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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its initial program design guidance for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GHGRF or “fund”). This key environmental justice and climate provision of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will help provide direct investment toward climate mitigation and resilience projects in communities across the country.
“The EPA’s initial guidance for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund states that at least 55% of the fund will provide financial and technical assistance for low-income and disadvantaged communities. This is a positive step towards making the just transition affordable and accessible to those most in need,” said Jessica Garcia, climate finance policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund. “The EPA should continue collecting feedback from the directly impacted communities that this fund aims to serve and developing robust criteria for its applicants to achieve its dual directive of protecting communities from climate impacts and providing them financial tools to safeguard their future. ”
According to the guidance, at least $15 billion of the $27 billion fund will benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities, and there will be two award competitions. The $20 billion General and Low-Income Assistance Competition will set aside at least $8 billion for low-income and disadvantaged communities, and the entire $7 billion Zero-Emissions Technology Fund Competition will benefit those communities. The EPA will release more details in its Notices of Funding Opportunities in early Summer 2023.
“The EPA’s commitment to facilitate technical assistance and capacity building to strengthen community-based organizations will be a step forward in helping them prepare for the impacts the climate crisis will bring,” said Ishmael Buckner, policy advocate with Public Citizen’s Climate Program. “Enabling disadvantaged communities to participate in an equitable transition toward lowering greenhouse gas emissions must be a key part of this program. As the EPA begins to act, we hope this program will catalyze the jobs of the future while mitigating climate risk for disadvantaged communities. It is vital that the EPA’s competition guidance set forth eligibility criteria and strong reporting and accountability requirements to ensure that selected fund recipients meet the needs of communities and the greenhouse gas reduction goals.”
“The EPA’s guidance–if well executed–means the GHGRF will meet President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative goals by directing at least 55% of the benefits to disadvantaged and environmental justice communities,” said Garcia. “As the EPA develops requirements for these grant competitions and makes decisions on program design, eligible recipients, and eligible projects, it should continue to align them with Justice 40, which requires that 40% of the funds flow directly to said communities.”
Americans for Financial Reform, Public Citizen, and partners submitted comments to EPA in response to their Request for Information on the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Organizations, communities, and individuals are also invited to participate in the EPA’s newly-announced national community roundtable series to provide the agency feedback on solutions that will benefit them the most.
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.(202) 588-1000
"Soft money undermines federal campaign finance laws because it is, by definition, money raised and spent outside the scope of those laws."
A campaign finance watchdog on Tuesday filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, alleging that the 2024 Republican presidential candidate unlawfully transferred or directed more than $80 million from a state political action committee to a super PAC supporting his White House bid.
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) says in its complaint that the reported transfer of funds from the state committee—formerly known as "Friends of Ron DeSantis"—to the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down runs afoul of rules barring political candidates from spending so-called "soft money" on federal elections.
"For over twenty years, the Federal Election Campaign Act ('FECA') has prohibited federal candidates like DeSantis, along with their agents and entities they establish, finance, maintain, or control, from spending 'soft money'—including, e.g., money raised by nonfederal committees and organizations that are not subject to federal campaign finance laws—in connection with a federal election," reads the complaint.
"The transfer of this colossal sum from a state PAC that DeSantis established and used to raise over $225 million, to a federal committee that has spent, and plans to continue spending, millions of dollars supporting DeSantis' own campaign is a brazen attempt to circumvent the federal campaign finance rules that are crucial to preventing corruption and establishing transparency about how our federal elections are financed," the filing continues.
CLC announced the complaint just days after DeSantis formally launched his presidential campaign in a glitch-filled Twitter livestream with billionaire Elon Musk.
Saurav Ghosh, CLC's director of federal campaign finance reform, said in a statement that "soft money undermines federal campaign finance laws because it is, by definition, money raised and spent outside the scope of those laws."
"We're talking about funds from billionaires and corporate special interests who could exert massive influence over the candidate they are financing," said Ghosh. "Laws banning these funds from being used to seek federal office are there for a reason—to prevent corruption, promote transparency, and ensure that wealthy special interests can’t rig the system even further in their favor."
