The Equity Initiative

As Americans across the country stand up against systemic racism and the failures of our justice system to protect the lives of black Americans and other minority communities, now is the time for long overdue change. The NewDEAL stands in solidarity with this movement. We are proud of the NewDEAL members who are offering the leadership that our country so desperately needs. They are, and will continue to be, on the frontlines of effecting vital change, in policing reforms and on the many other issues through which we must address pervasive racial injustices against minority communities. The NewDEAL is committed to supporting and working with our leaders around the country to offer state and local policy solutions to ensure real and lasting progress.

See below for a selection of NewDEALer ideas and solutions to tackle inequities in every area of policy, from education to policing to climate, or click other tabs at the top of the page to explore virtual events and podcast episodes with an equity focus.

Idea Highlights

Kansas City Initiative to Appoint more Women to Boards and Commissions 

In partnership with the National League of Cities, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas reveals their intention to expand the number of women on boards and commissions through United WE’s Appointments Project.Quinton Lucas | Mayor | Kansas City, MO

Higher Education Partnership to helping Black and Latinx students 

Through a college completion initiative program, Success Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu, and 15 higher education institutions in Massachusetts are committed to reaching a 70% college completion rate for Boston Public Schools district graduatesMichelle Wu | Mayor | Boston, MA

Working to Expand Access to Rhode Island Public Transit for All Riders

Representative Leonela Felix introduced legislation for free fares for all riders on the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority buses in an effort to combat climate change, expand the economy, and encourage racial justice.Leonela Felix | Representative | Pawtucket, RI

Lansings Equity Matrix to Provide Data to Improve Representation

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor launched the Equity Matrix, an online dashboard that monitors diversity in the city, including the racial and ethnic demographics of the workforce.Andy Schor | Mayor | Lansing, MI

Preventing Discrimination against the Natural Hairstyles of Black Women

The bill, the CROWN Act, sponsored by Sen. Raumesh Akbari, was approved by the Tennessee legislature, making it the first statehouse in the rural South to pass legislation barring discrimination towards natural hairstyles.Raumesh Akbari | Senator | Memphis, TN

To get involved in NewDEAL’s efforts to combat systemic racism:

Broadband is now essential for everyday life, yet is not universally available, creating a digital divide. The digital divide is understood as both the lack of access to available broadband networks and an adoption issue, where individuals do not use home broadband due to affordability or lack of digital skills. Because of digital redlining – the policies and investments that create or maintain inequities – many rural, tribal, and minority communities disproportionately lack access to broadband. According to existing research, just 71% of Black adults and 65% of Hispanic adults have home broadband, compared to 80% of white adults.

As highlighted in the Broadband Task Force report recently released by our sister organization, the NewDEAL Forum, NewDEAL Leaders are already making significant progress to equitably close the digital divide and ensure all citizens have equal access to broadband. Below is a selection of systemic barriers to broadband equity and real solutions to address the unique needs in their communities:

Innovating to Address Affordability and Adoption

Affordability continues to be a significant barrier to access and simply having available internet access is not enough, as highlighted by EducationSuperHighway which found 18 million unconnected households, or 47 million people, have access to internet service but cannot afford to connect. Furthermore, affordability includes the cost of devices and currently over 30% of Black and Hispanic adults do not own a desktop or laptop computer. That puts these individuals and families at a disadvantage in nearly every aspect of society, including in work and schooling. A 2020 study by All4Ed found that 16.9 million children didn’t have high-speed home internet before the pandemic, and 7.3 million children didn’t have a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer.

Targeting Disconnected Families and Students with Free Apartment WiFi

  • Around 25% of households impacted by the affordability gap live in apartment buildings. #OaklandUndivided, the City of Oakland’s initiative to connect every student, partnered with Education SuperHighway to successfully target these disconnected families and students through a pilot project that wires apartments like a hotel, providing free WiFi to all tenants in five subsidized apartment buildings.
  • Additionally, the city established broadband adoption hubs to provide one-on-one support and enrollment assistance to sign up for the apartment WiFi and other available resources, including the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
  • Through these combined efforts, the city increased connectivity from 12% to 98% during the 20-21 school year for students from low-income backgrounds.

