Biden-⁠Harris administration takes action to protect communities from extreme heat fueled by the climate crisis

Source(s): White House, the

Millions of Americans are being impacted by extreme heat waves, which are growing in intensity, frequency, and duration due to climate change. In June, heat waves broke records across the country. Puerto Rico experienced its hottest month in more than 120 years, and Texas recorded its top 19 hottest days ever. Parts of Michigan, New York and Vermont also broke their daily temperature records. And in the first six months of 2023, there were 12 individual billion-dollar weather and climate events across the country. The situation is alarming, and it requires an all-of-society response to ensure that communities have the support they need to plan, prepare, and recover from these extreme weather events, which are costing the U.S. billions of dollars every year. From day one, President Biden has taken action to address the climate crisis, which includes securing more than $50 billion to help Americans in every single state become more resilient to climate impacts like heat waves. He has continued to deliver on the most ambitious climate agenda in American history—an agenda that is lowering energy costs for hardworking families, bolstering America’s energy security, creating thousands of good-paying jobs, and strengthening community-driven climate resilience across the country. Meanwhile, many Republicans in Congress continue to deny the very existence of climate change and remain committed to repealing the President’s Inflation Reduction Act – the biggest climate protection bill ever – which would undermine the health and safety of their own constituents. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing additional measures to protect communities from extreme heat:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will establish two virtual research centers to help communities manage and improve resilience to extreme heat. Coordinated through the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) and supported by a $5 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act, the centers will help provide technical assistance and actionable, locally-tailored information that historically marginalized and underserved communities can use to better prepare for extreme heat.
  • The White House Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Extreme Heat, together with the NIHHIS, will develop a National Heat Strategy centered on equity and environmental justice. This strategy will align with the forthcoming National Climate Resilience Framework announced by President Biden last month.
  • The White House will convene Mayors and other local and Tribal officials from communities that are currently facing long duration extreme heat events to bolster preparedness. The meeting will include Federal emergency response agencies and voluntary organizations such as the American Red Cross to identify what can be done now to support vulnerable populations and discuss how the Federal government can provide support to State, local and Tribal partners to better equip communities in managing extreme heat that so many Americans are facing this summer.
  • The White House today convened leaders from across the nation for a Summit on Climate Resilience and Sustainability in Affordable Housing. The Summit will focus on how property owners, developers, and asset managers can leverage historic investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to reduce the risks posed by extreme heat and other climate impacts to low-income Americans.

Today’s announcements build on numerous actions that the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to bolster heat response and resilience nationwide. The White House also continues to work with state and local partners to provide clear and accessible information on how people can protect themselves from extreme heat. To protect communities from extreme heat, the Biden Harris Administration is:

Providing Clear and Accessible Information to Protect Communities

  • Launched Heat.gov. Last year, the Administration launched Heat.gov, a website that provides the public and state, local, and tribal decision makers with clear, timely, and science-based information to understand and reduce the health risks of extreme heat. This one-stop hub includes heat forecasts and climate outlooks, tools and tips for heat protection, and the latest information on opportunities to leverage the President’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to support communities affected by extreme heat. NIHHIS also maintains the Heat Equity mapping tool to identify disadvantaged communities that are at greatest risk from extreme heat.
  • Launched #SummerReady Campaign. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also running a #SummerReady Campaign, which launched at the start of this summer, to build awareness of the hazards that communities face during the summer months. This is one component of the 2023 Federal Extreme Heat Safety Campaign, a coordinated effort by the IWG on Extreme Heat and NIHHIS to ensure communities are equipped with the information they need during the hottest days. In addition, FEMA’s Ready.gov provides key information, checklists, and templates to help people plan for all hazards, including extreme heat, and resources to help members of the community to protect themselves and each other when facing extreme heat.
  • Established a New Climate-Oriented Public Health Office. President Biden established the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect the health of people throughout the country in the face of climate change, especially those experiencing a higher share of exposures and impacts. The new office produces the Climate and Health Outlook to help professionals and the public protect individual and community health in light of anticipated climate events. HHS also produces the Heat & Health Tracker, a web-based tool that provides daily data and county-specific information to help communities proactively address heat-related illness.
  • Reaching Underserved Communities. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Let’s Talk About Heat Challenge, supported by the American Rescue Plan, is funding 10 community groups and localities across the country to implement innovative communication strategies designed to help Americans protect themselves against extreme heat risks. The Challenge focuses on engaging underserved and overburdened communities.
  • Launched Heat Mapping Campaigns in 154 Communities. This summer, NOAA launched campaigns to map extreme heat and urban heat islands in an additional 154 communities across 14 states, adding to a growing list of over 70 communities where the inequitable distribution of heat has been measured. These communities are using heat maps to direct investments, inform local planning and cooling strategies, and help secure environmental justice in low-income communities, communities of color, and historically redlined neighborhoods that face disproportionate exposure to heat hazards. To learn more about the campaigns and see their results, visit Heat.gov.

