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Biden administration injects $600m into local climate initiatives

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In a move to accelerate environmental efforts nationwide, the Biden administration has unveiled a $600 million investment for local climate projects. Eleven environmental organizations have been selected as grantmakers to oversee the distribution of funds to community-focused initiatives.

This initiative, part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking program,” aims to expedite federal funding for environmental projects and empower grassroots organizations. Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted the traditional hurdles faced by smaller, local groups in securing federal grants due to a lengthy approval process favoring larger, national entities.

The innovative approach involves the selected grantmakers acting as intermediaries, streamlining the application process, deciding fund allocations, and monitoring progress. The scope of projects may range from local clean-up efforts to air quality initiatives, community preparedness, and disaster programs.

Harris emphasized the significance of addressing environmental justice concerns, particularly in low-income, immigrant, native, and communities of color that bear disproportionate levels of pollution and climate-related challenges. The grants are sourced from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, reflecting a broader commitment to ensuring 40% of certain investment benefits reach underserved communities.

The chosen organizations, a mix of regional and national grantmakers, are anticipated to begin awarding grants by the summer of 2024. Harris underscored that these organizations, deeply rooted in the communities they serve, are ideally positioned to understand and address local needs effectively.

Despite these environmental initiatives, the Biden administration faces opposition from House Republicans seeking to reduce funding for the EPA. A recent GOP-backed spending bill aims to cut the EPA’s budget by nearly 40%, challenging the administration’s environmental agenda. However, the bill’s passage through the Democratic-controlled Senate remains uncertain.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan reinforced the administration’s commitment to environmental justice, asserting that clean air, water, and a healthy life are fundamental rights for all, irrespective of socio-economic factors. The $600 million investment is characterized as a crucial “downpayment,” signaling a broader commitment to addressing environmental challenges at the community level.

The selected grantmaking organizations encompass Health Resources in Action, Fordham University, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Inc., Research Triangle Institute, The Minneapolis Foundation, Texas Southern University, JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc., Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, Inc., Philanthropy Northwest, Institute for Sustainable Communities, and Climate Justice Alliance.

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