Providing Devices to Reduce Barriers to Access

  • Recognizing that almost 30% of adults making below $30,000 a year identify as only accessing the internet through their smartphones, New Castle County partnered with county libraries to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to start a device lending program, allowing residents to borrow Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots
    • These users previously faced difficulty accessing certain services that are better suited for desktops such as online banking, job applications, and telemedicine.
    • New Castle County also upgraded WiFi accessibility at the Hope Center, a hotel-turned-homeless shelter established as an emergency shelter during the pandemic, and purchased chromebooks for guests to use until they transition into permanent housing.

Connects 250,000 Families

  • The Phoenix Digital Education Connection Canopy, or PHX DECC, is a cost-effective solution, launched to connect 250,000 families to high-speed internet. 
  • Using a combination of city and federal funds, this innovative wireless program utilizes existing technology, to enable schools to provide internet to some of Phoenix’s underserved communities

Public-Private Partnership to Reduce the Cost Barrier to Broadband Access

Promoting Digital Skills in Communities

The U.S. Department of Education found that over 32 million adults lack basic digital skills to meet their personal and professional goals. While many white adults lack these abilities, the need for training is more concentrated in communities of color: 22% of Black adults and 35% of Hispanic adults currently need digital skills training.

Community Center Provides Connects Residents to Digital Skills Training 

  • Digital skills training programs have found success by meeting people where they are, and the South City Tech Learning Hub is a trusted community organization that works hand-in-hand with residents and community partners to provides free computer skills training to help students, workers, parents, and older adults assistance to build digital skills.
  • Additionally, the facility provides internet access, private offices for telehealth appointments, interview, and school-related resources including computer and printing access.

Grants to Enhance Community Digital Navigator Programs

  • Demonstrating how Digital Navigator programs have found success by partnering with trusted community groups, the Washington State Broadband Office awarded $7 million to fund four digital navigator programs equipped to meet the varied needs of targeted populations throughout the state.
    • Digital US designed the digital navigator program to train staff and volunteers to support learners by providing just-in-time, individualized support for accessing devices, navigating the internet, and teaching other relevant digital skills.
    • Grants were awarded to bolster the work of community groups supporting individuals seeking work, families supporting students, English language learners, Medicaid clients, people experiencing poverty, and senior citizens. 

Improving Accuracy in Mapping & Data Collection

Current broadband data and mapping fail to provide an accurate picture of the digital divide and must be improved to deliver more precise data on physical access as well as speed and pricing. This information can be used to overlay demographic information to identify gaps and help leaders focus on targeted investments.

Investing to Analyze and Understand the Digital Divide Locally

  • Recognizing that the city’s most disadvantaged residents and businesses were particularly hurt from the gap in access during the pandemic, Mayor Sarmiento directed his city to spend $3.5 million from the American Rescue Plan to understand and then address the digital divide.
    • After a citywide survey to better understand where the gaps are, the city will explore the best solutions to bridging the divide. The city is also using ARP funds to improve its own website and city app to provide better services for residents.

Coordinating Efforts to Improve Broadband Data

  • Michigan Lt. Governor Gilchrist helped structure the Michigan High Speed Internet Office to coordinate and streamline the state’s efforts to expand internet access, improve data collection and mapping, and prioritize providing direct assistance to individuals. 
  • This initiative found success in connecting constituents with services, such as their health navigators, and has also helped to empower and educate residents to utilize the internet to meet their needs.

