The Environmental Protection Agency announced Jan. 10 that community organizations and local, state and Tribal governments can begin applying for environmental justice grant funding created by a major climate package Congress passed in August. The first batch of grant money, distributed by the Environmental Protection Agency, totals $100 million.
“People in [environmental justice] communities often know what’s best. They don’t always have the resources or the voice,” said Catherine Coleman Flowers, founding director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, at a press briefing Tuesday.
The announcement marks the biggest environmental justice grant funding ever offered by the EPA, and it represents only the first batch of a larger pot of money. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act allocated $3 billion for environmental and climate justice grants.
The EPA has emphasized a desire to make sure that funding ends up with the communities most in need and organizations that know those communities well. At the briefing, the agency’s leader, Administrator Michael Regan, acknowledged that previous funding opportunities have sometimes failed to make it into the right hands.
“Too many of these communities have faced barrier after barrier trying to access the federal funding they need and deserve,” Regan said.
This first round of competitive grants includes about $70 million for state, local and Tribal governments and $30 million for community-based organizations. Within that second pot of funding, around $5 million is reserved for small nonprofits with five or fewer full-time employees.
At a meeting in November of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council—which offers recommendations on environmental justice policy to the EPA—several leaders of community organizations pointed out that the federal grant competitions tend to favor organizations that are already fairly large and well-funded. The EPA recently created the “EJ Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers Program,” which includes, among other services, training opportunities focused on navigating complicated federal grant application forms.
The application period for this round of funding began yesterday and ends on April 10. The EPA will host a series of “pre-application” webinars on Jan. 24 and Jan. 26 aimed at guiding potential applicants through the process.