Cook County to allocate $16 million to support local climate plans

Cook County will dole out $16 million from federal funding to help five suburban communities target climate resilience, Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced this week.

Municipalities that don't have an existing climate resiliency plan will receive technical assistance, funding and staff resources over the next four years to create a plan and fund local environmental projects like green infrastructure improvements, stormwater management infrastructure and renewable energy installments.

The funding is available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act that was passed in March 2021.

"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," Preckwinkle said in a statement. "It is imperative that communities build resiliency so they are stronger in the face of these challenges and able to bounce back quickly."

Communities will be prioritized if located in an environmental justice area - regions that have experienced "cumulative environmental, health and social impacts of injustice, making them more vulnerable to climate threats," county officials said.

"Resiliency solutions are out there. But the upfront 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."

Once five applicants are chosen, the program will run in two parts: a planning phase and an implementation phase. Before the environmental projects are funded, the chosen municipalities will hear from their residents to create individualized plans, set resiliency goals and identify initiatives.

Applications for the program are open until March 8. The county will host an informational webinar at 2 p.m. Feb. 9. To apply or register for the webinar, communities can visit

• Jenny Whidden is a Report For America corps member covering climate change and the environment for the Daily Herald. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see

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