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HUD prioritizes economic equity and environment in grants

HUD prioritizes economic equity and environment in grants

WASHINGTONThe Department of Housing and Urban Development (DOHUD) has released new guidelines for disaster-relief block grants of $2 billion. They place an emphasis on climate change mitigation and equity for those in need.

The Federal Register published the new guidelines Monday, which outline specific priorities for how funds will be used by local and state agencies that receive Community Development Block Grants.

Last year, the funds were used to help in disaster relief efforts in 10 states and territories. These include wildfires, a collapse of a dam in California, Hurricane Zeta, Mississippi, and earthquakes, as well as Tropical Storm Isaias, Puerto Rico.

Block grants have traditionally been flexible enough for local authorities and recipients to choose where to direct the funds based on the nature of the disaster. For example, wildfires tend not to cause significant damage to buildings and residences. However, storms and hurricanes can often cause the greatest damage to infrastructure like sewers and electricity grids.

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HUD will retain most of this flexibility, but HUD now directs recipient agencies to prioritize long term environmental resilience and serving historically marginalized populations. These guidelines were expected and Marcia L. Fudge, HUD Secretary, spoke of them when grants were first announced in December 2021.

Fudge stated that the funds would be disbursed to reflect President Joe Biden’s emphasis on climate justice in hard-hit communities and “building long-term, inclusive resilience to the effects of climate change, especially for underserved or marginalized communities.”

Michael Burns, spokesperson for HUD, said that the agency defines underserved communities to be areas that were economically disadvantaged before the disaster and populations that have been systematically denied the opportunity to participate fully in economic, social and civic life.

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All new construction that is funded by grants must adhere to green standards. These standards emphasize energy efficiency, resilience and avoiding similar disasters in future.

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