EPA’s Community Change Grants: Empowering Grassroots Action

The Biden administration's $2 billion Community Change Grants Program empowers lower-income communities to tackle environmental hazards and climate change impacts at the grassroots level.

Julian Harden | December 27, 2023 | Climate Change, Energy Justice, Energy Policy

For far too long, low-income communities, especially communities of color, have borne disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change. Black, African American, and Latino individuals, as highlighted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are projected to face higher impacts of climate change.

In November, through Executive Orders 14008 and 13985, the Biden administration allocated $2 billion in grants through the Inflation Reduction Act Community Change Grants Program (administered by the EPA) to uplift lower-income communities overburdened by environmental hazards. The program seeks to fund projects to bolster resilience and monitor air and water quality in communities grappling with pollution and the impacts of climate change. This initiative empowers disadvantaged communities to seek change on a grassroots level and improve their surroundings.

The Community Change Grants Program from the EPA can be a game changer in addressing environmental justice concerns and empowering communities to have a stake in the process. 

Awards range between $1-3 million for projects focusing on engaging disadvantaged communities; but importantly, multi-faceted initiatives tackling pollution, climate change, and other priority issues may secure $10-20 million awards. Eligible entities encompass partnerships involving two or more community-based non-profit organizations (CBOs); as well as partnerships between a CBO and a Federally-Recognized Tribe, local governments, or higher education institutions. Additional organizations can also participate as collaborating subrecipients or procurement contractors.

This investment highlights a shift to empower historically disadvantaged communities to participate actively in environmental initiatives. The Community Change Grants aren’t merely financial support – they also serve as a catalyst for change at the grassroots level. The program lays the groundwork for a more equitable and sustainable future by empowering disadvantaged communities with resources and support to address environmental challenges.

Community Driven at the Core

At the heart of the Community Change Grants lies their commitment to community-driven projects. By granting decision-making power to local organizations, the grants ensure projects are tailored to address each community’s unique challenges. The Community Change Grants do more than just throw money at environmental injustice: they demonstrate a commitment to embed environmental justice into government programs and actively address the root causes of environmental injustice in communities nationwide. 

Communities that are interested in applying for the grants and would benefit from some assistance with the application process can utilize EPA’s technical assistance programs. These programs, such as the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center (EJ TCTACs) network, are set up to serve diverse applicant needs. They offer crucial support, guiding applicants through application, project management, implementation, and reporting.

The urgency for climate action and environmental justice is met with a rolling application deadline. This design allows for swift awarding of grants while maintaining necessary oversight and fiduciary responsibilities.

For organizations ready to make a difference, the time is now. Actively participate in the Community Change Grants application process, leverage the technical assistance programs in the plans, and be a driving force in pursuing environmental justice. Find more information about the Community Change Grants on EPA’s website here.


Julian Harden
This blog was written by a former staff member of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
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