The FEC is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, and the agency has not acted on recent complaints alleging campaign finance violations by high-profile political figures—including former President Donald Trump, also a 2024 candidate.
\u201cNEW: @CampaignLegal files a complaint with the @FEC alleging @GovRonDeSantis and his state PAC violated the federal \u201csoft money\u201d ban by transferring over $80M to federal super PAC @NvrBackDown24, which plans to spend over $200M supporting DeSantis in 2024. https://t.co/YoioGHpJYr\u201d— Saurav Ghosh (@Saurav Ghosh) 1685454060
The DeSantis campaign insists it has not done anything illegal because the governor is no longer officially associated with the state PAC that until recently bore his name. The committee is now called the "Empower Parents PAC" and chaired by Republican state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a DeSantis ally.
Critics have scoffed at the notion that the state PAC's decision to shift tens of millions of dollars to a pro-DeSantis super PAC—which is barred by law from coordinating directly with any candidate—would be made independently of DeSantis. Never Back Down is run by some of the Florida governor's "closest friends," according toThe Wall Street Journal.
"The idea that Ron DeSantis is no longer controlling or associated with 'Friends of Ron DeSantis' is absurd," journalist Judd Legum wrote earlier this month in his newsletter Popular Information. "And the notion that the money held by Friends of Ron DeSantis will decide to transfer its funds to Never Back Down independent of DeSantis is not credible."
In its complaint, CLC notes that on the same day that DeSantis launched his campaign, "Never PAC confirmed that it has received or will soon receive $80 million from Friends of Ron DeSantis, and that the super PAC had factored that major contribution—comprising 40% of its budget—into their plans."
The complaint points to a May New York Timesstory reporting that top officials with Never Back Down said they "expected to have an overall budget of at least $200 million, including more than $80 million to be transferred from an old DeSantis state political account."
"Indeed, for weeks before DeSantis’s candidacy announcement, Never PAC officials had reportedly been 'telling donors they intend to push the bounds' of super PAC support, laying out plans to raise and spend 'about $200 million' to support DeSantis' presidential campaign, including 'the more than $85 million that DeSantis has in a state fundraising account,' i.e., Friends of Ron DeSantis," the complaint states. "Never PAC has been using and/or reportedly intends to use this soft money in connection with a federal election by making over $944,000 in independent expenditures supporting DeSantis."
Further making a mockery of the campaign finance regime ushered in by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the pro-DeSantis super PAC has reportedly "raised $500,000 into a separate draft committee that is expected to be transferred directly to [the Florida governor's presidential] campaign in the coming days."
CBS Newsreported over the weekend that Never Back Down "has been encouraging donors to contribute online to the 'Draft DeSantis 2024 Fund,' a super PAC created in early March to house money from DeSantis donors until his campaign launch. Super PACs can raise unlimited funds, but they are generally considered expenditure-only, meaning they cannot contribute directly to a candidate."
Ghosh, a former FEC enforcement attorney, expressed dismay over the fundraising scheme in a series of tweets on Sunday.
"Super PACs—required by law to remain 'independent' of candidates—are now raising money for presidential campaigns. What a time to be alive," Ghosh wrote. "When the Supreme Court, in Citizens United, struck down longstanding campaign finance laws and opened the door to massive outside spending and super PACs, the justices said this spending would not cause corruption because it would be independent of candidates."
"So much for that," he added.
"The great contradiction of this debt ceiling deal is that, while poverty is the fourth-leading cause of death, this deal will make it harder to get food stamps but easier to spend money on war."
Hundreds of thousands of older Americans could soon be at risk of losing federal food aid and falling deeper into poverty due to a provision of the new debt ceiling agreement that expands work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a change that comes as food banks across the United States are seeing demand surge.
The deal that the Biden White House reached with House Republicans over the weekend would broaden the age range of SNAP recipients required to perform a certain amount of work or employment training each week. Under current law, SNAP recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 who don't have dependents and are deemed able-bodied must demonstrate that they are working or taking part in work training for at least 20 hours a week to continue receiving benefits.
People who don't meet the work requirements are often limited to just three months of SNAP benefits every three years—a time limit that was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic but is now returning, putting millions at risk of losing aid.
