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June 09, 2022

Learning What Works to Build an Equitable Recovery

By Maia Jachimowicz, White House American Rescue Plan Implementation Team

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) pandemic relief bill, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, has fueled the most equitable economic recovery in recent history. This progress is the result of both the design and implementation of ARP to advance equity through a concerted, whole-of-government approach.

Thanks to the ARP, 2021 saw the largest calendar year job growth on record. Unemployment rates among young workers, as well as Black and Hispanic workers, have experienced record declines and are roughly at pre-crisis rates. In comparison, it took over six years for Black and Hispanic unemployment to recover following the Great Recession. Long-term unemployment – instead of lingering at high levels for years – had a record drop in the twelve months after the Rescue Plan passed.

This is a direct result of our commitment, through the implementation of the ARP, to understanding how and if pandemic relief efforts are having their intended impact and reaching communities and individuals in need. Of particular significance is understanding through the collection and analysis of data and evidence how to ensure an equitable recovery for all, including underserved individuals and communities who typically suffer disproportionate harm during times of economic instability.

To guide the federal government’s exploration of these questions, on May 24, the White House released an American Rescue Plan (ARP) Equity Learning Agenda, as part of the Advancing Equity Through the American Rescue Plan report. The Equity Learning Agenda is designed to provide a framework for ensuring the federal government builds evidence about what works and what doesn’t, to deliver an equitable recovery both now and in the future.

In support of the Equity Learning Agenda and agency evaluation efforts, GSA will use a portion of ARP funding to conduct evaluations and undertake other evidence-building activities to support federal government learning. Over $10 million dollars will support a national evaluation of equitable implementation of the ARP as well as up to ten separate evaluations conducted by GSA’s Office of Evaluation Sciences, in partnership with agencies, on ARP-funded programs with equity goals. Furthermore, multiple federal agencies are prioritizing Equity Learning Agenda questions by aligning them with their own agency learning agendas.

Ultimately, the goal of these activities is to build a body of evidence on what key elements of the ARP helped advance equitable outcomes and to ensure the government can adopt lessons learned to prepare for future recovery efforts.

ARP Equity Learning Agenda

Building on the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, the Equity Learning Agenda asks two overarching questions:

The Equity Learning Agenda also provides selected examples of how these overarching questions may be applied to various ARP investments and includes questions that focus on exploring which specific implementation strategies contributed to achieving equitable outcomes through ARP-funded programs. For example, questions explore the role of government efforts to increase awareness and access to various ARP-funded programs, including among underserved individuals and communities.

While the Equity Learning Agenda is intended to inform the direction of federally funded ARP equity-related research and analysis, we also hope that it serves as an invitation to academics, researchers, community organizations, state and local governments, philanthropy, and others to generate evidence about how to build an equitable recovery.

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