Treasury Ramps Up Racial Equity Review as It Deploys Relief Funds. By Alan Rappepor March 17, 2021
The review follows an executive order signed by President Biden requiring federal agencies to pursue racial equity and to support underserved communities in their policies and programming.
WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department is moving ahead with a formal racial equity review of the agency and its programs, putting in place an effort to ensure that economic fairness is prioritized throughout the Biden administration as it begins to disburse $1.9 trillion in relief money.
The initiative is expected to be led by Adewale Adeyemo once he is confirmed as deputy Treasury secretary, according to people familiar with the matter. It will be undertaken in close collaboration with Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who is making racial equity a centerpiece of her agenda as she oversees the disbursement of much of the stimulus package.
The review follows an executive order that President Biden signed in January requiring federal agencies to pursue racial equity and to support underserved communities in their policies and programming. The order was a sharp departure from the policies of President Donald J. Trump, who issued an executive order last year banning the “malign ideology” of racial sensitivity training across the government.
Keep up with the new Washington — get live updates on politics. Treasury is developing its own civil rights strategy and, as part of that, is working to ensure that financial assistance distributed through the latest relief legislation is allocated fairly. The White House noted in January that previous rounds of stimulus checks were sometimes slow to arrive to people of color. And minority business owners who did not have close ties to banks often had difficulty gaining access to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. The full Senate is expected to vote this month on Mr. Adeyemo’s nomination. If confirmed, he would be the nation’s first Black deputy Treasury secretary. At his confirmation hearing last month, he spoke about how the coronavirus pandemic was worsening inequality in the United States.
“Until we contain the pandemic, economic policy must remain focused on providing relief to those harmed by the public health crisis, especially those disproportionately impacted: low-income communities and communities of color,” Mr. Adeyemo said. A Treasury official said it was premature to say what Mr. Adeyemo’s role would be since he had yet to be sworn into office, but he is expected to work closely with Ms. Yellen on racial equity issues if he is confirmed. The plan for Mr. Adeyemo to lead the initiative has been discussed in internal Treasury meetings, according to a person familiar with the matter. All federal agencies are required to submit diversity and inclusion plans to the Office of Management and Budget this month, under the terms of the executive order. Editors’ Picks A Powerful New Framing of America’s First Civil Rights Movement Despite It All, Two New U.S. Airlines Prepare to Fly Why U.S. Cruises Are Still Stuck in PortContinue reading the main story
The Treasury Department is also reviewing its personnel policies to ensure that the agency and the departments that it oversees — including the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Mint — are diverse and inclusive.
As part of that, it plans to send a team to assess the U.S. Mint, which has faced longstanding accusations of fostering a culture of racism. The Treasury inspector general opened an investigation last year into what employees described as “rampant racism” at the agency, including a slur being written on walls of restrooms and a white employee leaving a noose in the work space of a Black colleague.
Ms. Yellen has already taken steps to create a more inclusive atmosphere at Treasury and to demonstrate her desire to promote racial equity. She announced plans this month to invest $9 billion into Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions as they look to step up lending.
In a message to staff for Black History Month in February, Ms. Yellen said Treasury would play an important role in making sure that the pandemic was not a “generational setback” for people of color.
“Instead of this crisis doing what crises do — and driving an economic wedge further between races — we might emerge from the pandemic on track,” she wrote, “towards higher wealth and wages for everyone.”