School buses parked at Cyr Bus on Ohio Street in Bangor on Wednesday January 20, 2021. No school bus drivers were available to work on Wednesday leaving parents of students at six Bangor schools a last minute change to transport their children. Cyr Bus employees did not feel safe working due to the large number of people already having tested positive for COVID-19. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

BOSTON— School districts across New England are now eligible to apply for a portion of $500 million toward the purchase of zero-emissions school buses, which benefit the environment and children’s health, officials said Friday.

“These funds will make a real and lasting difference for everyone, especially kids who live in disadvantaged communities who are often the most vulnerable to the impacts of poor air quality and the effects of our changing climate,” Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency said at a Boston news conference. “Investing in a new generation of school buses makes good sense for protecting peoples’ health, combatting the climate crisis, and for improving air quality everywhere.”

The funding is the first round of money available out of the $5 billion investment for low and zero-emission school buses over five years secured through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

In addition to helping the enviroment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting health, low- and zero-emissions buses will drive demand for American-made batteries and vehicles, boost domestic manufacturing, and create jobs.

Boston announced last month that it plans to replace its entire fleet of more than 700 buses with electric vehicles.

The EPA is accepting applications from until August 19.