Federal Efforts – FCC Utilizing Data to Increasing Consumer Choice

  • Under the leadership of Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is undertaking a massive effort to revise its maps using more granular data.
  • Already, the new data has led to action from the FCC to close loopholes and increase consumer choice by preventing providers from monopolizing internet service in multiple tenant environments (MTEs). 
  • This action supports residents in corporate housing, apartment buildings, and condominium complexes by prohibiting broadband providers from entering into revenue sharing agreements with building owners. This will allow competitive providers to also serve the buildings, and improve consumer choice and affordability in MTEs.

The NewDEAL is committed to continuing to assist our leaders across the country to achieve more equitable outcomes by providing state and local policy solutions to ensure real and long-term progress. Work remains, particularly as states begin to implement the $65 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law including setting up a “low-cost” broadband service option, $14.2 billion for the ACP, and $2.75 billion for digital equity programs. State and local policymakers will play a critical role in ensuring these funds are used effectively to reach disconnected and underserved communities. Their work is already making significant progress to equitably close the digital divide and ensure all citizens have equal access to broadband.

In our ongoing efforts to address climate change, it is important to keep environmental justice at the center of discussions and decisions around climate solutions in order to protect vulnerable populations. Low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color disproportionately bear the brunt of environmental burdens while having less resilience and resources to respond. Equitable solutions will produce the benefits of reducing emissions and address legacy pollution.

As highlighted in the Climate Solutions report with policy recommendations released by our sister organization, the NewDEAL Forum, NewDEAL Leaders are on the front lines of making significant progress toward environmental justice, addressing legacy pollution, and ensuring that new climate programs and tools include direct investments in empowering vulnerable communities. Below is a selection of systemic barriers to environmental justice and real solutions from NewDEAL Leaders to address the unique needs in their communities:

Understanding and Identifying the Issues with Data

It is already known that climate change is having an outsized impact on low-income communities and communities of color. However, additional information is necessary to enact targeted solutions to better meet the needs of underserved communities. Through evidence-based policy strategies, policymakers can understand the health and quality-of-life impacts of pollution on different communities and use data to measure progress and advance environmental justice initiatives.

Climate Task Force Learns from Diverse Coalition

  • As chair of the Task Force on Climate Change, Lt. Governor Barnes ensured environmental justice was at the core of its work and brought together a diverse coalition of business, community, labor, youth, and Indigenous leaders to conduct listening sessions across the state.
  • The Task Force released a report with over 50 strategies to build a sustainable and equitable future that supports Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color as they work to be 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.

Outreach Plans for Vulnerable Communities after Weather Emergencies

Assessing Air Pollution’s Impacts in Urban Areas 

  • The Green Heart Program is improving communities by reaching 45 percent tree canopy coverage while also conducting a rigorous study to understand the impact of green space on health and the environment.
  • The HEAL Study assesses levels of pollution and the health and behaviors of South Louisville residents before and after planting new vegetation. The program hopes to demonstrate the environmental, health, and community benefits of green spaces.

Investing in Resilient Communities

Policymakers must work with intention to engage with community members and to realize the benefits of climate action in communities that need assistance the most. A recent study conducted by the Clean Air Task Force found Black Americans are exposed to “38 percent more polluted air than White Americans” and are 75 percent more likely to live in neighborhoods that border industrial or service facilities.

Expanding Solar Energy Options for Low-Income Residents

  • Assemblymember Monroe-Moreno’s legislation, which was signed into law in 2019, requires utilities to develop an equity plan to provide clean energy options for low-income residents, nonprofits, and disadvantaged businesses through a mix of utility-scale solar and community solar projects.

Improving Communities Livability with the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation

  • Phoenix created the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, a first-of-its-kind model, to address urban heat islands, where parts of cities, often low-income neighborhoods, are several degrees hotter than surrounding areas due to air patterns, a lack of green space, heavy industry, and heat-absorbing concrete.
  • The office is implementing innovative solutions, such as developing cool corridors (plating over 250 trees so far), solar microgrids, and developing community-specific plans for low-income and heat vulnerable neighborhoods to reduce pollution and build a more sustainable and livable Phoenix.