The debt ceiling agreement, if approved by Congress, would raise the work requirement age ceiling to 54, a change that anti-hunger activists say builds on a punitive policy that has proven ineffective at boosting employment. The deal's work requirement expansion will sunset in 2030.
Republicans were adamant that the agreement include additional work requirements for recipients of SNAP and other aid programs for poor Americans, even as their party worked to shield wealthy tax cheats and pile more money into the Pentagon's coffers.
"The great contradiction of this debt ceiling deal is that, while poverty is the fourth-leading cause of death, this deal will make it harder to get food stamps but easier to spend money on war," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign.
Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research and Action Center, warned Monday that the new rules "will only deepen hunger and poverty" for older adults who are unemployed or underemployed. Most adult SNAP recipients work, but their jobs are often highly precarious and low-paying.
"Cutting off food for people unless they document sufficient hours of work does not improve their chances to secure family-sustaining wages, but does increase their food hardship," said Guardia. "Food is a basic human right and should not have a time limit. The most meaningful, effective, and equitable relief is to pass H.R. 1510 for a permanent end to SNAP time limits on all groups."
"This provision ignores the strong evidence that it takes food assistance away from large numbers of people without increasing employment or earnings."
Advocates fear that an expansion of SNAP work requirements and the debt ceiling agreement's caps on federal spending will compound the nation's growing hunger crisis. A recent Feeding America survey found that a majority of U.S. food banks reported growing demand in March following the termination of an emergency SNAP benefit expansion enacted in the early stages of the pandemic.
SNAP recipients now receive around $6 a day per person on average, leaving many struggling to afford enough food—particularly as prices remain elevated.
The White House has touted the debt limit deal's exemption of veterans and people who are homeless from SNAP work requirements, but policy analysts said that doesn't justify imposing the mandates on others.
Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the new SNAP work rules would put "hundreds of thousands of older adults aged 50-54 at risk of losing food assistance, including a large number of women."
"Doubling down on the existing, failed SNAP work-reporting requirement for adults aged 18-49 without children, this provision ignores the strong evidence that it takes food assistance away from large numbers of people without increasing employment or earnings," said Parrott.
"A large share of low-income adults in this age range are in poor health; many of them will lose basic assistance they need to buy groceries because they aren't able to meet the work-reporting requirement; and the exemption system, notoriously laden with red tape, won't work," she continued. "Decades of experience under the existing policy shows that many of those whose SNAP benefits are taken away should have been exempt. Those newly at risk of losing food assistance have very low incomes, typically well below the poverty line, and will be pushed even deeper into poverty when they lose SNAP."
Progressive lawmakers expressed outrage at the GOP's proposed work requirements during the negotiation process, but it's unclear if they will oppose the debt ceiling legislation because of the rules included in the final agreement.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Sunday that SNAP work requirements are "absolutely terrible policy."
"I think it is really unfortunate that the president opened the door to this," Jayapal added.
"This is a desperately dark day for LGBTI rights and for Uganda," said Amnesty International's deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa.
Human rights defenders around the world on Monday condemned Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni after he signed a bill criminalizing same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults and imposing the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality."
Museveni, who is 78 and has ruled the African nation for nearly four decades, signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2023, under which people convicted of "aggravated homosexuality"—that is, same-sex sexual acts by HIV-positive people or with children, disabled people, or anyone deemed vulnerable—can be hanged to death. The law punishes same-sex acts with life imprisonment and attempted same-sex acts with 10 years behind bars. It also criminalizes the "promotion" of LGBTQ+ rights.
The bill was initially rejected by Museveni last month because he wanted it amended to include a "rehabilitation" option for LGBTQ+ people who "would like to live normal lives again," according to a presidential spokesperson. The legislation builds on a 2013 law under which life imprisonment was the most severe penalty for same-sex relations. Museveni has said that he finds gay people "disgusting."
"Despite our concerted efforts to stop the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the president today has legalized state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia by signing this bill into law," Frank Mugisha, executive director of the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), said in a statement.
"It will erode the rights of LGBTIQ individuals and put innocent Ugandans at crosshairs of grave violations from state and nonstate actors," Mugisha added. "We now look forward to the legal challenge in court, and the law being repealed."
