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Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE)

Basic Information

The Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program helps communities address multiple sources of toxic pollutants in their environment. This page provides information about the CARE program, including the following topics:

CARE Description

  • The Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program is a competitive grant program that offers communities an innovative way to address the risks from multiple sources of toxic pollution in their environment.
  • Through CARE various local organizations, including non-profits, businesses, schools and governments create partnerships that implement local solutions to reduce releases of toxic pollutants and minimize people’s exposure to them.
  • CARE educates and supports communities by helping them assess the pollution risks they face. We provide access to EPA's and other voluntary programs to address local environmental priorities and improve the environment through local action.
  • CARE has provided financial assistance by funding cooperative agreements with communities annually since 2005. 

Goals of the CARE Program

  • Reduce exposures to toxic pollutants through collaborative action at the local level.
  • Help communities understand all potential sources of exposure to toxic pollutants.
  • Work with communities to set priorities for risk-reduction activities.
  • Create self-sustaining, community-based partnerships that will continue to improve the local environment.

Why a Community Should Consider CARE?

  • If your community wants to reduce levels of toxic pollution, the CARE program can help! CARE assists communities by providing information about the pollution risks they face and the funding to address these risks.
  • CARE promotes local consensus-based solutions that address risk comprehensively.
  • Through CARE, EPA also provides technical assistance and resources, thereby helping communities to identify and access ways to reduce toxic exposures, especially through a broad range of voluntary programs.
  • As communities create local stakeholder groups that successfully reduce risks, CARE helps them build the capacity to understand and address toxics in their environment.

Why Should Businesses Consider CARE?

The Environmental Protection Agency's CARE Program believes that local businesses are a necessary piece to a successful community partnership and virtually all CARE communities have local business and often local business organizations as active members of their partnership. These businesses contribute time, money and in-kind donations to the partnerships.

How the CARE Program Works

CARE offers two different types of Cooperative Agreements: Level 1 and Level 2. These can be thought of as grants and, respectively, amount to approximately $90,000 and $275,000.

Level 1 Cooperative Agreements help communities:
  1. Join together to form a broad-based partnership dedicated to reducing toxic pollutants and environmental risks in their local environment.  Partners could be non-profit groups, community organizations, businesses, schools, and state, Tribal and local government agencies, EPA, and others Federal Agencies.

  2. Identify problems and solutions. Working together, this stakeholder group assesses toxics problems in their community and considers options for reducing environmental risks.  Many of the emission and exposure reductions will result from the application of EPA partnership programs.  EPA technical assistance is available to support this process.

Level 2 Cooperative Agreements are for communities that already have established broad-based collaborative partnerships and have completed environmental assessments. (The successful completion of a Level 1 Cooperative Agreement is not required.)

 Level 2 Cooperative Agreements help communities:

  1. Implement solutions and reduce risks.  The partnership identifies the combination of programs that best meet the community's needs.  EPA funding helps to implement these projects.  The community begins improving its environment.

  2. Become self sustaining. The community develops local solutions and ways to continue their environmental work long-term (e.g. increased partnerships and sustainable practices).  CARE funds pay to implement the local actions and solutions that are identified.   These solutions will reduce risks within their community.   The result:  communities will build self-sustaining, community-based partnerships that will continue to improve human health and local environments into the future.

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Frequently Asked Questions about CARE

  • How is CARE different than other voluntary programs?
  • CARE supports communities by providing tools, technical support, and funding to enable them to use other voluntary programs to reduce the emissions and exposures that the communities choose. In addition, unlike other programs, CARE is focused on all types of exposure (air, water or land both indoor and outdoor). The CARE program can help a community choose which voluntary programs best fit their needs.

  • Why can't a community just implement a voluntary program?
  • A community can implement many voluntary programs. However, CARE does more than just implement a specific program. CARE brings the community together to build a consensus to select the most useful programs to implement. In addition, CARE provides funding and EPA assistance.

  • Where can I find out more information about the CARE Funding and Cooperative Agreements?
  • The CARE Web site has a section with more detailed information on the CARE Cooperative Agreements and the Request for Proposals.

  • What is a Cooperative Agreement?
  • A cooperative agreement is a form of grant. Like other grants, it provides funding to a recipient. Cooperative agreements are used in those circumstances where EPA plans to be substantially involved in the project. EPA expects to be a part of the partnerships created in a CARE community. The cooperative agreements are awarded nationally using a competitive process, which ensures diversity in the types of communities and environmental problems addressed. The cooperative agreements will be managed by EPA’s Regional Offices.

  • How do I apply to the CARE program?
  • Get more information on our application procedures or call 1-877-CARE-909.

  • What are the two types of cooperative agreements communities can apply for?
  • There are two levels of cooperative agreements. With a Level I Agreement (about $90,000) communities organize and create a collaborative partnership to reduce toxics in their local environment. These partnerships work on steps 1 and 2 in the CARE process and, if possible, they begin step 3. With a Level II Agreement (about $275,000), the community already has a collaborative partnership and focuses on steps 3 and 4 of the CARE process.

  • How long does CARE funding last?
  • CARE cooperative agreement funding is spread over two years.  Level 1 grantees may apply for Level 2 funding during the second year of their project; however, there is no guarantee that they will receive a Level 2 award.

  • When is the partnership expected to be self-sustaining?
  • Upon completing a Level II CARE Cooperative Agreement, the community stakeholder group is organized and able to raise money from other sources.

  • Does CARE funding make a community ineligible for other EPA funding programs?
  • No, communities in the CARE program are encouraged to explore other ways to add resources to support their communities’ projects. This includes applying for other EPA grants.

  • Are states eligible for CARE cooperative agreements?
  • State governments or their agencies are not eligible to apply.  EPA hopes to work with State agencies as partners to support CARE communities where appropriate.

  • Is there a requirement for matching funds?
  • No, but communities are encouraged to find other funds. In addition, the ability to leverage additional resources is considered by EPA when communities apply for CARE Level II cooperative agreements.

  • What does the CARE program mean when it uses the term toxics?
  • When the CARE program uses the term "toxics" it means those chemicals, pollutants or other substances in the environment that can cause negative health or environmental impacts. We are trying to use an expansive common sense definition of the term. We are specifically not limiting it to a legalistic definition where only those chemicals that are specifically listed in or covered by a piece of legislation are considered toxics.

  • What does the CARE program mean when it uses the term risk reduction?
  • When we use the term risk reduction, we mean a decrease in the possibility of a person(s) suffering harm to their health or to the quality of their environment. While risks can often be quantified scientifically, these assessments are very resource intensive. The CARE program is designed to focus its resources on quick screening level assessments and actions that reduce the levels of toxics that people or the environment are exposed to. We are assuming that reducing exposure to toxics will reduce risks of harm. Where possible we will use available, measurable data to quantify the specific risks reduced.

  • What does the CARE program mean when it uses the term community?
  • The CARE program is not strictly defining the term community. Generally speaking a community is a group of people living in the same area sharing the same environment. It often is a relatively small area, but it can be a larger area such as a watershed in rural locations.  For purposes of CARE, the New York City metropolitan area or the entire Missouri River watershed are too large to be considered CARE communities.

  • How long does CARE funding last?
  • CARE cooperative agreement funding is spread over two years.  Level 1grantees may apply for Level 2 funding during the second year of their project; however, there is no guarantee that they will receive a Level 2 award.

  • Which communities currently receive CARE funding?
  • Please visit the CARE communities page on this website which lists all the CARE community projects both current and completed.

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Contact Information

Call toll free at 1-877-CARE 909

Or write to

CARE Program
US EPA (8001A)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460


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