 Fostering Affordable Transit Oriented Development (TOD)

Environmental Human Rights Amendment

  • Senators Elfreth and Smith sponsored the Maryland Environmental Human Rights Amendment that will enshrine the right of every resident to a “healthful, sustainable environment” in the state’s constitution.
  • The amendment would hold state agencies responsible to protect, conserve, manage, and enhance Maryland’s natural and cultural resources. It will help the legislature pursue significant climate solutions and provide legal protection for residents disproportionately affected by pollution, usually communities of color.

Expanding Access to Clean Transportation Options

Current broadband data and mapping fail to provide an accurate picture of the digital divide and must be improved to deliver more precise data on physical access as well as speed and pricing. This information can be used to overlay demographic information to identify gaps and help leaders focus on targeted investments.

Increasing Access to Public Transit

  • Mayor Mendenhall led an effort to make all Utah Transit Authority (UTA) services free for the month of February in the hopes of increasing ridership and impacting the environment. 
  • The results show that more people took public transit when cost is not a barrier. This program has potential long-term benefits for air quality, and the state is now considering making this change permanent.

Free Transit Line to Serve Low-Income Communities

Transportation Options in Transit-Scarce Neighborhoods

Move Ahead Washington Bill to Create a More Equitable Transportation System

  • Senator Liias’ landmark $17 billion transportation bill, Move Ahead Washington, was signed into law by Governor Inslee earlier this year. This bill directs more funding to non-highway transportation such as EV charging stations, hybrid-electric ferries, and free public transit fares for youth. 
  • Importantly, the bill contains strong equity provisions and requires at least 35% of the funding to be invested to advance environmental justice in overburdened and marginalized communities.

Building a Green Economy and Jobs and Tomorrow

Implementing climate solutions will have the added benefit of creating thousands of new, high-paying jobs. To ensure a just transition to a green economy, it is important to invest in job training and education programs, particularly in underserved communities, to mitigate job losses and ensure access to the jobs of tomorrow.

“Resiliency Corps” Program for Young Adults

  • Mayor Liccardo launched a resiliency corps program to support unemployed and underemployed youth by providing living-wage employment and work experience opportunities.
  • Participants in the corps’ Environmental Resilience and Emergency Preparedness Pathway work on critical infrastructure and landscape management projects: park and trail maintenance, wildfire prevention, habitat restoration, watershed protection, among other resiliency projects. At the end of the program, they are placed in a related career-track job or enrolled in post-secondary education.

Pipeline for “Green” Sector Jobs

  • Mayor Gallego launched the Phoenix Urban Agricultural Fellowship to train the next generation of leaders in the food distribution sector. Graduates of the fellowship are able to continue their careers in climate-friendly food production through the Phoenix Worker Cooperative Sustainable Food System Incubator Training Program.

The NewDEAL is committed to continuing to assist our Leaders across the country to achieve more equitable outcomes by providing state and local policy solutions to ensure real and long-term progress. Work remains, particularly as states begin to implement climate solutions from the $550 billion provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including realizing equitable economic opportunities and access to clean, affordable energy. State and local policymakers will play a critical role in ensuring these funds are used effectively to reach historically underserved communities. Their work is already making significant progress to advance environmental justice and ensure all citizens are able to live in a healthy community.

Equity Initiative Virtual Programs

See below for a selection of NewDEAL virtual events and forums where NewDEALers discuss existing barriers and inequities and share ideas and innovative solutions to promote equity.

