The Justice 40 initiative is a goal of the Biden administration to ensure that benefits of federal investments reach communities of color and and including low-income communities, that have historically been underinvested in due to decades of discriminatory economic and infrastructure policy and have borne the brunt of environmental and public health hazards.
In January 2021, President Biden passed Executive Order 14008, requiring the White House Council on Environmental Quality to issue guidance to federal agencies on how to direct at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities.
The Justice40 initiative looks to direct “federal investments” in the following areas:
A federal investment can include federal grants (including loans, credit, guarantees, or direct spending/benefits); direct payments or benefits to individuals; federal procurement (acquisition of goods and services for the Federal government’s own use) and federal staff resources (for instance to provide technical assistance for community based initiatives) among others.
The Executive Order does not specifically define “benefits” but leaves it to federal agencies to develop methodologies to identify what counts as a benefit. A 2021 interim guidance to federal agencies, released by the White House provides examples of what could count as a benefit: increased energy efficiency programs and resources; access to clean, high-frequency transportation; improved indoor air quality; improved housing quality and safety and enhanced public health and others.
Through the Inflation Reduction Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the American Rescue Plan, billions of dollars have been deployed into new and existing federal programs that are Justice 40 Initiative covered programs and fall under the seven Justice40 Initiative investment areas. The effectiveness of the initiative relies on whether federal agencies are able to direct those investments to well-designed programs that meet the needs of the most under-resourced communities.
The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool
In November 2022, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in partnership with the U.S. Digital Service released the “version 1.0" of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST 1.0) to assist federal agencies in identifying “disadvantaged communities”. Agencies will use the tool to identify disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution to inform Justice40 decision-making.
Some federal agencies have developed and are using agency-specific screening tools to identify disadvantaged communities. For instance, through the "Disadvantaged Communities Reporter," the U.S. The Department of Energy allows users to explore and produce reports on census tracts that it has identified as disadvantaged communities.
Check out our recommendations on how the CEJST can be continuously improved to remain an effective tool in identifying communities that require federal investments.
Check out this map below that shows how census tracts identified by MN legislature as environmental justice community compares with CEJST identified census tracts that are considered disadvantaged:
President Biden issues an executive order that establishes the Justice40 Initiative.
The CEQ establishes the WHEJAC, as directed by the president.
The WHEJAC submits recommendations on Justice40, the CEJST, and executive order 12898 revisions to the chair of the CEQ.
The White House releases Justice40 interim implementation guidance directing federal agencies to assess how existing and new federal programs can deliver at least 40 percent of their overall benefits to disadvantaged communities. The guidance also identifies 21 federal programs that will be part of a pilot program and undergo focused review and changes to maximize benefits to communities. These programs will then share best practices to support effective Justice40 implementation across the federal government.
Federal agencies develop Justice40 stakeholder engagement plans to engrain consultation with disadvantaged communities into the foundation of their 21 pilot programs and more broadly.
Federal agencies submit plans for the 21 pilot programs to the CEQ on how they will maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities.
Federal agencies submit methodologies to the CEQ and the Office of Management and Budget for calculating and tracking Justice40 benefits for the hundreds of programs that fall under the Justice40 Initiative. The CEQ has not yet published agency methodologies for calculating and tracking Justice40 benefits.
The CEQ publishes the beta version of the CEJST and invites comments on the tool from communities, climate and environmental justice experts, and the public. The CEQ also holds training and listening sessions on the tool.
The White House launches the Justice 40 Week of Action, which highlights hundreds of federal programs representing billions of dollars in annual investment that fall under the Justice 40 initiative—including programs that were funded or created in the bipartisan infrastructure law.
The White House publishes an updated list of federal programs covered by the Justice 40 Initiative.
The CEQ issues a request for information to solicit feedback on the vision, framework, and outcomes of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.
The CEQ launches the CEJST 1.0. Based on public input, the CEJST 1.0 includes new data sets, indicators, methods, and improvements to the site experience.
Estimated in winter 2023
The CEQ releases the Environmental Justice Scorecard to ensure agency accountability on Justice40 implementation.
Finding and Prioritizing Federal Funding Opportunities
State & Local Advocacy Highlights
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