working Group, which developed the Interagency Strategy to Promote Naturalization. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reduced the naturalization application backlog by 62 percent and welcomed more than 1 million new U.S. citizens to this country, the highest number of naturalized citizens in nearly 15 years. USCIS also awarded nearly $20 million in grants to 66 organizations to provide citizenship preparation resources, support, and information to immigrants and immigrant-serving organizations.
- Promoting Integration and Inclusion for New Americans. To ensure that lawfully-present new immigrants and refugees receive the support they need to fully participate in and contribute to our country and their communities, the President established the Task Force on New Americans. The Task Force on New Americans is coordinating the federal government’s efforts to welcome and support immigrants, including refugees, catalyzing State and local integration and inclusion efforts, and developing recommendations on new policy options and strategies to promote immigrant integration and inclusion.
- Supporting Immigrant Veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has partnered with DHS to provide needed care and services to deported veterans, including timely and accurate information on immigration services. In addition, DHS established an online center to consolidate federal resources for immigrant veterans, which includes a portal for deported veterans to request permission to return to the United States or access VA benefits to which they may be entitled. To date, DHS and the VA have worked to facilitate the return of 65 deported veterans to the United States through the joint Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative (IMMVI).
- Supporting Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation. President Biden remains committed to passing broad-based legislation to finally reform our broken immigration system and provide a pathway to citizenship to millions of undocumented individuals, including Black noncitizens.
Strengthening Partnerships Across the Diaspora. The Administration is working to strengthen partnerships and collaboration that foster greater global economic and social mobility.
- In December 2022, President Biden hosted the U.S.-Africa LeadersSummit to highlight the U.S. commitment to expanding and deepening our partnership with African countries, institutions, and people. President Biden and Vice President Harris announced new initiatives that will empower African institutions and citizens to: reaffirm our resolve to work collaboratively with African governments, businesses, and publics to strengthen people-to-people ties, ensure more inclusive and responsive global institutions, build a strong and sustainable global economy, foster new technology and innovation, strengthen health systems and prepare for the next pandemic, tackle the food security and climate crises, support democracy and human rights, and advance peace and security.
- Launch of the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030). PACC 2030 is the Biden-Harris Administration’s new initiative involving fresh commitments to — and integration of — climate adaptation and resilience and clean energy programs across the Caribbean region. The Caribbean is on the front lines of the climate crisis, including sea level rise that threatens low-lying islands and exacerbates storm surge associated with hurricanes. PACC 2030 establishes a framework to elevate U.S. cooperation with Caribbean countries to support climate adaptation and strengthen energy security, while building the resilience of critical infrastructure and local economies to the climate crisis. PACC 2030 will serve as the U.S. government’s primary mechanism for regional climate adaptation and resilience and energy cooperation through 2030, as we work toward meeting the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/02/27/fact-sheet-the-biden-%E2%81%A0harris-administration-advances-equity-and-opportunity-for-black-americans-and-communities-across-the-country/