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News Releases from Region 05

EPA awards $30,000 to Chicago-based Legal Aid Chicago for pesticide awareness in rural communities

Award part of $1.5 million in competitive grants nationwide

Contact Information: 
Francisco Arcaute (
312-886-7613, 312-898-2042 cell

For Immediate Release No. 19-OPA104

CHICAGO (Nov. 6, 2019)The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that Chicago, Illinois-based Legal Aid Chicago will receive a $30,000 grant to conduct pesticide research and educate farmworkers on pesticide use. In total, EPA is awarding $1.5 million in competitive grants to 50 organizations working to address environmental justice issues in their communities.

Fifty percent of the grantees selected will support communities with census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones – an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. 

“Rural and disadvantaged communities are often disproportionately affected by environmental health risks, and at EPA we are working to reverse this trend,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These grants support the President’s initiatives to invest in and revitalize distressed communities. By supporting often overlooked, local organizations that understand the unique challenges that their communities face, we’re better able to put in place long-term solutions to improve the environment and health of underserved areas of the country.”

"EPA's grant to Legal Aid Chicago underscores our committment to ensuring that everyone - regardless of where they live, learn and work, deserves equal protection from environmental risks and potential health hazards," said EPA Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp.

The Pesticide Assessment Project of Illinois (PAP-Illinois) will survey corn detasseling workers in central Illinois and fruit orchard harvesters in southern Illinois on their knowledge of pesticide use, educate workers on pesticide awareness, monitor pesticide use and research, and investigate possible violations or worker illness from pesticides. The goal is a final report that helps improve the health of Illinois’s migrant farmworker population.

“In 2019, the Illinois Department of Agriculture received a record number of almost 1,000 complaints of pesticide misuse, ten times the average in years past,” said Lisa Palumbo, Director, Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group, Legal Aid Chicago. “Given this increase and concern about pesticide misuse, Legal Aid Chicago’s Migrant Legal Assistance Project is excited about its receipt of the EPA’s environmental justice grant and is committed to educating agricultural workers to help them understand how to avoid exposure to pesticides, and to seek help should this occur.”

EPA's Environmental Justice Small Grants program provides critical support to organizations that otherwise lack the funding and resources to address environmental challenges in underserved and overburdened communities. The funding will help organizations in 27 states and Puerto Rico carry out projects that will:

  • Educate residents about environmental issues that may impact their health.
  • Collect data about local environmental conditions.
  • Conduct demonstrations and trainings to shed light on those conditions.
  • Work collaboratively to address environmental justice challenges in their communities.

For descriptions of each of the 2019 Environmental Justice Small Grant awardees’ projects, visit

The grants will enable these organizations to conduct research, provide education and training, and develop community-driven solutions to local health and environmental issues in minority, low-income, tribal, and rural communities. Sixteen of this year’s environmental justice grant projects are in communities that are especially vulnerable to disasters.

Specific grant projects include: reducing exposure to lead and other water pollutants; developing green infrastructure and sustainable agriculture projects; implementing basic energy efficiency measures in low-income households; and increasing overall community resiliency.

For the second year in a row, EPA’s Urban Waters program provided $300,000 in funding toward some of the grant awards. Ten of the grantees selected are communities focused on improving water quality.

This year EPA received 208 applications, which is the highest number since 2013. The grant awards provide approximately $30,000 per project for a one-year project period.

For more information on the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, including descriptions of previously funded grants: