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A new report finds that state agencies face challenges when soliciting Justice40 projects from historically underserved areas

December 07, 2023
By: Michele Hujber

A new report finds that state agencies face challenges when working to implement Justice40 goals. Justice40 is an initiative included in President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, signed on January 27, 2021. The initiative laid out the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. The order stipulated that government agencies consult with disadvantaged communities to find the best ways to achieve this goal.

To determine how states are navigating federal guidelines to date, the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC), Climate Xchange, and Beech Hill Research interviewed state agency staff nationwide working on Justice40 programs. Their research report highlights state workers' obstacles and provides insights into what needs to be done to meet the Justice40 goals.

“State staff underscored that soliciting projects/applications from historically underserved areas is a crucial but difficult piece of delivering on Justice40,” the researchers note. “While state staff have some capacity for outreach and leveraging existing partnerships, they rely on existing networks and a ’come-to-us‘ model.”

The report suggests that agencies with “circuit riders” are most able to  effectively reach out to disadvantaged communities. “Circuit riders work with municipalities in a defined region to identify community needs, navigate funding opportunities, and communicate with stakeholders,” the researchers explain. “Creating local and regional alliances or partnerships, and utilizing existing ones, is important for ensuring effective implementation and equitable decision-making throughout the process.”

The report highlighted two examples where state workers relied on circuit riders to reach underserved communities. One was of a Maryland-based consortium of conservation organizations, government agencies, and local residents called Envision the Choptank. This consortium funded a technical assistance circuit rider to go into the watershed community and identify opportunities for grant proposals, partners, and funding.

Another example describes a state-funded technical assistance circuit rider in Maine who assists with outreach to small towns “to get communities talking about their climate priorities, facilitate partnerships with other grantees, and coordinate with state agencies.” The researchers noted that “this circuit rider already had connections and deep relationships with community organizations and residents but needed funding to provide robust support to educate and engage stakeholders and facilitate state-to-local partnerships.”

The report includes an appendix, "Technical Assistance Resources," that lists federal and NGO technical assistance pathways and funding opportunities for climate, energy, and infrastructure funding opportunities from state agencies, regional organizations, utilities, CBOs, and others from various federal, state, and philanthropic sources.

environment, climate, energy