Delivering Historic and Long Overdue Investments in Disadvantaged Communities
By Candace Vahlsing, Associate Director for Climate, Energy, Environment, and Science, Office of Management and Budget
As part of a historic commitment to environmental justice, President Biden last year created the Justice40 Initiative to ensure that federal agencies deliver 40 percent of the benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to underserved communities.
To date, more than $29 billion in federal investments and funding opportunities have incorporated the Justice40 initiative – with Federal agencies reimagining and transforming hundreds of federal programs to maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities. To put that figure in context, the President’s FY23 budget request for all climate and environmental justice discretionary funding for the entire government, which is of course only a portion of the funding that would be eligible for Justice40, totals about $45 billion. As a result of this critical work, federal investments are supporting safe and sustainable housing in Alaska Native villages, eliminating dangerous environmental hazards and creating good-paying jobs in coal communities, and significantly improving the health and welfare of San Juan communities by reducing their exposure to contaminated waters and sediments.
Today, as part of the larger Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Week of Action announcements, our commitment to increase transparency, and to provide a better understanding to communities of just how Justice40 investments will create meaningful and lasting benefits in disadvantaged communities, we are highlighting some the Justice40 investments across the country. Examples of investments include:
Building Clean Energy & Improving Energy Efficiency
- Over $6 billion in Department of Energy (DOE) funds, including over $3 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program formula grants, as well as competitive solicitations covering research and development in areas such as bioenergy, solar ecosystem benefits, and wave energy as well as training and establishing urban field laboratories. This investment includes over $3 billion for competitive solicitations in areas such as advanced battery manufacturing and clean energy R&D. DOE solicitations will develop environmental justice analyses, invest in technology that has the potential to advance equity and energy justice and revitalize the economies of coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities, and define success that advances environmental justice and economic revitalization initiatives.
- $50 million through the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.
Remediation and Reduction of Legacy Pollution
- $1.297 billion in funding at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for various grants that will remediate and reduce pollution, such as cleaning up brownfield sites and superfund sites, or reducing lead in drinking water, to benefit disadvantaged communities.
- $775 million in initial grant funding through the Department of Interior (DOI) for plugging orphaned oil and gas wells under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Funds will be used to clean up these environmental and safety hazards, create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, and shut down sources of harmful methane emissions.
- $725 million through DOI for reclaiming abandoned mine lands as part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Funds will help communities eliminate dangerous environmental hazards and pollution caused by past coal mining while creating good-paying jobs and providing opportunities to revitalize coal communities.
Conserving Resources & Increasing Adaptation to Climate Change
- $1.2 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for states, local governments, territories and tribes under two grant programs that help communities build resilience to natural disasters. In 2021 FEMA announced $1 billion for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program for recipients to reduce their vulnerability to natural hazard events before they occur, and make themselves and the nation more resilient. The Biden Administration implemented a number of changes to enhance funding opportunities for tribes and disadvantaged communities, including by changing program selection criteria and providing a larger allocation for tribes. Additionally, FEMA has announced $220 million for the Flood Mitigation Assistance grant program to reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive flood damage to homes and buildings insured by the National Flood Insurance Program. These investments will advance environmental justice and equity, reduce the vulnerability of communities to disasters, promote individual and community safety, and strengthen our ability as a nation to adapt to changing conditions, and reduce the burdens these changes place on our first responders.
- $1 billion through USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities to support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities through of pilot projects that will build markets and invest in America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers, and forest owners to strengthen U.S. rural and agricultural communities.
- $85 million at DOE’s Office of Science to study the unique climate-related impacts and challenges affecting urban under represented and/or disadvantaged communities.
- $100 million of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $500 million in LIHEAP across 5 years, on top of an additional $4.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan. Program funds provide assistance to low-income households for their energy costs, weatherization needs, and energy-related home repairs.
- $15.2 million in funding announcements from DOI’s Fish and Wildlife Service for a range of activities including those that target native Hawaiian communities, youth engagement and infrastructure improvements.
Improving Water Quality, Conservation, and Drought
- $9.6 billion through EPA’s State Revolving Funds to accelerate progress on water infrastructure projects. This funding helps states, tribes, and territories upgrade water infrastructure to provide safe drinking water and protect vital water resources. EPA Administrator Regan sent a letter to Governors in December 2021 encouraging them to target the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds toward disadvantaged communities and those most impacted by urgent water challenges.
- $64.7 million at DOI’s Bureau of Reclamation for WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) Program, which provides a framework for Federal leadership and assistance to stretch and secure water supplies for future generations and leverages Federal and non-Federal funding to work cooperatively with states, tribes, and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply reliability through investments in existing infrastructure and attention to local water conflicts.
- $2.7 million in funding opportunity announcements from EPA that address water quality issues working to provide benefits of cleaner water to reach disadvantaged communities.
Improving the Nation’s Transportation Infrastructure
- $615 million from the Department of Transportation (DOT), in partnership with DOE, to build out a national electric vehicle charging network, an important step toward making electric vehicle (EV) charging accessible to all Americans. This funding is part of a $5 billion program that will help states create a network of EV charging stations along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors and in communities.
Reducing Transportation Emissions
- $1.47 billion from DOT funding to states, local government authorities, and tribes for the Bus and Bus Facilities and Low or No Emission grant programs, including $1.1 billion to purchase or lease low or no emission buses that use advanced technologies for transit revenue operations. Grantees will include specific environmental justice activities and plan to seek out and consider the needs of those historically disadvantaged and underserved communities by existing transportation systems.
- $500 million from EPA funding to begin replacing the nation’s fleet of school buses with clean, American-made, zero-emission buses, while prioritizing applications from school districts serving disadvantaged communities. This $500 million represents the first round of funding out of the unprecedented $5 billion investment for low and zero-emission school buses over the next five years under the in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Providing Safe and Sustainable Housing
- $759.7 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for grants to support strong, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes, all of which benefit disadvantaged communities. This includes Choice Neighborhoods to revitalize public and assisted housing and surrounding neighborhoods, housing and community development in Indian Country, identify and remediate radon risk in Public Housing, and identify, remediate, and protect low-income families from lead-based paints and other health and safety hazards in their homes.
Expanding Education and Research
- $8 million in grant funding through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support educational opportunities for Alaska native-serving and native Hawaiian-serving institutions and tribal students.
Correcting the historic wrongs that persist in disadvantaged communities and others will require sustained and committed work. By making long overdue investments and ensuring the benefits reach the communities that need them most, we are delivering on President Biden’s promise of a healthy and safe environment for all.