Padilla Announces Legislation to Direct $100 Million to Combat Health Risks of Extreme Heat

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) introduced the Preventing Health Emergencies and Temperature-related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act to address the rising health risks of extreme heat. The announcement follows the planet’s hottest day on record and the predicted hottest day in the past 125,000 years.

As the climate crisis continues to escalate, extreme heat events in the United States are becoming more frequent, longer-lasting, and more severe. This month, nearly one in three Americans were under an extreme heat advisory or warning. Prolonged exposure to this kind of heat can have dangerous consequences for human health, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. The Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act would improve and expand interagency efforts to address extreme heat exposure, provide $100 million in financial assistance for community projects to reduce exposure to extreme heat, and inform recommendations for federal action on heat-health issues.

“As Americans continue to face extreme, record-breaking heat waves, we must do everything in our power to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths,” said Senator Padilla. “This legislation will address the rising health risks of extreme heat by providing critical funding for community projects and enhancing interagency coordination so we can ensure our communities are prepared and protected — particularly low-income communities and communities of color who are bearing the brunt of this escalating crisis.”

Extreme heat poses more serious health impacts in low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal communities. In urban areas, residents are particularly vulnerable due to the “urban heat island” phenomenon, which can cause some neighborhoods in cities to be more than 20°F warmer than the surrounding area. These communities have less tree coverage and more pavement, in part due to historic practices of redlining, which lead to higher temperatures. Residents of these communities may also lack access to air conditioning, health care, and other tools to mitigate extreme heat, increasing the risks of heat-related illness.

Specifically, the Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act would:

  • Create the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) Interagency Committee to integrate interagency work in support of forecasting extreme heat events and the assessment of health risks of extreme heat;
  • Formalize and expand the existing NIHHIS within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which was initiated under President Barack Obama;
  • Commission a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine study on federal action on heat-health issues and response; and,
  • Establish a $100 million financial assistance program to provide federal funding for community projects that reduce the health impact of extreme heat events, prioritizing projects in historically disadvantaged communities, communities with significant heat disparities associated with race or income, and communities with large gaps in heat preparedness.

Full text of the bill is available here.

Senator Padilla has acted swiftly to address the threats posed by extreme heat as the climate becomes more severe. Padilla and his colleagues recently led one-hundred and twelve members of Congress to call on the Biden Administration to implement an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace federal heat standard as quickly as possible. The letter urges OSHA to model the federal standard after the provisions in Padilla’s Asunción Valdivia Heat Stress Injury, Illness, and Fatality Prevention Act, legislation he just re-introduced to protect the safety and health of workers who are exposed to dangerous heat conditions in the workplace.