Environmental Justice Small Grants and Funding Opportunities

The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants Program offers funding opportunities authorized by California Code of Regulations Title 27, Division 1, Chapter 3, Article 1 to assist eligible non-profit community organizations and federally-recognized Tribal governments address environmental justice issues in areas disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and hazards. The EJ Small Grants are awarded on a competitive basis.

2020 Grants Awarded

In July 2020, CalEPA awarded more than $1 million in grants for 28 projects. Read the 2020 project summaries and the press release.

Grants Program

Maximum Available Per Project: $50,000

Grant Term: 12 months

Eligibility: Eligible applicants are limited to non-profit entities or federally recognized Tribal governments. A “non-profit entity” is defined as any corporation, trust, association, cooperative, or other organization that meets all of the following criteria:

  1. Operates primarily for scientific, educational, service, charitable, or other similar purposes in the public interest.
  2. Not organized primarily for profit.
  3. Uses its net proceeds to maintain, improve, or expand, or any combination thereof, its operations.
  4. Is a tax-exempt organization under federal Internal Revenue Code Section 501 (c)(3), or is able to provide evidence that the State of California recognizes the organizations as a non-profit entity.

Individuals and organizations that are tax exempt under federal Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(4) are not eligible to apply for this funding. Other IRS 501(c) tax exempt organizations that are not specifically 501(c)(3) are not eligible.

“Environmental justice” is defined in Government Code section 65040.12 as “the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

Grants are awarded on a competitive basis for projects that are based in communities with the most significant exposure to pollution. Grants are awarded for the following statutory purposes as defined in Public Resources Code Section 71116:

  1. Distribution of information to help resolve environmental problems;
  2. Identification of improvements in communication and coordination between stakeholders and CalEPA, and its Boards, Departments, and Office (BDOs), in order to address the most significant exposure(s) to pollution;
  3. Improvement of community or tribal government understanding about environmental issues that affect its community or tribal government;
  4. Promotion of community or tribal government involvement in the decision-making process that affects the environment of the community/tribal government; and
  5. Enhancement of community/tribal government understanding of environmental information systems and environmental information.


Sample Project Focus Areas in 2020 (updated to align with state COVID-19 public health guidance)

CalEPA prioritized projects that increase participation in environmental decision-making, that promote community resilience, and support local capacity to respond to environmental and health challenges.  Community resilience is the sustained ability of a community to respond, adapt, recover, and grow from adverse situations.  Projects were to align and adhere to the Governor’s COVID-19 guidance regarding social distancing as these orders are currently indefinite. Grant applicants were asked to demonstrate in their applications how their projects would increase and improve community resilience by the address one or more of the following:

  1. Improve Access To Safe and Clean Water
  2. Mitigate, Respond, and Adapt to Climate Change Impacts through Community Led Solutions
  3. Promote Pollution Prevention and Resource Conservation
  4. Reduce Exposure To Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals
  5. Build Community Capacity and Strengthen Community Collaborations with Schools and Local Government to Address Cumulative Pollution Impacts and to Uplift Community Knowledge

Project Activity Examples 

Proposed projects should have a clear focus on community specific environmental issues that address community or tribal interests.  Examples of project activities that are eligible include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Bolstering increased community access to a reliable and healthy water supply
  • Improving community resilience through one or more of the following activities:
    • Increasing energy efficiency and diversifying energy sources
    • Emergency planning to respond to wildfires and to develop response methods for floods and sea level rise,
    • Increasing green space and tree cover in urban centers
    • Improving water conservation within a community or group of communities
    • Increasing access to ride-sharing and safe biking and walking routes
  • Identifying and assisting environmental justice stakeholders to participate in decision-making processes
  • Collaborating with academia or governmental entities to collect data in communities affected by environmental justice issues and exposure(s) to pollution
  • Providing technical tools, information, or protocols to improve community or tribal government knowledge and understanding of issues related to environmental pollution and hazards
  • Enhancing community or tribal government understanding of environmental issues affecting their particular community or tribe
  • Improving communication and coordination among environmental justice stakeholders and CalEPA entities to address exposures to environmental pollution and hazards
  • Providing bilingual services for hearings, workshops,and outreach in non-English speaking communities
  • Supporting community or tribal member participation in governmental environmental public meetings processes.
  • Promoting community and/or tribal government involvement in addressing environmental justice related issues, and developing solutions to address them
  • Providing farm workers pesticide-related environmental and health information
  • Promoting environmental justice, public health, sustainability, and climate resilience
  • Developing an emergency management plan, or promoting participation in the process of developing emergency management plans by local, regional and state government entities
  • Developing and/or implementing environmental curricula or programs that teach and promote daily applications of environmental conservation and sustainability


Next Grant Cycle

Information will be posted here when grant applications reopen. Funding has not yet be secured for the next cycle (our funding is not continuous). However, you can also get notifications on the CalEPA Grant Program as it becomes available by subscribing to the Environmental Justice Listserv. Information on the Program is shared through the EJ Listserv in addition to other funding opportunities from CalEPA entities and other funders.

California Grants Portal

The State of California has launched the California Grants Portal – your one destination to find all state grant and loan opportunities provided on a first-come or competitive basis. Visit the California Grants Portal at grants.ca.gov to find funding opportunities for your community.

Program Contact

Malinda Dumisani, EJ Small Grants Program Manager

Award Recipients and Project Summaries

Grant applicants were asked to demonstrate in their applications how their projects will address one or more of the following EJ Small Grant Program goals in communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental pollution or are especially sensitive to environmental pollution due to socio-economic factors.