The COVID-19 pandemic has presented major hardship across the country, especially in low-income communities. In an attempt to help address the challenges, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been supporting COVID response efforts throughout the country — most recently in Louisiana.
In October, the EPA awarded a $200,000 State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement grant to the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Services. The funds will help the state promote healthier living environments in disadvantaged communities hit hard by COVID-19.
Some of these areas include the Caddo, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, and Orleans Parishes. This isn’t the first public health challenge these communities have experienced. They also have a high level of environmental justice issues — i.e., asthma — according to the EPA. The project aims to promote long-term plans to improve health and environmental outcomes in these communities and create policies to improve living conditions for residents.
COVID-19 in Louisiana
In total, Louisiana has experienced 205,000 COVID-19 cases, and tragically 6,139 deaths from the virus, as of Nov. 15, according to The New York Times. Not surprisingly, the Parishes that will receive funding from the EPA grant have been the hardest hit. Here’s a look at the COVID-19 crisis in these areas by the numbers:
- Jefferson Parish: 20,193 cases and 620 deaths
- East Baton Rouge Parish: 17,952 cases and 486 deaths
- Orleans Parish: 14,593 cases and 644 deaths
- Caddo Parish: 11,580 cases and 427 deaths
Hopefully, the funds will be able to make a real difference for these local communities.
State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement Program
The EPA’s State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement Program is designed to support and/or create model state activities that help improve environmental or public health results in disadvantaged communities.
In 2020, special consideration was given to project requests designed to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on urban and rural low-income and minority communities. The application period for this year is now closed, but prior to the deadline, the EPA announced plans to make five awards of up to $200,000 each for a two-year project period.
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