Lowering Cooling Costs and Strengthening the Power Grid

  • Lowering Cooling Costs for Low-Income Households. In FY 2022 alone, HHS deployed $3.85 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and helped over 6 million households lower cooling costs for low-income households, open cooling centers, or buy, distribute, or loan efficient air conditioning equipment. HHS’s Heat Stress Dashboard details how LIHEAP funds are supporting heat resilience nationwide. DOE is also investing $3.5 billion through its Weatherization Assistance Program to help make low-income households more comfortable and safer in extreme weather, all while saving on energy costs, creating jobs, deploying new weatherization techniques and technology.
  • Strengthening the U.S. Power Grid. As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Department of Energy (DOE) is providing $2.3 billion in grants over the next five years to states, territories, and federally recognized Tribes to help modernize the electric grid to reduce impacts of extreme weather, including extreme heat. More than $125 million in grants through this program have been announced so far this year.
  • Using Greenscapes to Provide Relief from Extreme Heat. The U.S. Forest Service continues to increase equitable access to trees and green spaces in urban communities where more than 84% of Americans live, work, and play, including by making available $1 billion in grants through the Inflation Reduction Act for this purpose. Tree canopies and other greenscapes reduce temperatures across urban heat islands and provide shade and relief during the hottest days, all while mitigating the emissions that drive climate change. The urban forest grant program is part of President Biden’s commitment to environmental justice and his Justice40 Initiative, which works to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities.
  • Making HUD-Supported Housing More Energy Efficient. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is announcing more than $830 million for its Green and Resilient Retrofit Program, which will upgrade affordable multifamily housing to save residents money, reduce building emissions, and protect residents from climate-driven hazards like extreme heat. Eligible upgrades include cool coatings for roofs to bring down building temperatures during high heat days, installation of heat pumps to reduce energy demand and keep units cool, and upgraded windows and sealing to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures. 
  • Preparing Schools for Extreme Heat. Through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, EPA provided technical assistance to four communities through the Schools as Community Cleaner Air and Cooling Centers program. Following in-person workshops, EPA provided each county with a tailored “playbook” of actions and next steps to upgrade school facilities to be safe spaces for children and their families during extreme heat and wildfire smoke events. Later this summer, EPA will publish resources with lessons learned from this program to help guide principals and school administrators, facilities managers, teachers, and parents and caregivers. These resources will be posted on www.epa.gov/schools.
  • Building Community Resilience to Extreme Heat. FEMA recently announced an additional $136 million for its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. This program is helping communities build resilience against extreme heat through innovative infrastructure design and nature-based solutions, among other strategies. FEMA will host a series of webinars this summer to help emergency managers and others design successful pre-disaster mitigation project proposals for BRIC. In May, HUD also released a guide to help builders and developers incorporate resilience in housing design and identify above-code construction techniques for a wide range of natural hazards, including extreme heat. These techniques maximize the impact of grant funding and reinforce a home’s ability to remain livable during long-term exposure to extreme heat.

Building a Heat Ready Workforce

  • Providing Job Training. NOAA recently opened a $60 million competitive funding opportunity to build a Climate Ready Workforce. This funding will connect people across the country to good-paying jobs, including heat health outreach specialists and climate equity officers, that tackle the climate crisis and boost local resilience.  
  • Protecting Workers. Since October 2021, The Department of Labor (DOL)’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has conducted over 2,800 inspections across the nation as part of DOL’s effort to protect indoor and outdoor workers from heat stress. OSHA is also in the process of developing a standard for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings, designed to protect indoor and outdoor workers from extreme heat, including farm workers. DOL recently announced that it is inviting small business owners and representatives from local government entities to join the OSHA and other government agencies for a series of upcoming discussions on the potential impacts of a workplace heat standard on small businesses.

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