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EPA awards $10M to Inter American Univ. for environmental justice projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $10 million grant to Inter American University of Puerto Rico’s Metro Campus (UIPR) to establish Technical Assistance Centers that will help organizations apply for federal funds for environmental and energy justice projects on the island.

The grant will support UIPR’s project EAGLE (Engage and Assist Grassroots organizations in Leadership capacity building for Environmental/Energy Justice) over a five-year period. The project aims to impact more than 300 organizations and provide some 10,000 hours of assistance in developing and submitting grant proposals for environmental and energy projects in communities.

“EAGLE seeks to empower local communities to take significant actions and promote their leadership capabilities,” said Marilina Wayland, rector of the Metro Campus, where the project’s main hub is based. Through EAGLE, “training, leadership development and technical assistance will be provided to community-based organizations to address their environmental and energy justice needs,” she added.

At its official launch to community organizations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands last month, EPA officials celebrated the partnership. They emphasized the importance of providing direct assistance to communities for applying for funds, such as the recently announced $2.8 billion by President Biden’s administration. 

The funds will “support community projects for clean energy deployment, strengthen climate resilience, and build community capacity to address environmental and energy challenges,” said Dr. Yogani Govender, director of the EAGLE project.

“No matter how much money is available for communities, it is of no use if it doesn’t reach those who need it most. We understand that navigating federal resources, grant programs and matching requirements can be very difficult for smaller, less established and more remote organizations. That’s why we see this technical assistance center as an intermediary to help access those federal funds and build the capacity of many communities that have requested this assistance,” emphasized Lisa García, regional administrator of EPA’s Region 2, which includes Puerto Rico.

Dr. Rafael Ramírez, president of the private, nonprofit university, also expressed enthusiasm for the establishment of the centers.

“I believe we set a precedent at Inter American University with this project, where we have three campuses (Metro, Barranquitas and Guayama), plus the main campus, which is the Metro campus, leading this project,” he stated.

Govender emphasized the centers’ importance in advising community organizations in developing their proposals and navigating language barriers to obtain funding. 

“We will take them by the hand through every step of the process,” she assured.

The training workshops at the new center started Dec. 4 and are open to community organizations at any stage of their establishment. 

For more information, visit Eaglehubs.org.

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