Hundreds of Federal Programs are Being Transformed to Maximize Benefits to Disadvantaged Communities Across the Country

The Biden-Harris Administration is making tremendous progress to advance environmental justice and the historic Justice40 Initiative. On Monday, the Administration published its third list of Justice40 covered programs to include programs from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This week’s release comes after the Administration recently published a first and second list of Justice40 covered programs, including from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of the Interior (DOI), Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA), CNCS (AmeriCorps), Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, and the Denali Commission.

Since the establishment of the Justice40 Initiative in the President’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad and consistent with the interim guidance, agencies across the Federal government have been diligently reviewing programs for inclusion in the Justice40 Initiative. This important initiative aims to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. This is a critical step forward for President Biden’s historic initiative to address environmental justice and make sure no communities are left behind as we build a better America.

A “covered program” is a Federal Government program that falls in the scope of the Justice40 Initiative because it includes investments that can benefit disadvantaged communities across one or more of the following seven areas: climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, and the development of critical clean water and wastewater infrastructure. In response to feedback from stakeholders across the country, the Biden-Harris Administration is releasing Justice40 covered programs in groups by agency to provide more opportunities for interested groups to engage deeply with agencies on these important programs that impact their lives and communities.  

In total, hundreds of Federal programs, representing billions of dollars in annual investment—including programs that were funded or created in the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—are being reimagined and transformed to maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities through the Justice40 Initiative.

A full list of the Justice40 covered programs that have been announced thus far can be viewed here. As the following quotes make clear, top officials across the government are making the Justice40 Initiative a priority within their agencies.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge:

“HUD’s mission is rooted squarely in service to disadvantaged communities and to ensuring equity and justice for the communities we serve. As an agency, we are committed to supporting neighborhoods that have been disinvested for generations and overburdened by pollution and the impacts of climate change. I am happy to announce that 24 of HUD’s programs align with President Biden’s goal to address environmental injustice by investing in underserved communities.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra:

“Our communities have suffered long enough. It’s time to help get them the relief they need. No one should have to suffer adverse health effects as a result of where they work or live. The Justice40 Initiative puts communities and people first, investing in them so they not only survive, but thrive.”

Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm:

“The Department of Energy is working to ensure that the billions of dollars in clean energy investments made possible by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law offer the promise of environmental justice for the communities that need it most. Our Department-wide collaboration with community groups, utilities and local governments will result in climate action that advances environmental justice and invigorates economic revitalization and job creation to benefit Americans for generations.” 

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell:

“The Justice40 Initiative strengthens FEMA’s commitment to ensure quick and equitable distribution of funds and benefits to the communities who need it most. We know that socially vulnerable communities bear the brunt of climate change and are more likely to be impacted by the associated extreme weather events. Thanks to President Biden and the Justice40 Initiative, FEMA will be able to better serve these communities by making them more resilient when disaster strikes.”

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland:

“The Interior Department is committed to advancing environmental justice and making sure that no communities are left behind as we build a better America. From climate adaptation and the promise of clean energy to legacy pollution clean-up and clean water infrastructure, it is imperative that the Biden-Harris administration’s significant investments benefit historically disadvantaged communities, who for too long have borne the brunt of the climate crisis.” 

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough:

“The VA Energy Efficient Mortgage program is a key aspect of VA’s Justice40 effort, helping thousands of Veterans finance the cost of energy efficiency improvements to their homes.This program empowers Vets to add housing updates like solar panels, weatherproofing, solar water heaters, new insulation, and more—saving Veterans money and limiting dangerous pollution in the process.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:

“We must ensure that the programs we support and the investments we make are available to everyone and that we take special steps to ensure that historically underserved communities fully benefit from these investments and prosper as a result of our work. USDA is engaged in a department-wide strategy to put agriculture, forestry, and rural America in a leadership role in addressing climate change and sustainability, and tracking the benefits of those investments with a commitment to doing right by underserved communities through this initiative is an important part of our work.”

AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith:

“AmeriCorps firmly believes that climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is also an economic and racial equity issue. The Justice40 Initiative will bolster our environmental conservation efforts, provide pathways to clean jobs and increase housing in communities that need it most.”

Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Gayle C. Manchin:

“The Appalachian Regional Commission is pleased to be part of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Since 1965, ARC has worked to reduce poverty and bring equity to the underserved communities in Appalachia’s 13 states. The Biden Administration has made historic levels of funding available to communities across the region, which has accelerated the growth of job training, infrastructure, and innovation that will have long-term positive and transformative benefits throughout the Appalachian Region.”

Denali Commission Federal Co-Chair Garrett Boyle:

“Since the inception of the Denali Commission, our primary goal has been to invest in rural, disadvantaged communities in the State of Alaska. President Biden’s direction to the entire federal government to increase investments in those areas is a historic change to how agencies typically operate. We are proud to be a part of the Justice40 Initiative and continue our work in these communities, and look forward to partnering with other federal agencies to make meaningful, lasting impacts.” 

Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Dr. Corey Wiggins:

“Delta Regional Authority applauds and supports President Biden’s commitment to secure environmental justice and spur economic opportunity for disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized, underinvested in, and overburdened. The Justice40 Initiative is a significant step to assure disadvantaged communities will benefit from federal investments to help strengthen housing, transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure, and healthcare systems within their communities.”

Here’s what they are writing and saying about the Justice40 covered programs:

E&E News: Biden unveils environmental justice programs at 4 agencies

[Robin Bravender, 6/24/2022]

The administration announced that more than 200 programs at four agencies will be in Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that disadvantaged communities receive 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal investments in climate, clean energy, clean water, sustainable housing and other areas. The programs on the list range from an EPA lead removal initiative to a native seed collection program led by the Bureau of Land Management. The departments of Interior, Agriculture and Health & Human Services and EPA are the four agencies whose programs are included.

Bloomberg Law: FEMA, Housing Programs Swept Into Biden Justice40 Equity Plan[Dean Scott, 7/15/2022]

The FEMA and Department of Housing and Urban Development programs are the latest deemed “covered” by the administration’s Justice40 effort, which Biden launched with an executive order in his first week in office to address climate change and environmental inequities. With Friday’s announcement, the initiative now extends to hundreds of programs across more than six agencies and departments and multiple independent agencies, including those awarded funding increases under the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package, according to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The Washington Post: Energy Department announces environmental justice efforts[Maxine Joselow, 7/25/22]

The Energy Department on Monday announced that 146 programs will support President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which seeks to deliver at least 40 percent of the benefits of federal climate-related investments to disadvantaged communities. The covered programs include:

  • $5 billion worth of grants to enhance the resilience of the electric grid and reduce the risk of power lines falling during extreme weather events.
  • The $3.5 billion Weatherization Assistance Program, which seeks to increase the energy efficiency of homes owned or occupied by low-income individuals.
  • The Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program, which can guarantee up to $2 billion in loans to Native American tribes to support energy development projects and activities.

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