Beat the Heat! City Program Offers Free Air Conditioners

With sweltering temperatures already on the rise, due to climate change, the City of Chelsea, in partnership with GreenRoots and the Neighborhood Developers, is pleased to announce a new program to provide residents with a cool respite as we head into the summer. The City, through its Department of Public Works and Department of Housing & Community Development, has secured a $50,000 grant from the COVID Safe Cooling program that will enable the distribution of free, energy efficient air conditioning units and utility rebates to income eligible, homebound residents, such as seniors and residents with disabilities. In addition, GreenRoots was a recipient of a grant from the same initiative, which they will use to install hydration stations and explore new neighborhood open space opportunities, with the goal of offering cooling refuges in all neighborhoods.

The Covid Safe Cooling program, an initiative of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council with financial support from the Barr Foundation, seeks to offer alternatives to traditional cooling centers, pools, and other public cooling resources, which may have limited capacity in 2021, due to the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As summer temperatures in the region continue to rise as a result of climate change, the need for cooling in homes and neighborhoods is critical, especially for seniors and individuals with health risks.

“We’re pleased to participate in MAPC’s COVID Safe Cooling program for a second year, thanks to the support of the Barr Foundation” said City Manager Thomas G. Ambrosino. “Chelsea residents have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Boston area, due to racial and public health inequities. This year again, we are pleased to offer a resource for residents who need cooling in their homes to reduce the health impacts of extreme heat.” 

The City’s program will offer free, energy efficient air conditioning units to approximately 70 residents, along with a utility rebate that will defray the cost of operating the unit this summer. The City will partner with local organizations, including GreenRoots, La Colaborativa, and the Senior Center, in order to solicit applications for participation. The Neighborhood Developers will disburse the utility rebates to program participants.

GreenRoots will install new hydration stations around the city, adding new locations to those installed in 2020. These stations provide drinking water and cooling to residents in outdoor public spaces. In addition, they will use the grant funding to explore new options for neighborhood outdoor space that can serve as a refuge from the heat in future years. 

“As an organization rooted in the principles of Environmental Justice, GreenRoots is committed to reducing the disproportionate health impacts from extreme heat in our community through initiatives such as the C-HEAT study,” said Roseann Bongiovanni, Executive Director. “Offering affordable, accessible ways to stay cool is a critical step we can take now to reduce heat-related health concerns this summer, as we work to reduce heat exposure and promote long term equitable resilience.”

Applications for the City’s indoor cooling program are available until June 30 at the entrance of Chelsea City Hall. All those who do not have a working air conditioner and meet the income criteria are encouraged to apply. The City will hold a weighted lottery to select recipients, with preference given to seniors 65+, families with children, disabled residents, veterans, and the most economically disadvantaged residents. To learn more about the program, eligibility, and to and download the application, please visit https://www.chelseama.gov/ac-unit-program.

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