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 City of Hartford's Department of Health and Human Services will be receiving $200,000 under this initiative to develop a resident-driven public information campaign that advances environmental justice and health equity strategies in Hartford, Connecticut, with a long term goal of reducing resident exposures to environmental hazards that contribute to asthma.
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 City of Hartford's Department of Health and Human Services' efforts to reduce asthma in Hartford and assist in the City'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, including Hartford, 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."
"This grant is another step toward righting past environmental wrongs — empowering residents to alert their neighbors about serious lurking pollution dangers. It aims to help correct health care inequities — many of them highlighted, and even exacerbated, by the pandemic. Environmental justice must be an ongoing priority goal," said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.
"This EPA grant is a major investment in Hartford's long-term efforts to reduce asthma rates and address health disparities, especially in underserved communities hit hardest by COVID-19. I'm glad to see funding from the American Rescue Plan directed toward advancing environmental justice in Connecticut's cities, and I'll keep pushing for more support to make sure all communities are safe and healthy," said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.
"Over the years, Hartford has dealt with a history of pollution that has led to asthma and other detrimental health effects to its residents. I was proud to support the American Rescue Plan, which included funding for communities like Hartford to identify and address disproportionate environmental or public health harms in underserved communities. This $200,000 grant will help Hartford combat these environmental hazards and those affected," said U.S. Congressman John Larson.
"As our Health Department has been focused on helping our community fight this pandemic, they've also been looking at how we can address some of the long-term health disparities our residents face," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. "This grant will help us do more education and community outreach on asthma that we hope will help us mitigate the damage of environmental hazards in our community. I want to thank the Environmental Protection Agency for their focus on addressing health equity and their partnership on this important work, and our congressional delegation for their support in securing this funding."
Asthma rates in Connecticut currently exceed the national average and are disproportionately high in urban areas, including Hartford. The City of Hartford's Department of Health and Human Services' long-term goal through this project is to reduce asthma rates and public health disparities in communities with environmental justice concerns.
With this funding, the organization will:
Hartford's DHHS will partner with city departments, community-based non-profits, state agencies, the business community, and philanthropic organizations to accomplish their 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