By Rebecca Shabad and Lauren Egan
President Joe Biden signed four executive actions Tuesday aimed at advancing racial equity as part of his push to use the powers of the presidency to implement parts of his agenda.
The executive actions direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to “take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality for generations,” according to a fact sheet shared by the White House.
The executive actions also end the Justice Department’s use of private prisons, recommit the federal government to Tribal sovereignty and take steps to combat discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that has intensified during the coronavirus pandemic.
“For too long we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester,” Biden said in a speech ahead of signings.
Biden said that closing the racial income and opportunity gaps would boost the economy for all Americans, adding that all federal agencies and White House offices would be tasked with tackling inequality.
“When we lift each other up, we’re all lifted up. And the corollary is true as well — when any one of us is held down, we’re all held back,” Biden said.
The White House earlier Tuesday called the actions “just the start,” adding that Biden is “committed to working with Congress to pass bold legislation that advances racial equity, including increasing funding for small businesses, investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, and tripling funding for Title I schools, which serve a majority of low-income students.”
Susan Rice, who as Biden’s domestic policy adviser is one of the highest-ranking Black aides in the White House, said that economists estimate that $5 trillion could be added to the economy over the next 5 years if the racial gaps in income and opportunity are closed.
“Building a more equitable economy is essential if Americans are going to compete and thrive in the 21st century,” Rice told reporters at a press conference.
“I believe we all rise or fall together. Advancing equity is a critical part of healing and restoring unity in our nation.”
The White House said that the executive order to not renew private prison contracts only applies to the Justice Department and not the Department of Homeland Security, which has contracts with privately operated immigration detention centers.
Originally posted on NBCNews