Biden-Harris Administration Proposes Restoring Protections for Beneficiaries of Federally Funded Social Services

Today, nine federal agencies are further advancing President Biden’s call for religious freedom and equity for all by proposing a new rule to restore religious liberty protections for beneficiaries of federally funded social services, such as job training and job search assistance, academic enrichment opportunities, and housing services. These protections were rescinded by the previous Administration.

The United States Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Veterans Affairs and the United States Agency for International Development are proposing this new rule. The rule will protect beneficiaries by taking steps such as: 

  • Requiring federal grantees that administer social service programs within the United States to notify beneficiaries of their right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion.  
  • Making clear that all covered social service programs―both those supported by vouchers and by grants―may not discriminate against beneficiaries on the basis of their religion. 
  • Encouraging governmental agencies that fund domestic programs to help beneficiaries identify alternative federally funded service providers in their area, including providers that are more compatible with their beliefs, when beneficiaries request such alternatives. 

To ensure that the religious liberty of faith-based providers of federally funded social services are protected, the nine agencies will continue to notify such providers that they are equally eligible to compete with other organizations for federally funded grants. In addition, the proposed rule would provide that federal agencies will not discriminate among grantees on the basis of factors such as an organization’s religious character, motives, affiliation, or lack thereof.

The nine agencies are jointly issuing this notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM is responsive to the executive order President Biden signed in February 2021 reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which highlighted the need to strengthen the ability of faith-based and community organizations to deliver services effectively while also protecting the religious liberty of program beneficiaries.

 “Today’s announcement builds a whole-of-government approach in social services to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of religion,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “These proposed rules would provide important protections for Americans who rely on federally funded social service programs.”

The agencies encourage members of the public to comment on the proposed rule during the 60-day comment period, and look forward to reviewing the comments, developing final rules, and continuing the long bipartisan tradition of partnering with faith-based and secular organizations to serve people in need.

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