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FEMA, Housing Programs Swept Into Biden Justice40 Equity Plan

July 15, 2022, 1:01 PM

The White House said Friday it extended President Joe Biden’s environmental justice effort across key FEMA grant programs and two-dozen housing programs, raising to nearly 250 the number of governmentwide programs refocused to help marginalized and disadvantaged communities.

Four Federal Emergency Management Agency programs focused on flood mitigation, resilient infrastructure, and grants to better prepare for severe storms and other catastrophes are now covered by Biden’s Justice40 environmental equity effort, according to the administration’s announcement.

Justice40 calls for steering 40% of the overall benefits of clean energy, climate change, affordable housing, training and workforce development, and certain other federal funding toward poorer and marginalized populations disproportionately affected by pollution.

The FEMA and Department of Housing and Urban Development programs are the latest deemed “covered” by the administration’s Justice40 effort, which Biden launched with an executive order in his first week in office to address climate change and environmental inequities.

With Friday’s announcement, the initiative now extends to hundreds of programs across more than six agencies and departments and multiple independent agencies, including those awarded funding increases under the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package, according to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency thus far leads other agencies with 73 programs covered by the environmental and social justice effort, followed by the departments of Interior (65), Agriculture (65), and Health and Human Services (13), all announced by the White House June 24.

FEMA, Housing Programs

The four FEMA programs wrapped into the Biden equity effort include its Flood Mitigation Assistance Program, a competitive grant program for states, local communities, tribes, and territories to help cut risks of repetitive flood damage to buildings insured by the National Flood Insurance Program.

The Justice40 effort is being extended to FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program; its Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning Program; and its Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program.

Friday’s announcement extends the governmentwide Justice40 effort to more than a half-dozen programs run by small federal independent agencies, including five run by AmeriCorps, launched in the early 1990s as a domestic-focused volunteer effort modeled on the Peace Corps. They include AmeriCorps state and national formula grants; its VISTA program focused on fighting poverty across U.S. states and territories; and the AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP program pairing those 55 years of age and older with community organizations.

The equity effort is also being applied to a grant program overseen by the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal–state partnership that works to boost economic development in the region; and the Denali Commission, an Alaska-based agency that advances infrastructure, utilities, and economic development.

Also newly covered are certain grants awarded by the Delta Regional Authority, a joint federal-state partnership that works to boost economic opportunities across eight states in the Mississippi Delta region.

Taken together, the announcements over the last month are a significant expansion of Biden’s effort from a pilot effort outlined by the White House Office of Management in July 2021. It’s interim guidance initially applied the Justice40 equity focus on fewer than two-dozen programs including state water grants, waste cleanup programs, as well as several energy, transportation, climate change, and affordable housing efforts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bloombergindustry.com