Cut Inflation Act will help long-struggling communities

The long-awaited climate bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on Tuesday is great news for the country, and especially for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that have suffered from decades of policies. harmful public policies in the areas of energy and transport.

The state, localities and private companies looking to leverage the clean energy dollars that will become available need to start thinking in new ways – ones that prioritize equity in a way that doesn’t has never been done before.

It has long been a problem that dense urban communities, especially those made up largely of black and Latino populations, have suffered the most from higher rates of asthma and other serious health problems. Studies have found a host of reasons, including lack of access to adequate health care and the use of lead paint inside public housing. But make no mistake, discriminatory transportation policies that have built large, polluting highways, bus depots and other facilities near and through low-income neighborhoods, and other energy policies, have had significant and harmful lasting effects on underserved populations – policies that have had serious health consequences for generations of Black and Latinx people who have been ignored for far too long.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP): “Location matters, and there are often dramatic differences in health care delivery and health outcomes between communities that are only a few miles apart. “

The AAFP cites a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study that found a 25-year difference in average life expectancy in New Orleans, Louisiana, between downtown and suburban neighborhoods. “Similarly, there is a 14-year difference in average life expectancy between two neighborhoods in Kansas City, Missouri, about three miles apart,” the AAFP said.

Washington, for now, finally seems to get it. To their credit, the Biden administration and Congress have made fairness a key declared priority when passing major legislation.

The Reducing Inflation Act, like the Climate, Energy and Taxes Bill, includes more than $60 billion to support traditionally underserved communities who have been hardest hit by change climate change and a series of energy and transport policies. The Senate, which passed the measure on August 7, had been seen as the biggest hurdle, having been unable for years to tackle a meaningful initiative on climate change.

It’s not a perfect bill, but it moves the needle significantly.

The bill includes the money needed to begin addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change as well as transportation policies that have long driven increased pollution in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods.

Additionally, the $1.2 trillion infrastructure program passed last year aims to improve future equity while tackling past projects that divided communities along socio-economic and racial lines. . On its website, the Federal Transit Administration promises that “all FTA discretionary grant programs will focus on promoting fairness in our transportation systems and supporting the important role of the transit industry. in the fight against climate change”.

Top political leaders and federal agencies are finally acknowledging that the problems facing high-density urban communities have resulted in a long-standing public health crisis that has hit Black and Latinx adults and children the hardest.

Federal, state, and local authorities looking to maximize those dollars will need to do so in a way that will do the most good. This means using in-depth data to identify areas that have been badly affected by pollution, climate change, long-standing discriminatory policies and negative health effects.

It also means building trust by engaging communities in a meaningful way. It will take not only legally required public hearings, but real conversations to hear ongoing concerns and work together to help find the most effective ways to address them.

The new climate bill is considered the biggest step the United States has taken yet to combat climate change. It brings the country closer to the goals of the Paris Agreement with significant investments in clean energy, including renewable energy which should significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Nowhere will this be felt more than in the most affected communities. It will be important moving forward that the commitment remains — no matter who is in the White House or which party controls Congress — lest this is just another case of Lucy taking football away from Charlie Brown. Doubtful communities that have heard great promises only to be disappointed have reason to be optimistic. It is important that Washington follows. The health of generations of black and Latino children, many of whom have already lost their faith, depends on it.

Kenneth Lovett is a partner at Ichor Strategies. He is a former senior adviser to the President and CEO of the MTA and a longtime journalist who spent 25 years covering the state capitol.

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