EPA Announces $50 Million to Fund Environmental Justice Initiatives
June 30, 2021
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law on March 11, 2021. It provides funds to address health outcome disparities from pollution and the COVID–19 pandemic. To learn more about the ARP, read the House Bill.
EPA is assisting under-resourced communities by quickly getting out ARP funding to leverage important programs that improve air quality, drinking water, revitalization of brownfields, diesel emissions from buses in low-income communities and communities of color. In addition, the agency is awarding its first competitive grants focusing directly on the unequal impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable populations.
Projects include training, developing citizen-science tools, pollution monitoring, and educational campaigns to enable EJ advocates such as SCS Engineers, scientists, and decision-makers to address pollution and create thriving communities.
Funding currently being distributed totals approximately $2.8 million for 14 EJ-focused projects, with more to be announced soon throughout the country. In addition to the Baltimore City grant, today’s announcement includes funding for the following projects in underserved communities:
City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin – for outreach and education through a Healthy People, Homes, and Neighborhood campaign.
City of Fort Collins, Colorado – for a housing intervention program targeting indoor air quality.
South Coast Air Quality Management District, California – to establish an Air Quality Academy to provide resources and training to improve environmental literacy and air quality data.
Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, California – for a community health worker pilot program on asthma awareness.
Public Health-Seattle & King County, Washington – for community health worker training on healthy homes and home assessments.
Tohono O’odham Tribal Nation, Arizona – for developing local plans to address air quality issues.
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality – for developing and implementing an EJ training academy and EJ map-based tool.
Alabama Department of Environmental Management – for public education on air pollution and disinfectants.
City of Houston, Texas – to launch the Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira public education campaign to engage with communities about clean air and COVID-19 creatively.
City of Madison, WI – to implement Intervene Against COVID-19, a public education, training, and emergency planning program.
City of Hartford Department of Health and Human Services, Connecticut – to implement a new strategy to increase outreach on asthma and environmental hazards.
City of San Pablo, CA – to deploy an afterschool internship program for disadvantaged high school students to raise awareness and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.
Massachusetts Department of Health – to support the Asthma Prevention and Control Program, which seeks to improve asthma outcomes in multiple underserved communities.
EPA also announced for the first time how the agency would distribute the $50 million in ARP funds.
A breakdown is provided below:
$16,650,000 will be used to fund EJ grants. This includes State EJ Cooperative Agreement awards (SEJCA), EJ collaborative problem-solving (EJCPS), and EJ small grants (EJSG). Tribes and territories are eligible for each of these programs, and the application requests have closed for this fiscal year. This funding also helps with capacity building, training and assessments, the Puerto Rico drinking water systems capacity assessment, and a new Appalachia Initiative for Revitalization. It will provide technical assistance and environmental youth STEM training in overburdened communities.
$7,000,000 will fund a tailored use of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) rebate program to address priority EJ issues for reducing diesel pollution. This DERA rebate program will fund electric school buses using screening criteria with the goal of reaching fleets in underserved communities with multiple air quality and health challenges.
$5,130,000 will be used to expand civil and criminal enforcement to include monitoring near low-income communities and drinking water sources for pollution, including air toxics and hazardous metals. It also supports EJ analyses related to oil and gas production and refining and support for environmental crime victim outreach.
$4,850,000 will go to children’s health issues and fund the Children’s Healthy Learning Environments Grant and Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs). PEHSUs build capacity in vulnerable communities to reduce children’s environmental exposures in child-occupied settings and address children’s COVID-19 environmental health risks.
$4,700,000 will be used for drinking water and compliance monitoring in rural and tribal areas. This supports small and underserved public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities through in-person technical assistance, including a circuit rider program, and supports integrating EJ into EPA permit writing.
$2,150,000 will support the agency’s community-driven solutions to collaboratively build community capacity to address air and water issues in underserved communities. Specialized technical assistance will help align school reopening investments with clean air and neighborhood cooling shelter needs and promote equitable resilience and revitalization.
$1,600,000 will support the Tribal General Assistance Program. This program supports efforts by tribes to engage their community members on priority EJ water and air quality issues. Tribes and indigenous organizations will also be eligible for all the above support mechanisms.
$720,000 will be used to enhance the development of EJSCREEN, the EJ analysis tool, and support related resources.
$700,000 is allocated for a climate protection program to advance data analytics work in the Office of Air and Radiation to identify cumulative burdens, improve equity outcomes for vulnerable communities, and advance regulatory analytics and policy modeling to incorporate environmental justice considerations better.
$500,000 will support new methods of outreach and support for those performing analysis and outreach related to critical EJ issues in the oil and gas sector.
$1,000,000 will be used for administrative costs under the 2% reserved in the law for this purpose.