NewDEAL 11th Annual Leaders Conference — Reimagining Public Safety
November 17- 19, 2021

a presentation by Marcus Ellis, Safer Stronger DC Community Partnerships
a panel with NewDEAL Leaders St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones; Columbus, OH City Attorney Zach Klein; and Montgomery County, MD Councilmember Will Jawando

NewDEAL 11th Annual Leaders Conference — College & Career Pathways
November 17- 19, 2021

Panel and remarks featuring:
NewDEAL Alum Christopher Cabaldon, former mayor (West Sacramento, CA)
Cheryl C. De Vonish, J.D., CEO of Norwalk Community College

Democracy 2021: Redistricting – What’s at Stake
August 10, 2021

featuring Kelly Ward Burton, President of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee; Desiree Tims, President and CEO of Innovation Ohio; and NewDEAL Leaders Florida State Senator Loranne Ausley, Pennsylvania State Representative Jordan Harris, Kentucky State Representative Nima Kulkarni, Michigan State Representative Mari Manoogian, and Colorado State Representative Dylan Roberts.

Democracy 2021: Ranked Choice Voting
June 29, 2021

featuring NewDEAL Leader St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, Co-Director of Democracy Rising Maria Perez, and President and CEO of FairVote Rob Richie

2021 Ideas Summit panel: A Year After George Floyd
May 26, 2021

moderated by Jamal Simmons, with panelists Mayor Tishaura Jones (St. Louis, MO), Representative Jordan Harris (Philadelphia, PA), and County Councilmember Will Jawando (Montgomery County, MD)

Build Back Better: Climate Change, Public Health, and Equity
April 13, 2021

with Terry Tamminen, former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency; Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation and NewDEAL Leaders Wisconsin Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes and Norfolk, VA Councilmember Andria McClellan

Democracy 2021: Voting Rights in the States
March 23, 2021

featuring Myrna Perez, Director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections Program, and NewDEAL Leaders and Alumni on the frontlines dealing with Republican efforts to make voting harder in their states, including Georgia State Senator Jen Jordan, Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran, and former Maricopa County, AZ Recorder Adrian Fontes

Build Back Better: Fighting COVID through Vaccination
March 9, 2021

featuring NewDEAL Leaders Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, and other electeds from around the country

Build Back Better: What’s in Store in 2021
February 18, 2021

featuring Congressman Scott Peters, New Democrat Coalition Vice Chair of Policy; Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read; Shelby County, TN Mayor Lee Harris; Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego; and Zach Butterworth, White House Office of Public Engagement

NewDEAL 10th Annual Leaders Conference — Conversation on Race in America
December 3, 2020

with former U.S. Secretary of Education John King in conversation with NewDEAL Board Member Amanda Edwards on America’s reckoning with its bitter past on race

NewDEAL Virtual Events @ DNC 2020 — Race & Economic Opportunity: Closing the Gaps
August 18, 2020

with NewDEAL Leaders Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist; Kansas City, MO Mayor Quinton Lucas; Montgomery, AL Mayor Steven Reed; and Montgomery County, MD Councilmember Will Jawando

and featuring Ashley Allison, National Coalitions Director, Joe Biden for President; Philip Gaskin, Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Kauffman Foundation; Jason George, “Ben Warren” on ABC’s “Station 19” and “Greys Anatomy”; Paraag Sarva, CEO, Rhino; and Dalila Wilson-Scott, Senior Vice President of Community Impact, Comcast Corporation

See below for a selection of episodes from the NewDEAL’s podcast, An Honorable Profession, where NewDEALers and others discuss how systemic inequities have impacted their lives, and their work to create a more just society.

Phyllis Dickerson, Executive Director of the African American Mayors Association, highlights her work to support and highlight America’s Black mayors across the country. She also reflects on her unusual path from working in fashion to being an advance staffer to the Clintons and Obamas.

NewDEAL Leader and Baldwin Park, CA Assemblymember Blanca Rubio spent the 2021 Thanksgiving holiday with theAn Honorable Profession. She discusses the importance of supporting small businesses, the critical differences of legislative sessions in the pandemic, and making “her-story” as half of the first-ever sister duo in the California General Assembly.

NewDEAL Leader Delaware, Senator Sarah McBride, discusses being the first openly transgender state senator in the United States and the highest-ranking transgender official in the country. She speaks to how Delaware has shaped her sense of being a good neighbor and how this sense of community guides her desire to strengthen the social safety net Delawareans need.

