December 8, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán and Congressman A. Donald McEachin (Va.) announced a bicameral letter to House and Senate leaders urging them to include robust assistance for environmental justice communities in forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislation. Barragán and McEachin are co-chairs and co-founders of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force and led efforts on the letter.
The letter calls for the next COVID-19 package to prioritize the needs and recovery of environmental justice communities and ensure that the principles of equity and justice are centered in this response.
Ten U.S. Senators and more than 50 members of the House signed the letter.
“Frontline communities like mine were already were struggling with environmental injustice when the pandemic hit,” said Rep. Barragán. “As we begin to recover from COVID-19, it’s critical to prioritize a stimulus that lifts up these environmental justice communities hard-hit by climate change, pollution and the coronavirus.”
Specifically, the Senators and Representatives wrote that the next package must provide quality water and ensure drinking water services; increase access to and investment in energy assistance programs; accelerate the deployment of zero emissions transportation and goods movement; support programs that support workforce development and pollution reduction; and address health impacts and support programs that improve the health of environmental justice communities.
“The decades-old legacy of racism and environmental inequity has made environmental justice communities – including low-income communities, communities of color and Tribal and indigenous communities in the U.S. and U.S. territories – especially vulnerable to COVID-19,” wrote the lawmakers. “Research illustrates a clear link between higher levels of environmental risk, including exposure to air pollution and higher rates of coronavirus mortality. As a result, members of environmental justice communities and communities of color, who are more likely to reside in areas with higher levels of pollution or live on the ‘fenceline’ of industry and transportation corridors, are disproportionately impacted by the virus.”
The letter builds on calls from Members of Congress urging legislation to address the needs of environmental justice communities during the COVID-19 crisis. In March, Barragán and more than 40 colleagues signed a letter led by Congressman McEachin, House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva urging House and Senate leadership to consider a number of provisions to ensure future relief bills address social equity and environmental health issues.
“Given the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on environmental justice communities, it is critical that we work to pass legislation to address the needs of frontline and fenceline communities,” the letter continued. “Though we were pleased by the inclusion of several provisions within the House-passed Heroes Acts, including certain provisions outlined in the described letters, we reassert that any future COVID-19 relief legislation should incorporate the full measure of provisions to deliver relief to these communities.”
Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington.