By Hayley Crandall
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be providing $200,000 each for Milwaukee and Madison for Environmental Justice (EJ) initiatives as part of funds allotted to the EPA under the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the agency announced in a press release Tuesday.
“These initiatives in Milwaukee and Madison will help areas that are overburdened with pollution,” EPA Region 5 Acting Administrator Cheryl Newton said in the release.
“Advancing environmental justice is part of EPA’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment in all communities.”
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress designated this funding for grants, contracts and other agency activities that respond to identified environmental and public health problems in underserved communities, according to the release.
The City of Milwaukee received funding for education and outreach on indoor air quality through a Healthy People, Homes and Neighborhood campaign.
This campaign looks to help spread information regarding COVID-19, safe disinfectants, affordable methods for controlling home energy use and preventing exposure to contaminants, like mold and lead, the release outlined. It aims to share resources and raise awareness on how underserved residents can maintain healthy homes.
Many Milwaukee residents have had to deal with various challenges amplified by the pandemic, according to U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, and this grant can help provide them with the education and resources needed.
“Communities of color in Milwaukee have experienced health, education and economic disparities that were only magnified during the pandemic,” Moore said in the press release.
“Now, we must make conscious efforts to fight these inequities and secure equity for our residents.”
She continued, “With this environmental justice grant for the City of Milwaukee’s Healthy People, Homes and Neighborhoods program, we can empower residents with the tools and knowledge to keep their communities healthy and safe and protect their homes from environmental hazards.”
The City of Madison was provided funding for public education, training and an emergency planning program centered around the impacts of COVID-19 in particular neighborhoods, according to the press release. Those of these focus areas include low-income, non-English speakers and racial and ethnic minority populations.
Intervene Against COVID-19 aims to reduce transmission through various efforts such as education on prevention, treatment and emergency preparedness. To assist with the program, participants receive masks, hand sanitizers and disinfectants to fight COVID-19 in their communities, according to the release.
This pandemic has escalated health disparities in their communities, said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, and they are thankful for the help this funding will provide.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated public health inequities in our community,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We are grateful for this grant from the EPA to work with our community partners to expand community health education in areas that need it most.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin believes these funds will benefit the cities greatly and applauds both the president and EPA for helping Wisconsin respond to the outlined disparities.
“This federal funding from EPA will help support great work being done in Madison and Milwaukee on solutions to local COVID-19 public health issues,” said Baldwin. “I know President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan are committed to helping our state address racial disparities in health outcomes and this investment in Wisconsin shows that they support us and the work we are doing at the local level.”
Current funds being distributed by the EPA totals approximately $2.8 million for 14 EJ-centered projects. This includes the ones highlighted in Milwaukee and Madison.