NewDEALers Mayor Trey Mendez (Brownsville, TX) and Councilmember Andria McClellan (Norfolk, VA), as well as Councilmember Zeke Cohen (Baltimore, MD) and Deputy City Manager Dolan Beckel (San Jose, CA), hosted a panel Live from Route Fifty Future Cities Summit. This panel discusses how digital redlining has created issues with telecommunications access and affordability across all of America. The panelists speak to the solutions they’ve developed to close the digital divide in their communities, and how federal funds like the American Rescue Plan are helping states and cities to address inequity now but a more sustainable investment is needed. The panel emphasizes the importance of investing heavily in digital infrastructure, a major component in modern work, school, and everyday life.

During Pride Month, NewDEAL Leader Senator Rebecca Perkins Kwoka talks about being the first openly LGBTQ+ woman elected to New Hampshire’s state senate. She discusses her work to ensure small businesses aren’t left out of pandemic recovery and how she brings new perspectives and voices to the table as a member of the LGBTQ community.

Former NewDEAL Leader, Miami Mayor, and current chair of the Florida Democratic Party Manny Diaz talks about what it will take to win Florida. Diaz talks about his work to reach Hispanic voters and to preserve voter access in the face of the restrictive voting legislation recently signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

NewDEAL Leader Massachusetts Representative Tram Nguyen discusses being the first Vietnamese-American elected to her statehouse and her journey from an immigrant childhood to taking elected office after unseating an incumbent. She also talks about her legislative work to address violence against the AAPI community and make her district a more welcoming and inclusive place for all Americans.

NewDEAL Leader Minnesota Senate Assistant Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen delves into her work in the legislature to pass police reform and address inequalities in the American system. She also discusses how she’s working to close systemic gaps in employment, child care, and more as we recover from the pandemic.

NewDEAL Leader Pennsylvania House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris, a leader on police and criminal justice reform, talks about his work to build bipartisan coalitions to pass legislation to make communities safer by holding police accountable for misconduct, among other reforms, and his other work to reform the criminal justice system.

Taped soon after the guilty verdict was announced in the Derek Chauvin trial, NewDEAL Leader Montgomery County, MD Councilmember Will Jawando talks about his leadership on police reform, including his work in 2019 to pass the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act to change how his county’s police handle officer-involved shootings. He shares his thoughts on the impact of the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial and what must come next, how to ensure we rebuild equitably post-COVID, and how losing a close friend to gun violence led him to a career in public service where he could effect change.

NewDEAL Leader Kansas City, MO Mayor Quinton Lucas talks about his work to invest in supporting at-risk populations through the pandemic and beyond and address their short-term needs in a way that helps them build wealth and makes his city stronger in the future. He also discusses his personal journey from childhood homelessness and poverty to representing his communities first on the council and now as the mayor of a major American city.

NewDEAL Alum former Stockton, CA Mayor Michael Tubbs, recently named Special Advisor for Economic Mobility and Opportunity for California Governor Gavin Newsom, joins An Honorable Profession to talk about the results of his UBI pilot, as well as his innovative work to lead Stockton out of bankruptcy and revitalize the city, and his personal journey from poverty to becoming the city’s first Black mayor and the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city.

NewDEAL Leader Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II talks about the urgency of change at the programmatic, policy, and cultural levels to end dehumanizing police interactions with black Americans, a change that requires not just government to take justice seriously but all Americans.

NewDEAL Alum Bakari Sellers, political commentator and author of the new book, My Vanishing Country, talks about the nation’s current struggle with our long history of discrimination, his family’s history of activism & public service, and finding an empowering way to talk about race with young people.

An Honorable Profession Episode 42: TN Senator Raumesh Akbari

NewDEAL Leader Tennessee Senator Raumesh Akbari talks about translating the protests into action, both short-term and long-term, and the importance of acknowledging the core problem of systemic racism that leads to inequitable outcomes at large as well as continued use of force against the African-American community.