Pennsylvania shouldn’t sit on federal clawback money as people are now drowning

When the Pennsylvania General Assembly took advantage of its last – and best – chance to inject billions of dollars into a fair recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it left struggling Philadelphians to continue to fend for themselves. at a time when they needed help the most. Scooped out of nearly $ 7.5 billion in federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, lawmakers in Harrisburg have chosen to put most of that money aside for a rainy day when people are resting. drown now.

The US bailout, which distributed money to state and local governments starting in May, was created to help Americans navigate a global health and economic crisis and pave the way for a just and robust recovery. . It also offers a unique opportunity to rebuild our country’s infrastructure, prioritize investments in green spaces and take dramatic action to increase our resilience in the face of climate change and the growing damage from weather events like the remains of Hurricane Ida. As the General Assembly resumes in September, it must seize this opportunity to help all Pennsylvanians chart a new course – and provide essential funding for green infrastructure projects like the Green City, Clean Waters program. .

READ MORE: Following Ida’s Destruction, Philly Needs Vital Water Resistance | Opinion

Approved in 2011, Green City, Clean Waters is the city’s plan to modernize its combined sewer overflow system and reduce the amount of polluted stormwater entering the Delaware River through the implementation a green infrastructure for rainwater, which filters rainwater through plants, soil and stones. before it enters the combined sewer system. This gives the city system valuable time as it can no longer support the amount of stormwater entering the system due to increased impervious area, growth and development.

Philadelphia used an innovative approach that prioritizes green infrastructure – such as rain gardens, tree trenches, and green roofs – rather than building large tunnels, storage tanks and upgrading waste treatment plants. waste. Traditional upgrades have been estimated at around $ 10 billion and have reportedly invested little in the local communities most affected.

Green City, Clean Waters is a more cost effective method of reducing stress on the Philadelphia stormwater system due to increased stormwater runoff. In addition, it is investing in black and brown neighborhoods that have historically been excluded from opportunities like the one presented by the US bailout.

Philadelphia has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’ve seen some things return to normal, it remains clear that we haven’t fully recovered yet, especially with the appearance of the Delta variant. Unemployment has remained stubbornly high. Libraries remained closed. Community swimming pools have been closed and neighbors have fought to keep themselves cool despite limited resources.

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Green City, Clean Waters is a hard-hitting program that can help solve many systemic issues facing black and brown communities in Philadelphia due to decades of divestment and neglect. Driven by decades of racist practices like redlining, the black and brown neighborhoods of our city do not have adequate access to green spaces. As a result, these neighborhoods suffer the most extreme consequences of rising temperatures due to climate change and the heat island effect.

We can cool the temperatures in city neighborhoods by investing in green spaces. Green stormwater infrastructure will help Philadelphia grow its canopy, and Green City, Clean Waters has already been a part of that effort for 10 years.

Philadelphia’s green stormwater infrastructure program is exactly the kind of program envisioned by the US bailout, and one that deserves additional investment through federal funding. Green City, Clean Waters improves water quality, strengthens our infrastructure, and delivers many benefits to communities through its ability to create jobs, boost the local economy, reduce crime and plague, and improve public health.

The General Assembly has a unique chance to spur a recovery that uplifts all Pennsylvanians. He cannot miss this opportunity to prioritize green spaces, clean water, climate resilience and reverse decades of divestment from black and brown communities. Investing in green stormwater infrastructure in Philadelphia will ensure this opportunity does not go unnoticed.

Adam Nagel is campaign manager for PennFuture, a statewide nonprofit environmental advocacy organization with five offices across Pennsylvania.

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