This report examines how existing federal benefits programs can play a role in delivering transition relief to workers and communities that are heavily reliant on fossil fuel-related economic activity.
Employment > Social protections
Environment and/or pollution > Human health
Government intervention > Regulation
Inequality and/or poverty > Other
public benefit programs
social safety net
Jake Higdon, Molly Robertson
Resources For the Future (RFF)
Academic/research institution or journal
The authors examine federal public benefits programs and discuss their role, alongside other programs, in delivering relief to affected workers and communities and helping them to thrive in a low-emissions future. While public benefits programs are not designed for energy transitions, they can be the first line of defense for struggling individuals and communities. As such, the authors recommend preserving and expanding public benefits programs to complement other, more tailored policy measures.
The authors assess existing federal programs and policies that distribute resources to smooth economic volatility and guarantee a basic level of security, health, and well-being for individuals and households. They group public benefits programs into two general categories based on eligibility criteria: social safety net programs and industry-specific benefits. Within each category, they assess the effectiveness and relevance of existing programs in the context of just transitions.
Based on this very detailed analysis, the authors share eight insights that can help inform policy to support communities affected by a long-term shift away from fossil-fuel energy. They conclude that social safety nets can contribute to fairness for fossil-fuel communities in transition despite their limitations when it comes to replacing income from employment. In addition, despite their ability to contribute to communities’ well-being and economic stability, they find that industry-specific benefits remain unsustainable in the context of industry decline. They then recommend reforming bankruptcy rules to help minimize moral-hazard risk, as well as other reforms that could increase budgets for industry-dependent programs in the context of just transition.
This report analyzes the potential efficacy of U.S. federal policies and programs that could help fossil fuel–producing regions and workers transition to a low-carbon future.
Economic diversification/restructuring > Economic development plans, Industry and/or sector assistance or plans, Infrastructure investment
Employment > Job creation and/or equality, Skills
Government intervention > Public finance, Regulation
Investment > Competitiveness, Private finance
financial support mechanisms
Daniel Raimi, Wesley Look, Molly Robertson, Jake Higdon
Resources For the Future (RFF), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
Academic/research institution or journal, Non-profit organization/civil society organization
This report analyzes the U.S. federal programs that could help fossil fuel–producing regions transition to a low-carbon future. It divides these programs into those that target local or regional economies driven by natural resource development (including timber and agriculture as well as fossil fuels) and those with broader geographic or economic scope. The authors suggest that the former, place-based development approaches can be especially effective.
The report examines three regional economic approaches that might be successful in a just transition context: offering capacity-building programs and technical assistance, financially supporting public and community organizations, and financially supporting private firms that may otherwise struggle to access funding. The authors also indicate that such efforts would require coordination among federal, state, and local officials and that substantial scaling up would be required for them to have a meaningful impact.
The report identifies programs that target natural resource–dependent communities and highlights a handful of initiatives that could aid just transitions efforts. For example, the Economic Development Integration program coordinates multiple economic development initiatives across agencies while making deliverables more efficient, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development programs provide technical and financial support for public and private rural institutions. An extensive appendix in the report details many federal policies in full.