The first seeds of brownfields job training—and of the brownfields program itself—emerged in the early 1990s, reflecting our growing concern for environmental equity (now known as environmental justice). Back then, we provided funds for the assessment and cleanup of abandoned and potentially contaminated sites through brownfields grants. The funds brought job opportunities to those communities where the assessments and cleanups were taking place, but there was one problem. The jobs were going to environmental professionals from other cities because, more times than not, local residents lacked the environmental training these jobs demanded.
So in 1998, based on the urging of local community and environmental justice leaders, we launched the brownfields job training program. We wanted to help ensure that individuals from communities who had dealt with the high unemployment, poverty, historic disinvestment and health disparities that came along with brownfields, could be qualified to take advantage of the job opportunities created when cleaning up these sites. The program simultaneously served as a ladder of opportunity for residents from some of the most economically distressed communities in America for jobs, and one of the first green jobs programs. That first year, we awarded eleven brownfields job training pilots, and by 1999 the program produced its first 100 graduates.
Since 1998, the program has evolved and is now referred to as the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program. The program provides funding to grantees so they can recruit, train, and place unemployed and severely under-employed individuals from these impacted communities in long-term environmental careers. These individuals are single mothers, low-income individuals, minorities, dislocated workers, tribal residents, ex-offenders, veterans, and other individuals with extreme barriers to employment. At this point, more than 14,700 individuals from communities historically affected by environmental pollution have been trained and more than 10,600 have been placed in environmental jobs throughout the country.
The EWDJT program is intended to not only help revitalize the land, but also transform the lives of those living on it. It is with great pleasure that we announce today the selection of 18 new entities that are aiming to do just that. We are awarding approximately $3.5 million in new EWDJT grants. We see this investment as a great way to more directly involve affected communities in their own revitalization.