LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) — Michigan is taking decisive action to unlock federal funding for environmental projects, allocating $11 million to help community organizations apply for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants. This initiative aims to help local groups secure up to $20 million each through the EPA’s community change grants, bolstering efforts to tackle environmental and public health concerns statewide.

“Federal applications can be complicated to manage,” Zach Kolodin, Michigan’s top infrastructure officer, said to MLive. “Compliance with the federal grants is also burdensome for a small organization.” 

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To overcome these hurdles, the state has launched the climate justice challenge under its Make it in Michigan Competitiveness Fund. This program offers up to $1 million in technical assistance to successful applicants, strengthening their federal grant proposals.

State officials are optimistic about the potential returns. “We are making an investment, which is going to be doubled, tripled by federal investment – or in this case, probably more than that – bringing meaningful benefits to people in Michigan,” Kolodin said. The state is also committing to a 5 percent match for any federal grants awarded. 

“Local organizations like community action agencies, tribal governments, local governments, and civic organizations are leading the fight against climate change and making a difference for Michiganders in every corner of our state,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said at a recent state climate conference. “The state of Michigan is committed to helping these organizations access the resources they need to drive even greater change on the ground.”

The scope of eligible projects is broad, ranging from climate resiliency and pollution control to workforce development in climate action, with a federal grant application deadline of July 1.

In a parallel effort, Michigan is also launching a new $20 million state grant program aimed at reducing environmental health burdens. Funded through the state’s 2024 budget, this initiative will be managed by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer promoted this program in a statement saying, “The grants can be used for various purposes, from removing old, contaminated buildings to protecting air quality in schools to supporting local public health initiatives.” 

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Applications for state environmental justice grants of up to $500,000 are now open, with a deadline of July 15. Approximately 40 grants are expected to be awarded.