We Act for Environmental Justice, based in Harlem, opened a center this fall to help nonprofits apply for money from the federal Inflation Reduction Act. It is one of 16 that the Environmental Protection Agency has funded around the country. It will have grant writers, conduct workshops to help groups develop proposals, and assist them in getting qualified to receive and report on the grants.
It’s a five-year, $10 million program, but Peggy Shepard, We Act’s founder, says that she plans to help groups file grant applications as soon as they can. “We understand the urgency to get his money out,” she says. “Things are always slower than you’d like them to be, but everybody, believe me, has a sense of urgency.”
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We Act for Environmental Justice, an organization in Harlem, opened a center this fall to help fellow nonprofits apply for money from the federal Inflation Reduction Act. It is one of 16 assistance centers the Environmental Protection Agency has funded around the country. Staff will help write grants, conduct workshops to help groups develop proposals, and assist them in getting qualified to receive the grants and report on them.
Experts say if a Republican wins the White House, the new administration could change the rules.
The center is funded with a five-year, $10 million grant, but We Act plans to help groups file grant applications as soon as they can, says Peggy Shepard, the organization’s founder. “We understand the urgency to get this money out,” she says. “Things are always slower than you’d like them to be, but everybody, believe me, has a sense of urgency.”
Shepard’s desire to move quickly is not driven just by climate concerns. She is also responding to politics. If a Republican wins the 2024 presidential election, some of the funding in the Inflation Reduction Act, the $783 billion bill designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, may be derailed.
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“It’s very likely that they would be looking to see how they can stymie access to funds,” Shepard says.
The Republican-led House of Representatives has already voted 17 times to repeal elements of the act. The law is unlikely to be repealed — Republicans would need to control the House, the Senate, and the presidency to do that. But a Republican president could certainly limit the effectiveness of the act by changing rules that govern what kinds of projects or products qualify for funding, for example.
“When it comes to the basic elements of the IRA, there’s not actually a whole lot that a new administration can do,” says Brian Burwell, a partner at Bridgespan Group. “But they can affect the implementation in important ways.”
Fast Track for Rules
The Biden administration is well aware of the potential vulnerabilities in one of its signature achievements. Government agencies are working as fast as they can to award grants and to provide regulatory guidance on how the law should be implemented, according to a White House official who spoke on background.
The government has already awarded and opened up applications for more than $90 billion worth of grants. Applications are pouring in. Last month, the Treasury Department announced that in the first 30 days the submission period was open, it received 46,000 applications for grants to start green-energy facilities such as solar and wind projects in marginalized communities.
The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a different IRA program that has $27 billion in grant money available, and climate-justice funds have already been targeted by House Republicans and may be the most vulnerable, the official said.
The White House is urging agencies in charge of IRA funds to create the rules and criteria for dispersing the funds as soon as possible. If the rules are in place, it would be much harder for a future administration to change them.
The Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which requires 40 percent of certain federal dollars to be spent in ways that benefit disadvantaged communities and those that face disproportionate climate or pollution burdens, has had historic benefits for small community-based environmental groups that have never been properly funded, Shepard says. It would be under severe threat if a Republican won the presidency, says Jeff Navin, a co-founder of Boundary Stone Partners, a lobbying and advisory firm with expertise in clean energy. The initiative, which applies to $118 billion in federal spending through 518 federal programs, can be undone easily by a new president because it is an administration initiative, not a law.
The Inflation Reduction Act contains some provisions that require funds to be spent in ways that similarly benefit marginalized communities. A new president couldn’t change that because it is in the law.
The Biden administration’s quick pace of grant making can benefit nonprofits, says Navin.
“I think a lot of the decisions that are going to be made on grant requests are going to be fairly favorable to a lot of the NGO community,” says Navin. “If you can move quickly, you should.”