HHS Announces Programs to Join President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative

President Biden created the Justice40 Initiative to ensure that federal agencies deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities. In total, hundreds of federal programs, representing billions of dollars in annual investment, are being utilized to maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities through the Justice40 Initiative.

After starting implementation on two Justice40 pilot programs at HHS, HHS is proud to prioritize 13 programs to include in the Justice40 Initiative that will help communities find relief from pollution and climate-related events impacting people’s health.

“Our communities have suffered long enough. It’s time to help get them the relief they need. No one should have to suffer adverse health effects as a result of where they work or live. The Justice40 Initiative puts communities and people first, investing in them so they not only survive, but thrive,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

“Ranging from worker training programs to assistance for energy and water costs, these programs aim to ensure no one is left behind as we work to advance health equity for all people living in the United States,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine.

“Having grown up in a chemical exposures corridor in Houston, Texas, seeing the Administration’s commitment to environmental justice gives me hope for our community, and the many like it across our nation. It’s only through actions like the Justice40 Initiative that we will be able to make a difference for the communities we serve,” said the HHS Office of Environmental Justice Interim Director Dr. Sharunda Buchanan.

Covered Programs List for HHS

The Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP) focuses on delivering comprehensive training to increase the number of disadvantaged and underrepresented workers in areas such as environmental restoration, construction, hazardous materials/waste handling, and emergency response. Since 1995, the ECWTP has provided pre-employment and health and safety training to thousands of people from underserved communities nationwide.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps keep households safe and healthy through initiatives that assist households with energy costs. LIHEAP provides federally funded assistance in managing costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and energy-related minor home repairs. LIHEAP can help you stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer through programs that reduce the risk of health and safety problems that arise from unsafe heating and cooling practices.

The Sanitation Facilities Construction (SFC) Program is responsible for the delivery of environmental engineering services and sanitation facilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The SFC Program provides American Indian and Alaska Native homes and communities with essential water supply, sewage disposal, and solid waste disposal facilities. Indian Health Service (IHS) environmental engineers plan, design, and manage most SFC projects; many of those engineers are assigned to one of the twelve IHS Area Offices.

Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) provides funds to assist low-income households with paying past due bills and rates charged to the household for drinking water and wastewater services. LIHWAP benefits target households with low incomes that have the highest home water burdens, meaning they pay the greatest amount of their income towards home drinking water and/or wastewater services. LIHWAP grants are available to States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories, and Federally and state-recognized Indian Tribes and tribal organizations that received fiscal year 2021 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grants.

The purpose of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is to provide assistance to states, territories, tribes, and local communities, working through a network of community action agencies and other neighborhood-based organizations, for the reduction of poverty, the revitalization of low-income communities, and the empowerment of low-income families and individuals in rural and urban areas to become fully self-sufficient. The CSBG is designed to help low-income individuals and families: secure and retain meaningful employment; attain an adequate education; improve the use of available income; obtain adequate housing; obtain emergency assistance, including health and nutrition services; remove obstacles which block the achievement of self-sufficiency; and achieve greater participation in the affairs of the community.

Community Economic Development (CED) is a federal grant program funding Community Development Corporations (CDCs) that address the economic needs of low-income individuals and families through the creation of sustainable business development and employment opportunities. CED awards funds to private, non-profit organizations that are CDCs, including faith-based organizations and Tribal and Alaskan Native organizations that are a private, non-profit CDC, experienced in developing and managing economic development projects. CED-funded projects create or expand businesses, create new jobs for individuals with low incomes, and leverage funding investments in communities.

Rural Community Development (RCD) is a federal grant program that works with multi-state, regional, private, non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations and tribal organizations to manage safe water systems in rural communities. RCD funds are used to provide training and technical assistance to increase access for families with low incomes to water supply and waste disposal services; preserve affordable water and waste disposal services in low-income rural communities; increase local capacity and expertise to establish and maintain needed community facilities; increase economic opportunities for low-income rural communities by ensuring they have basic water and sanitation; utilize technical assistance to leverage additional public and private resources; and promote improved coordination of federal, state, and local agencies and financing programs to benefit low-income communities.

CDC’s Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative (CRSCI) is helping grant recipients from 11 jurisdictions use the five-step Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework to identify likely climate impacts in their communities, potential health effects associated with these impacts, and their most at-risk populations and locations. The BRACE framework then helps grant recipients develop and implement health adaptation plans and address gaps in critical public health functions and services.

The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) are a national network of clinical environmental health specialists that work with health care providers, parents, schools, community groups, government officials, and policy makers to provide medical advice on exposure to hazardous substances in the environment affecting reproductive and children’s health. The PEHSUs continue to expand their reach and increase their impact, reaching more than 36,000 community members and health professionals in 2019.

The former Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences, now called the Office of Community Health and Hazard Assessment, integrates epidemiology, environmental medicine, and toxicology. This includes investigating the relationships between exposures to hazardous substances and adverse health effects.

APPLETREE stands for ATSDR’s Partnership to Promote Local Efforts to Reduce Environmental Exposure. The Program funds 28 partner organizations. The Cooperative Agreement Program’s primary goal is to give partners the resources to build their capacity to assess and respond to site-specific issues involving human exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

In response to the Flint water crisis, Congress authorized funding, through the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016, for CDC to establish a voluntary Flint lead exposure registry. The goals of the registry are to support the City of Flint and the State of Michigan to identify eligible participants and ensure robust registry data; monitor health, child development, service utilization, and ongoing lead exposure; improve service delivery to lead-exposed individuals; and coordinate with other community and federally funded programs in Flint.

The Federal Real Property Assistance Program is a public benefit conveyance program whereby certain Federal surplus real property may be transferred to eligible organizations for public health and homeless assistance purposes, at a discount or no cost. Federal surplus real property may include land, buildings, fixtures, and equipment situated thereon. Approved uses include homeless shelters, transitional housing, permanent housing with and without supportive services, hospitals, clinics, research facilities, water systems, etc.

HHS is continuing to work on the benefits methodologies and stakeholder engagement plans for these 13 Justice40 covered programs to help maximize the support to disadvantaged communities.