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Clean air advocates urge Georgia school systems to apply for school bus rebate funding

ATLANTA (ATLANTA NOW NEWS AT 10) -- Time is running out for Georgia school systems looking to get funding to improve air quality for students. Local clean air advocates are raising awareness about the issue and the deadline.

Advocates who toured an electric school bus outside Liberty Baptist Church on Tuesday said it was like a breath of fresh air. Among them was Dr. Abby Mutic, a certified nurse, midwife and professor who said she wants to improve air quality for all students, including her two young kids in DeKalb County.

"What can we do different? How can we make small choices and small changes to ourselves and our school systems," Mutic said.

Mothers and Others for Clean Air Interim Executive Director Tanya Coventry-Strader helped facilitate a conversation about choices, joining parents, advocates and community leaders.

"Breathing dirty air increases the risk of underdeveloped lungs, diminished lung function," said MOCA Co-Founder Stephanie Blank, adding how it also increases the risk of asthma.

MOCA is raising awareness about funding available through the Clean School Bus Rebate Program.

"The program provides $5 billion in grants to school systems over the next five years for replacing those dirty diesel-burning buses," said Laura Turner Seydel, who also co-founded MOCA.

The Biden Administration's 2021 Infrastructure Law authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to offer rebates to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission models. However, the August 19 deadline to apply for them is quickly approaching.

"There's a bank of batteries underneath this thing that powers an electric engine," said Sam Ham, an alternative fuels director at Yancey Bus Sales and Service who explained how the electric bus requires fewer moving parts to operate than traditional buses. Yancey is the exclusive dealer of the Blue Bird buses in Georgia.

Georgia Interfaith Power and Light Chairman Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley, a civil rights activist and a former dean of Clark College, called poor air quality a "life and breath situation," citing how it is harming minorities more than others.

"We thought we were fighting for equality in the Civil Rights Movement, and we should have been fighting for equity," Durley said.

That equity includes providing air purifiers. Timilon installed 5,000 of them in Atlanta Public Schools last year and also donated 500 throughout the community.

"We can move this ball forward, and we can have the understanding that the air we breathe is just as important as the water we drink," said Manager of Services for Timilon, Gary Davis.

They say the road to clean air equity is long, but it's worth traveling to the final destination. For information on clean air resources, click here.

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