December 21, 2023

Congresswoman Lee Celebrates $50 Million in Funding from the Biden-Harris Administration to Environmental Justice Projects in California

OAKLAND, CA – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-12) celebrated $50 million in funding awarded to California-based environmental justice projects as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. The Biden-Harris Administration announced that California-based Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, Inc. (SEE) has been selected to serve as the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 9 Grantmaker. SEE will receive $50,000,000 under EPA’s Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking program, which President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act created.

This new grant program, which will make it easier for community-based organizations (CBOs) to access federal environmental justice funding, responds to community feedback about the need to reduce barriers to federal funds and improve the efficiency of the awards process to ensure communities that have long faced underinvestment can access the benefits of the largest climate investment in history. Communities will be able to apply to SEE for a subgrant to fund a range of different environmental project activities, including (but not limited to) small local cleanups, local emergency preparedness and disaster resiliency programs, environmental workforce development programs for local jobs reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fenceline air quality and asthma-related projects, healthy homes programs, and projects addressing illegal dumping.

EPA Grantmakers will collaborate with EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights to issue subgrants to CBOs and other eligible organizations representing disadvantaged communities. As a Grantmaker, SEE will design comprehensive application and submission processes, award environmental justice subgrants, implement tracking and reporting systems, and provide community resources and support. The subgrants are expected to become available by the summer of 2024.

In addition, EPA has selected the Climate Justice Alliance to receive $50,000,000 as a National Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaker to provide additional support, coordination, and oversight to subgrantees, applicants, and Regional Grantmakers across the western part of the country.

“Congratulations to Berkeley’s Climate Justice Alliance on their selection as Regional Grantmaker under the Biden Administration’s Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking program—which I am proud to say was authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act, legislation championed by President Biden and legislation I fought for in the 117th Congress,” remarked Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA, D-12). “With marginalized communities everywhere experiencing record pollution, environmental justice can’t wait. I know that the Climate Justice Alliance will use this opportunity to build capacity within their organization to address the pressing environmental and public health issues of the East Bay while working towards a cleaner future for us all.”

“For far too long, communities that have borne the burden of environmental injustice have faced barriers towards obtaining the funding necessary to protect their communities,” Regional Administrator Martha Guzman stated. “Thanks to this innovative new program, these communities will have more equitable access to such federal funds needed to tackle longstanding environmental and public health needs.”

SEE will leverage its expertise and local connections to design a subgrant program that prioritizes equity-centered grantmaking processes and procedures in collaboration with its grantmaking partners: Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, International Community FoundationLiberty Hill FoundationNative Americans Philanthropy, and Resources Legacy Fund. They will use community outreach, a future Community Advisory Panel, and their collective regional grantmaking expertise to inform their outreach and grantmaking process to address urgent environmental and public health issues impacting communities across the region equitably. The program's streamlined award process will fund projects to reach socially vulnerable communities and those overburdened with pollution or high environmental or health risks.

“I am deeply honored and grateful for EPA’s support, which will enable our nonprofit cohort to amplify our impact in advancing environmental justice and tackling urgent climate and environmental challenges,” said Jennifer Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer of SEE. “We are committed to enhancing the grantmaking awards process’s efficiency so resources reach the Region 9 frontline communities that need them most, fostering innovation and driving sustainable change. Together, we will make meaningful strides toward a more equitable future where every individual and ecosystem thrives.”

Climate Justice Alliance’s program, UNITE-EJ (United Network for Impact, Transformation, and Equity in Environmental Justice Communities), aims to unite collaborators nationwide to enable communities with environmental justice concerns and organizations nationwide to address environmental and public health issues. UNITE-EJ seeks to equip CBOs with the support, partnerships, and funding necessary to address legacy, present, and future environmental and public health injustices. UNITE-EJ and its partners will collaboratively develop and implement a simplified application, review, and award process that reduces barriers to EJ organizations’ access to federal funding.

“UNITE-EJ is excited and ready to serve as a bridge, model, and catalyst among organizations nationwide to confront the legacy of environmental harms, mitigate the effects of climate change, support the frontlines in enacting their localized visions for thriving communities, and pilot co-governance between the EPA and frontline communities hit first and worst by environmental injustice and climate change,” stated Marion Gee, Co-Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance. “Climate Justice Alliance leads the UNITE-EJ application with skilled and highly-respected partners The Chisholm Legacy ProjectNDN CollectiveFund for Frontline PowerJustFundAmalgamated FoundationTishman Environment, and Design Center at The New School, and the Center for the Urban Environment at Kean University.” 

Grantmakers are expected to begin opening competitions and awarding subgrants by summer 2024. CBOs and other eligible organizations seeking subgrant funding can apply for subgrants through three concurrent tiers offered by the Grantmakers. Tier One will consist of grants for $150,000 for assessment, Tier Two will consist of grants for $250,000 for planning, and Tier Three will consist of grants for $350,000 for project development. In addition, $75,000 will be available for capacity-constrained CBOs through a noncompetitive process during Tier One. Each Grantmaker will design and implement a distribution program best suited for their region and communities.

The Grantmakers program is part of the Federal Interagency Thriving Communities Network. It delivers on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which set the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. Grantmakers will collaborate with the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs) to create a robust support network to assist eligible entities when applying.

Learn more about the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmakers.


Vice President Kamala Harris and EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan were joined by Dr. Robert Bullard, a Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University, to announce the historic Grantmaker Awards. From day one of their administration, President Biden and Vice President Harris have made achieving environmental justice a top priority. In August 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, creating the largest investment in environmental and climate justice in U.S. history. EPA received $3 billion in total to award grants and fund-related technical assistance to benefit disadvantaged communities.