Biden-Harris administration, EPA select Fordham University to receive $50M to fund environmental justice projects

Fordham University located in Bronx, NY
Fordham University located in Bronx, NY.
Photo courtesy Chriscobar for Creative Commons

Last week, as part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a $50 million Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant for the Bronx’s Fordham University to serve as a Regional Grantmaker.

This new grant program, while making it easier for small community-based organizations to access federal environmental justice funding, responds to community feedback on the need to reduce barriers to federal funds and improve the efficiency of the awards process to ensure communities that have long faced underinvestment can access the benefits of the largest climate investment in history. The $50 million is under the EPA’s Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking program.

Communities will be able to apply to Fordham University for a subgrant to fund a range of different environmental project activities, including but not limited to small local clean ups, local emergency preparedness and disaster resiliency programs, environmental workforce development programs for local jobs reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air quality and asthma related projects, healthy homes programs, and projects addressing illegal dumping.

“For years, community advocates have been calling for federal support and resources to help address our country’s most pressing environmental justice concerns,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “Together, in partnership with these Grantmakers, we are taking a giant step toward a future where every person in America has equal opportunity to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live a healthy, productive life.”

Fordham University will work with partners such as the New York Immigration Coalition, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, ConPRmetidos, Community Foundation Virgin Islands and Business Initiative Corporation of New York, to implement an intersectional approach to place frontline environmental justice communities in positions of power through participatory community-led governance. As the regional Grantmaker, Fordham University will provide grants to community-based organizations, groups, and other institutions and groups who historically have not had the capacity to apply for and receive federal funding for climate projects.

“Fordham believes in the power of community-driven solutions to climate change to capture the insights and ingenuity of the people on the front lines of global warming,” said Fordham University President Tania Tetlow. “Fordham works to find the answers to the most urgent and complicated of problems, and it does so by centering human impact and environmental justice.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said the EPA announcement is exactly why he fought so hard for the Inflation Reduction Act.

“This $600 million for 11 regional grantmakers, including $50 million for our own Fordham University, that is distributed to community-based nonprofits fighting on the frontlines of climate change, is the kind of program that can help our disadvantaged communities truly flourish,” Schumer said. “I remain laser-focused on implementation of the IRA so that we can ensure it lives up to its transformative potential to clean our air and combat climate change.”

EPA Grantmakers will work in collaboration with EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights to issue subgrants to community-based nonprofit organizations and other eligible organizations representing disadvantaged communities. As a Grantmaker, Fordham University will design comprehensive application and submission processes, award environmental justice subgrants, implement tracking and reporting systems, and provide resources and support to communities.

Tier one will consist of grants for $150,000 for assessment, tier two will consist of grants for $250,000 for planning, and tier three will consist of grants for $350,000 for project development. In addition, $75,000 will be available for capacity-constrained community-based organizations through a noncompetitive process under tier one. Each grantmaker will design and implement a distribution program best suited for their region and communities. The subgrants are expected to become available by summer of 2024.

The program is part of the Federal Interagency Thriving Communities Network and delivers on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which set the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. Grantmakers will work in collaboration with the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs) to create a robust support network to assist eligible entities when applying.

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