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The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): Investing in Our Communities

Published By

Center for Popular Democracy
    This report was written and researched by Abby Ang (Center for Popular Democracy) and graduate students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, including Noga Shlapobersky, Kaitlyn Nelson, Ananya Mukherjee, Shahar Somech, and Owen Odigie, as well as Kristina Eberbach (faculty advisor). It was reviewed by Maggie Corser, Steve Dooley, Iris Figueroa, Michele Kilpatrick, Sean Kornegay, and Julio López Varona. Graphic design is by Morgan Buck. We would like to thank the following affiliate organizations for providing helpful feedback on the process through conversations with us and by submitting public comments; Center for Coalfield Justice, Make the Road States & OnePA.

    President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law in August 2022.2 The IRA establishes several new environmental justice grant programs to improve public health, reduce pollution, and revitalize communities that are, in the Environmental Protection Agency’s terms, “disadvantaged, underserved, and overburdened with pollution,”3 while increasing access to affordable and accessible clean energy and creating high-quality jobs with good benefits and union representation.

    The IRA presents a unique opportunity to address climate justice for Black, Latiné, and working-class communities.5 Our findings address areas for improvement that would further strengthen this groundbreaking legislation and support communities on the front lines of climate change. This report first summarizes key advocacy takeaways for the IRA overall, assessing the accessibility, accountability, eligibility, and transparency of each grant and outlining the barriers to implementation that keep community-based groups from fully benefiting from these funds. We then present an in-depth analysis of three programs for future grant or agency-specific advocacy efforts. We based our analysis on a review of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) websites, application portal landing pages,6 and public comments sourced from community-based nonprofit organizations. The bill allocates $369 billion through competitive grants, loans, bonds, and tax credits for eligible entities. 

    This report analyzes three grants within the IRA: 

    •    Environmental and Climate Justice (ECJ) Block Grants
    •    Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF)
    •    Neighborhood Access and Equity (NAE) Grant