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Cook County allocates $16M to improve Southland climate resiliency

Cook County officials announced on Wednesday, Feb. 1, nearly $16 million in funding for the Climate Resiliency Planning in Communities Program, an initiative led by the county’s Department of Environment and Sustainability (DES), to improve climate resiliency in five suburban Cook County communities over the next four years.

“We know the climate is changing and communities hit hardest are those which have already faced generations of disinvestment. Reacting to frequent storms, intense heat waves and other devastating impacts can be dangerous and costly. It is imperative that communities build resiliency so they are stronger in the face of these challenges and able to bounce back quickly,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “The first step in that is proactively planning for resiliency in a way that addresses community needs and desires, prioritizes health and safety of residents and reduces economic impact.”

The county is requesting interested communities complete an application for participation by  March 8. DES is also hosting an informational webinar about the program on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 2 p.m. To register for the webinar, or to apply for the program, see the county website at www.cookcountyil.gov/climateresiliency.

The opportunity is open to municipalities located in suburban Cook County that do not have an existing Climate Resiliency Plan or something similar that has been updated within the past six years and requires the technical assistance, funding or staff resources to create one. 

Communities located in environmental justice areas will be prioritized. These are areas that have been subject to cumulative environmental, health and social impacts of injustice, making them more vulnerable to climate threats.

“Resiliency solutions are out there. But the up-front time and resources to implement such investments can be a barrier, especially for some of our smaller communities,” said Deborah Stone, chief sustainability officer and director of the county’s Department of Environment and Sustainability. 

“Through this program, we have the opportunity to provide technical assistance and financial resources to ensure residents in these selected communities are prepared for and able to thrive in a changing climate,” she said. “Supporting nature-based solutions will also improve access to green spaces for residents, while cleaning the air and reducing flooding at the same time.”

The first phase of the program includes a community-driven planning and prioritization process where communities will set goals and identify projects to bolster resiliency. Planning consultants will use community input to develop individualized and detailed Climate Resiliency Plans. 

In the second phase, funds will be granted to implement portions of the plans for a variety of possible projects such as green infrastructure improvements, stormwater management and renewable energy installations.

The county is providing funding for the Climate Resiliency for Communities Program through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) approved during the pandemic. The county allocated over $100 million in ARPA funding to support a clean environment for all and to fight climate change.

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