Guest post by Roger Caiazza
The mission of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment. I think most people would agree with me that the intent is to protect human health from air, water, and land environmental risks. In that light it was disconcerting to me to see the following announcement from for $1 million in grants to states to “help local environmental justice communities address COVID-19 concerns faced by low-income and minority communities”.
EPA defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys: the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and
equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”
The request for applications states that applications must address the impacts of COVID-19 through public education, planning, and training activities related to COVID-19 including but not limited to: “1) sharing information related to EPA approved disinfectants to combat COVID-19, 2) addressing underserved residents’ increased exposure to in-home pollutants and healthy housing issues as an unintended consequence of local stay-at-home orders, and 3) training of community health workers as community educators for environmental justice communities.
While there is no disputing low-income and minority communities have historically been disproportionately impacted by air, water, and land environmental risks the question is whether COVID-19 grants are an appropriate way to address those risks. EPA plans to award five cooperative agreements in the approximate amount of $200,000 each. Given what the release says about what the money is to be used for, wouldn’t this be a more appropriate thing for the Department of Health or Center for Disease Control to do? Finally, grants are due at the end of June, grants start October 1 and the grants can run for two years, what will there be to do in that timeframe for the education, planning and training activities?
EPA Provides Grant Funding to Support Environmental Justice Communities Impacted by COVID-19; New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands Impacted
Contact: Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664, email@example.com
NEW YORK (April 30, 2020) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to improve the environment and public health conditions of low-income and minority communities through our daily efforts to ensure all Americans have clean air, safe water, and access to information to make decisions to protect personal and public health. In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, EPA is making $1 million in grant funding available to states to help local environmental justice communities address COVID-19 concerns faced by low-income and minority communities.
Through the State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement Program, EPA will provide funds to states, local governments, tribes and U.S. territories to work collaboratively with environmental justice communities to understand, promote and integrate approaches to provide meaningful and measurable improvements to public health and the environment.
“Environmental justice grants aim to support public education, training, and emergency planning for communities across the country impacted by COVID-19, regardless of their zip code,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These grants are part of EPA’s effort to actively fight the COVID-19 pandemic that is having a disproportionate impact on low-income and minority communities.”
The grant funding will be used to support public education, training, and emergency planning for communities impacted by COVID-19. Projects could include sharing information related to EPA-approved disinfectants to combat COVID-19; addressing increased exposure of residents to in-home pollutants and healthy housing issues; and training community health workers.
EPA anticipates awarding five grants of approximately $200,000 each for up to a two-year funding period. The agency encourages applicants to develop innovative plans and processes to conduct effective outreach to underserved communities, especially in places where Internet access may not be readily available to all residents.
Interested applicants must submit proposal packages on or before June 30, 2020 to be considered for the available funding.
Roger Caiazza blogs on New York energy and environmental issues at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York. This represents his opinion and not the opinion of any of his previous employers or any other company he has been associated with.