FEMA leans into data science to ensure equitable disaster aid distribution
Many federal datasets are not disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status or other demographics, limiting the agency's efforts to measure and advance equity.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is trying to ensure aid is being spread equally and equitably in communities suffering through disasters and at least one region is hoping a data scientist can help.
As part of a governmentwide push to address disparities in how marginalized communities access and receive federal benefits, FEMA officials established a new baseline for equity considerations: “The consistent and systematic fair, just and impartial treatment of all individuals.”
The new “equity definition” created in September was a direct response to President Joe Biden’s executive order on “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government.”
To achieve this goal, Region 2—which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight Tribal Nations—is looking for a data scientist to help set metrics and goals for the region’s Equity Task Force and provide other data-related services. The region issued a request for information through SAM.gov and a third-party reverse auction platform as the first stage in soliciting this work through a contractor.
In their efforts to date, Region 2 officials have already identified data—particularly messy and incomplete federal datasets—as a major obstacle to equity efforts.
“As identified in the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity, many federal datasets are not disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status or other key demographic variables,” the statement of work notes. “This lack of data has cascading effects and impedes efforts to measure and advance equity.”
As such, the contractor will be expected to help clean up existing federal datasets to make them more useful, as well as identifying alternative data that could be useful and improving the region’s internal data collection methods. From there, the data scientist will help region administrators turn that data into a strategy.
FEMA is running the solicitation through a third-party reverse auction platform called Unison Marketplace, through which vendors can make a starting offer to be lowered if and when the competition makes a lower bid.
“DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency is taking this action in an effort to improve both vendor access and awareness of requests and the agency's ability to gather multiple, competed, real-time bids,” the agency posted on SAM.gov.
While the platform enables a competitive bidding process, the current solicitation is only a request for information, with no funding attached to the program as of yet.
The RFI will remain open until 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on June 3.