April 20, 2020

Duckworth Writes to Schumer & McConnell Requesting Funding for Environmental Justice Communities in Next COVID-19 Relief Package


[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chair and co-founder of the U.S. Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, led 15 of her colleagues today in writing to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) requesting assistance in the fourth COVID-19 relief package for environmental justice communities—that are especially vulnerable to the virus and often found in high poverty areas that could challenge their recovery. Specifically, the Senators wrote that the next package must provide emergency utility support to families and guarantee no utility shut-offs, address toxic pollution, recognize the right human right to clean, safe and affordable drinking and waste water services and create economic opportunity for all. 

In part, the Senators wrote: “As you know, the COVID-19 virus currently imperiling our Nation has life-threatening impacts on people with underlying health conditions. We are concerned that this leaves environmental justice communities particularly vulnerable as members of these communities are more likely than others to experience asthma and have diabetes. For example, in 2015 almost 2.6 million African Americans reported that they currently have asthma and African American women were 20 percent more likely to have asthma than white women. That same year, African American children were estimated to have a death rate ten times that of white children from asthma. Native Americans have the highest asthma rates in the U.S. at 14 percent of the population.”

They continued to say, “That is why the fourth stimulus we pass must include the policies listed below that will reduce public health vulnerabilities. Americans under orders to shelter in place should have power, heat, and a safe environment.”

Duckworth co-founded the Environmental Justice Caucus in April of last year to raise awareness of the many environmental and pollution issues that have created public health challenges, which disproportionately impact low income communities and communities of color. The caucus seeks to help those communities advocate for themselves with the federal government by providing expertise and assistance, generating legislation and organizing hearings and events. Duckworth brought Illinois-based environmental justice advocate Celeste Flores as her guest to this year’s State of the Union. She also chaired a Climate Crisis Committee Hearing earlier this month on understanding and addressing the national security risks of climate change.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-WI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

A full copy of the letter is available online here.