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SAN FRANCISCO — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $200,000 grant to the Tohono O’odham Nation to address air quality issues on their lands in southern Arizona. The funds come from the American Rescue Plan and are being awarded as a grant under EPA’s State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement (SEJCA) program. Awards made through this program are the first competitive grants from the EPA focusing directly on the unequal impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable populations.
“The EPA continues to prioritize delivering support to our most vulnerable communities in a way that respects dignity, sovereignty, and community identity,” said Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Jordan. “Tohono O’odham Nation’s unique project will integrate culture and environmental protection – a winning combination to achieve community health protection for the O’odham people.”
The Tohono O’odham Nation will use this American Rescue Plan funding to develop an air quality plan for the Nation. Due to existing elevated asthma and other respiratory issues within the Nation’s population, a major component of the plan will reduce dust impacts by prioritizing upgrades on 15 miles of tribally controlled dirt roads. In addition, funds will be used to develop educational resources and conduct outreach for planting native vegetation along roadsides to mitigate air pollution.
Funds will also be used to host informational and educational meetings in the Nation’s 11 districts and their communities. Each district will develop local, culturally-relevant education plans to address air quality issues. Elders will lead sessions that combine related air quality topics with traditional ecological knowledge while Tohono O’odham youth will be recruited to monitor, assess and work within their communities and families to further develop local aspects of the air quality plan.
Nationwide, projects supported by this funding include training, development of citizen-science tools, pollution monitoring, and educational campaigns to enable environmental justice advocates, scientists, and decision-makers to address pollution and create thriving communities. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law on March 11, 2021. It provides funds to address health outcome disparities from pollution and the COVID–19 pandemic. To learn more about the American Rescue Plan, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1319/text
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