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Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo spoke at the White House press briefing Thursday where she stated unequivocally that her office’s “number one investment priority is equity.”

Raimondo is referring in this statement specifically to grants given by the US Economic Development Administration (EDA).

The first question asked of Raimondo regarding the EDA grants was “I understand that you are going to judge some of these by return on investment (ROI).” “How are we defining ROI, given that that could often exclude priorities like gender and racial equality?”

Raimondo responds: “So, our number one priority is equity. And as our team decides which … this is a competitive grant process. By the way, I think that the fact of the competition will help communities come together as a community and put their best ideas forward.”

“In order to qualify to get the money, you’ll have to prove to us that you’ll have an equity lens, and whether it’s job training that you’re doing … you have to give, have to make sure that, women, people of color, veterans, people who have been left out will be included in this.” She adds: “So, it’s a lens we’re gonna take across the $3 billion [presumably the amount of the EDA’s budget].”

“And, like, whoever does it the best?” asks the same reporter. “Correct. Exactly,” replies Raimondo.

Another reporter asks, “What type of follow-up will there be? You’re emphasizing equity, but will you be following up to make sure that that money is fairly distributed to the communities that you’re speaking of, that really do need it?”  

“Great question,” responds Raimondo.

“So, we are deeply committed for this to be transparent. Everything is gonna be online; it’s gonna on our website. It’s gonna be a wide-open transparent process. And we are, at the get-go, putting in place accountability measures.”

“This is something I’m very serious about, having been a governor, been on the ground. And we are going to track every penny to make sure that it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”

“And, the ROI? The ROI is jobs. We think we can create, in the short term, hundreds of thousands of jobs and fundamentally revitalize dozens of communities around America, so that, a few years from now, we’ll create three hundred thousand jobs, ten years from now, we will have communities that are a beehive of economic activity, that, five years ago were distressed.”

Raimondo (D) was elected in 2014 as governor of Rhode Island, and served until just recently in 2021 before being named Secretary of Commerce.

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