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EDA Focused on Equity

Ellen Heinz

The pandemic has affected communities across the country, but widely reported statistics show how it is disproportionately impacting communities of color and those of lower income. It is critical that as local economies across our country continue to recover from the pandemic, it is done in an inclusive, equitable way.

We at the Economic Development Administration (EDA) take our responsibility seriously in creating that inclusive, equitable recovery. That is why, last spring, we revised our Investment Priorities, which are the principles that guide our grant giving, putting Equity at the top of the list.

We want to ensure that communities across country, particularly those that are underserved, get the resources, technical assistance and funding they need to spur economic development and create good paying jobs and that workers get the skills they need to land those good jobs.

For us at EDA, it starts with how we work internally. When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, it provided EDA with $3 billion to invest in communities. As we design new grant programs, we are constantly talking to a variety of communities to hear about the unique challenges they are facing and how we can design programs to better support underserved populations.

For example, with our $500 million workforce development program, the Good Jobs Challenge, we heard from stakeholders that it is not enough to provide access to quality skills training programs. We heard time and time again that workers, particularly those from underserved populations, need wraparound services to support them as they go through their training. For some workers, that means providing them childcare and transportation. For others, it may mean career coaching, language support, or technology support. Whatever the support it is, EDA and the Administration are committed to providing a wholistic approach to supporting underserved communities to ensure they have the resources they need to successfully land a quality job.

Next, we have been very deliberate about how we evaluate applications for our grant programs. We have ensured that equity is a prominent evaluation criteria and that we have a group of qualified evaluators from diverse backgrounds.

We also strongly believe that intentional technical assistance can help communities maximize the impact from our investments. As part of our American Rescue Plan programs, EDA is investing over $30 million dollars in creating Communities of Practice and Research to best support our grantees so they can access best practices and resources, particularly around how to enhance their efforts around equity.

Lastly, we prioritize outreach and community engagement to underserved communities and populations. Economic development is local – and we recognize how unique each community is and that we must form relationships at the local level in order to be effective. That is why EDA has six regional offices and an Economic Development Representative assigned to each state and territory – to build strong relationships on the ground to understand the specific needs of that community and how EDA can best reach them and serve them. We are constantly working to connect with more organizations, communities, and underserved populations to build awareness of EDA’s programs and services.

While we are proud of the efforts we have made to prioritize equity, we also recognize there is more that can be done and more to learn. Thus, we are committed to continuing to learn more about how we can create programs that will provide more underserved communities and populations much needed resources and to continually evolve our programs to be accessible and best meet those communities’ needs.

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