The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it will provide $200,000 to the City of Fort Collins, Colorado to address indoor air quality and health concerns for underserved community residents. The funding is part of $50 million for Environmental Justice (EJ) initiatives allocated to EPA under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to identify and address disproportionate environmental or public health harms and risks in underserved communities through a range of local initiatives.
“In June, we celebrated National Healthy Homes Month—an annual reminder of the importance of protecting and improving the health of children and families, especially in environmentally overburdened and economically underserved areas,” said Acting Regional Administrator Debra H. Thomas. “We are pleased to provide the City of Fort Collins with this funding under the American Rescue Plan to address indoor air quality and other environmental health concerns for those who need it most.”
With the funding, the City of Fort Collins will build off existing indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and emergency preparedness efforts and partnerships to engage with underserved and at-risk community members. Project objectives include identifying residential indoor air quality and energy use needs; assessing existing program capabilities, gaps, barriers, and best practices; updating existing program implementation plans; and developing and piloting new home assessment tools.
Established in 2011, the City’s Healthy Homes Indoor Air Quality program provides community members with information and simple actions they can take to improve their indoor air quality. The City also has assistance programs to support energy and water efficiency in homes.
“Safe and comfortable at home has taken on new meaning after 2020, when Fort Collins residents navigated both a pandemic and some of the worst wildfires in Colorado history.
These types of disruptions highlight vulnerabilities and disparities in residential indoor air quality, with combined impacts from household behaviors and inequities in housing quality,” said City of Fort Collins Mayor Jeni Arndt. “We are thrilled to have been awarded this grant from the EPA, which we will use to help align and supplement our municipal programs, such as the Healthy Homes indoor air quality program and the Epic Homes program for energy efficiency, that support health, comfort, and resilience at home.”
Under EPA’s State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement program, the agency is awarding competitive grants focusing directly on the unequal impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable populations. EPA is assisting under-resourced communities by quickly getting out ARP funding to leverage important programs that improve air quality, drinking water, brownfields revitalization, and diesel emissions from buses in low-income communities and communities of color. Projects include training, developing citizen-science tools, pollution monitoring, and educational campaigns to enable EJ advocates, scientists, and decision-makers to address pollution and create thriving communities.
Moving forward, EPA will also work to award an additional $50 million provided under the ARP for enhanced air quality monitoring, including plans to use a portion of these funds to solicit proposals from community groups, state, local, and tribal air agencies to conduct monitoring of pollutants of greatest concern in communities with health outcome disparities.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law on March 11th, 2021. It provides funds to address health outcome disparities from pollution and the COVID–19 pandemic. To learn more about the ARP, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1319/text