Front Porch Blog

ReImagining Your Community with the help of EPA’s Environmental and Justice Community Change Grants

Special to the Front Porch: Rike Rothenstein is a research associate for ReImagine Appalachia. (This was initially posted on the ReImagine Appalachia website.)

We are super excited about the latest funding from the federal climate infrastructure package specifically for disadvantaged communities. Our hope is that the EPA’s Community Change Grants could be an opportunity to engage key community stakeholders in strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to promote climate resilience, and to simultaneously create good jobs for local residents–a long time goal of ours. Check out our ReImagine Your Community resource page for resources to help guide community visioning and project development.

Community Change Grants Overview

The EPA’s Environmental and Justice Community Change Grants program (Community Change Grants) benefits disadvantaged communities through projects that reduce pollution, increase community climate resilience, and build community capacity to address environmental and climate justice challenges. The objective of the grant is to fund community-driven, changemaking projects that center collaborative efforts around healthier, safer, and more prosperous communities.

The agency recently posted the Community Change Grant’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for $2 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding. This is the single largest investment in environmental justice in history going directly to disadvantaged communities as defined by the EPA. The EPA is accepting and reviewing applications on a rolling basis until November 21, 2024. Applicants are encouraged to utilize technical assistance which is also funded under this NOFO, and to possibly resubmit a new application if not initially selected. Also, the EPA encourages applicants to apply as early as possible. If the $2 billion have been awarded before November 21, 2024, this funding opportunity will be closing.

Eligible Applicants

Entities eligible to apply under this NOFO (Notice of Funding Opportunity) are:

  • A partnership between two community-based non-profit organizations (CBOs).
  • A partnership between a CBO and one of the following:
    1. • a local government
      • a Federally-Recognized Tribe
      • an institution of higher education.

For more detailed information regarding applicant eligibility, please check the NOFO.

What Kind of Resources?

The EPA’s Community Change Grants program offers both technical assistance and competitive awards totaling $2 billion. Applicants must demonstrate that the projects in their application would benefit a disadvantaged community as defined by the EPA. For the EPA’s criteria of a disadvantaged community, please check the NOFO.

Technical Assistance: The $200 million for technical assistance is for capacity building support for communities and their partners as they work to access critical federal resources. Technical assistance will be available for pre-award technical assistance including but not limited to designing a project, preparing an application, or facilitating partnerships, and for post-award technical assistance to help grant recipients manage, oversee, perform, and report on the grants. Within this funding, there are two TA programs dedicated for the Community Change Grants:

  • the Community Change Technical Assistance (CCTA) and
  • the Community Change Equitable Resilience Technical Assistance (CCER TA).

The Community Change Technical Assistance (CCTA) can be used to prepare a Community Change Grants application. To express interest in the CCTA applicants can fill out a request form, or call 1 (800) 540-8123 if they have any questions or need help in filling out the form.

In addition to the technical assistance described above through CCTA, the Community Change Equitable Resilience Technical Assistance (CCER TA) will provide free design and project development assistance, community engagement, and partnership development workshops. The EPA intends to offer this technical assistance until it selects up to 50 recipients nationwide for projects located in disaster-prone areas. Learn more about CCER TA.

Competitive Awards: In total, the EPA anticipates awarding approximately $2 billion in funding through this NOFO, depending on funding availability, quality of applications received, EPA priorities, and other applicable considerations. The EPA will consider applications under two separate tracks.

  • Track I applications – Community-Driven Investments for Change will focus on multifaceted applications with Climate Action and Pollution Reduction Strategies to meaningfully improve the environmental, climate, and resilience conditions affecting disadvantaged communities. Awards under Track I are expected to be $10-20 million each and cannot exceed $20 million. EPA expects to award around $1.96 billion for approximately 150 Track I awards.
  • Track II applications – Meaningful Engagement for Equitable Governance will facilitate the engagement of disadvantaged communities in governmental processes to advance environmental and climate justice. Awards under Track II are expected to be $1-3 million each and cannot exceed $3 million. EPA will award around $40 million for approximately 20 Track II awards.

A good (non-EPA) application resource

The Environmental Protection Network (EPN), a nonprofit organization of over 600 former EPA alumni, has created two excellent 6-step application guides for Track II, as well as a Partner and Assistance Survey. The guides provide you with a suggested timeline on how to tackle the application. The guides’ timeline proposes submitting your application on March 1, 2024 to allow for a potential resubmission if your initial application is unsuccessful. The Environmental Protection Network also created a short Partner and Assistance Survey. Please fill out the survey ASAP to find partners and share information. Got to #1 on the EPN’s website for more information.

Again, applications for the Community Change Grants program are accepted on a rolling basis and the deadline is November 21, 2024.

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