EPA - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

07/15/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/15/2021 09:29

EPA Announces $200k Under the American Rescue Plan to Fund Environmental Justice Initiatives in Massachusetts


BOSTON - On June 25, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will provide $50 million dollars for Environmental Justice (EJ) initiatives through funds allocated to EPA under the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) will be receiving $200,000 under this initiative to help residents in Massachusetts communities with significant environmental justice concerns and disproportionately high asthma rates to increase their knowledge, resources, and support as well as to manage their asthma in a safe and healthy way.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress designated this funding for grants, contracts, and other agency activities that identify and address disproportionate environmental or public health harms and risks in underserved communities through a range of local initiatives.

'We know how important it is to put funding to work in environmentally overburdened, economically underserved areas, and today we're excited to let our communities know that thanks to the American Rescue Plan, help is here,' said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. 'EPA is drawing on its many years of experience working with communities and organizations that strive for environmental justice to ensure these funds will deliver real-world results for those who need it most.'

'EPA is proud to support the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's efforts to reduce asthma in Massachusetts communities and assist in the State's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic with funding under the American Rescue Plan,' said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro. 'Residents in communities with significant environmental justice concerns suffer disproportionately high asthma rates and have been hardest hit by the pandemic. This grant will help increase the knowledge, resources and support to individuals and families living with asthma.'

'One in 11 people in Massachusetts suffers from asthma and we know communities of color bear an unequal burden of poor asthma outcomes due to historical inequities,' said Massachusetts Department of Public Health Acting Commissioner Margret Cooke. 'This funding is a recognition of the work of our Asthma Prevention and Control Program and will help reduce asthma inequities by focusing upstream on factors that result from systemic and structural racism, such as air pollution exposure and inadequate housing. The goal is to achieve sustainable statewide change and improve the quality of life for all people living with asthma in the Commonwealth.'

The DPH Asthma Prevention and Control Program's long-term goal through this project is to reduce disproportionately high asthma rates and public health disparities in communities with significant environmental justice concerns. The project will focus on cities hardest hit by COVID-19, including Brockton, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, and Worcester. These cities are also among the 20 communities in the ongoing DPH Vaccine Equity Initiative to reduce barriers to vaccination through direct investments in communities and populations most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

With this new EPA funding, the agency will implement the 'Massachusetts Asthma Home Visiting COVID-19 Adaptation Project' to address environmental and community health inequities in overburdened and vulnerable communities in Massachusetts. Project elements will include:

  • Community engagement and creation of community-informed outreach materials
  • Establishment of a learning community and mentoring program to help increase the capacity of community health workers to deliver services that meet the needs of focus communities
  • Development of a multi-stakeholder asthma and COVID-19 workgroup
  • Reframing of key Asthma Prevention and Control Program materials and trainings with a focus on advancing racial justice

Massachusetts DPH will partner with the Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership, Boston Public Health Commission, Community Health Education Center, a community health worker mentor, and community health centers in focus communities to help them accomplish these goals.

EPA is assisting under-resourced communities by quickly getting out ARP funding to leverage important programs that improve air quality, drinking water, revitalization of brownfields, diesel emissions from buses in low income communities and communities of color. Under EPA's State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement (SEJCA) program, the agency is awarding its first competitive grants focusing directly on the unequal impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color, low income communities, and other vulnerable populations. Projects include training, developing citizen-science tools, pollution monitoring, and educational campaigns to enable EJ advocates, scientists, and decision-makers to address pollution and create thriving communities.

Funding currently being distributed totals approximately $2.8 million for 14 EJ-focused projects, with more to be announced soon throughout the country.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law in March 11, 2021. It provides funds to address health outcome disparities from pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about the ARP, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1319/text

More information:

Full list of ARP grantees: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-announces-50-million-fund-environmental-justice-initiatives-under-american-rescue