Hours after Museveni signed the bill into law, 11 opponents including Ugandan parliamentary lawmaker Fox Odoi-Oywelowo petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking to block its implementation, the Monitorreports.
\u201cJoint statement by the leaders of the @GlobalFund, UNAIDS and @PEPFAR on #Uganda\u2019s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. \n\nRead statement - https://t.co/1xkDKdm2f5\u201d— UNAIDS (@UNAIDS) 1685348829
Amnesty International deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa Flavia Mwangovya said in a statement that "this is a desperately dark day for LGBTI rights and for Uganda."
"The signing of this deeply repressive law is a grave assault on human rights and the constitution of Uganda and the regional and international human rights instruments to which Uganda is a part," she continued.
"The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2023 will do nothing other than enshrine discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTI Ugandans and their allies into law," Mwangovya added. "It's unconscionable that they risk losing their lives, their freedom, their privacy, their freedom of expression, and their ability to live free from discrimination."
The United Nations Human Rights Council tweeted: "We are appalled that the draconian and discriminatory anti-gay bill is now law. It is a recipe for systematic violations of the rights of LGBT people and the wider population. It conflicts with the [Ugandan] Constitution and international treaties and requires urgent judicial review."
\u201c"I am deeply concerned about the consequences of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. This law violates basic human rights and sets a dangerous precedent for discrimination and persecution against the LGBTQ+ community. Let us stand together in solidarity and fight against\u2026\u201d— Steven Kabuye (@Steven Kabuye) 1685348680
Josep Borrell, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, called the new law "contrary to international human rights law and to Uganda's obligations under the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, including commitments on dignity and nondiscrimination, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment."
In the United States—which gives Uganda about $1 billion in annual assistance—President Joe Biden said in a statement that "the enactment of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights."
"I join with people around the world—including many in Uganda—in calling for its immediate repeal," Biden continued. "No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination. It is wrong."
\u201c\ud835\udc01\ud835\udc2b\ud835\udc1e\ud835\udc1a\ud835\udc24\ud835\udc22\ud835\udc27\ud835\udc20: President @JoeBiden has asked the National Security Council to evaluate the effects of the enactment of Uganda\u2019s Anti-Homosexuality Act and reevaluate annual $1 billion aid to Uganda.\n\n\u201cI have directed my National Security Council to evaluate the implications of\u2026\u201d— Remmy Bahati (@Remmy Bahati) 1685383924
"This shameful act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda," Biden asserted, adding that his administration is considering "sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption."
Ugandan Parliamentary Speaker Anita Among said her U.S. visa had been revoked.
Even some congressional Republicans—some of whom back anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the United States—condemned the new Ugandan law, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who called it "grotesque and an abomination."
\u201cUganda\u2019s President has signed this anti-gay legislation into law. Canada\u2019s stance has not changed: This law is appalling and abhorrent, and we strongly condemn it. We\u2019ll continue to stand with 2SLGBTQI+ people \u2013 and stand up for 2SLGBTQI+ rights \u2013 at home and abroad.\u201d— Justin Trudeau (@Justin Trudeau) 1685393570
Same-sex sexual acts were already illegal in Uganda—one of around 30 African and 60 world nations that criminalize such acts— under the 2013 law and legislation passed during colonization by Britain. Prior to colonization's imported homophobia, Uganda had a history of tolerating sexual diversity, including among the Baganda—the country's largest ethnic group—and Lango, who recognize a third gender, the mudoko dako. King Mwanda II, who ruled the Baganda people in the 1880s, was famously bisexual.
Right-wing evangelical Christians from the United States have played a key role in the introduction of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in African nations.
\u201cFoiled in the United States, anti-gay evangelicals spread hate in Africa: http://t.co/5igFdIhF7z\u201d— Mother Jones (@Mother Jones) 1373455859
Attacks on LGBTQ+ rights and people—including the murders of activists including David Kato and Brian Wasswa—have increased in Uganda this century.
Mugisha said the new law will "bring a lot of harm" to Uganda's already persecuted LGBTQ+ community.
"We feel so, so, so worried," he toldAgence-France Presse.