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Advocates welcome May budget revisions with funding to combat extreme heat and relieve utility debt; Identify need for more funding for community resilience centers

May 13, 2022
Mamelang Memela
With a historic budget surplus and temperatures rising, California proposes $1 billion in funding to bring high-efficiency heat pumps to low-income households and $170 million for community resilience centers
Sacramento, Calif.— As California braces for another summer of extreme heat and wildfires, Governor Newsom announced an updated budget framework today that heeds the call from environmental justice and climate advocates to boost resilience in the face of extreme heat by investing in household and community-level cooling solutions.

The May budget revision includes close to $1 billion in funding to upgrade low-income households with highly efficient electric heat pumps, which provide affordable cooling, along with other home upgrades to lower energy bills and cut climate pollution. The budget also includes $170 million in funding to create community resilience centers at libraries, schools, and other trusted community spaces – a key investment that will provide community-level access to cooling, clean air, and backup power during heat waves, wildfires, and other climate disasters. Advocates called the community resilience funding a good first step, but called for Governor Newsom and the Legislature to meet the scale of the need by increasing funding to $1 billion.

“Every household and community in California should have access to cooling, clean air, and backup power, and we’re grateful to the Governor for his focus on whole home upgrades to bring climate and health relief to those who need it,” said Amee Raval, Policy & Research Director at Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “At the same time, we’ve seen first hand how transformative resilience centers can be in meeting the needs of working-class communities, and we look forward to working with lawmakers to meet the scale of the need with additional funding.”  

An investigation by the LA Times last year found that California chronically undercounts the death toll from extreme heat. Between 2010 and 2019, LAT found that 3,900 Californians died from heat — six times the official count. Lack of access to cooling is a top risk factor for heat-related death and illness – and according to research from USC, in parts of California, poverty is a better predictor for lack of cooling than climate zone. 

“We applaud the Governor’s leadership in allocating funds to provide low-income households with heat pump cooling systems” said Jose Torres, California director at the Building Decarbonization Coalition. “This groundbreaking investment for heat pumps will not only equip Californians with affordable and energy efficient heating and cooling, but it also helps us cut the fossil fuel pollution that is driving the climate crisis.” 

Earlier this year, a series of reports from the California Legislative Analyst found that under a moderate emissions scenario, deaths from extreme heat in coming years could equal the current death rate from automobile accidents – a stunning 9 deaths per 100,000 people in California.

“The health risks from extreme heat, drought and other climate impacts are not felt equally across California,” noted Veronica Garibay, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “Low income Californians and communities of color are significantly less likely to have access to the day-to-day and emergency services such as cooling, power, and water they need to stay safe during extreme climate events. This suite of legislative and budget priorities are an important first step in ensuring providing frontline communities with climate resilience solutions they urgently need.”