PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to protect children and families in public
housing, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced $1,974,400 in new federal
grants for Pawtucket and Providence to identify and address lead-based paint
hazards. The Pawtucket Housing Authority will receive $1,000,000 and the
Providence Housing Authority will receive $974,400 to evaluate and address
lead-based paint hazards in their older housing developments. These
agencies may use this funding to perform risk assessments and remove or control
lead-contaminated dust and soil in and around public housing units. The federal
funds are administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development’s (HUD) Public Housing Lead-Based Paint Capital Fund Program.
For years, Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of
the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD)
Appropriations Subcommittee, has pushed to strengthen HUD regulations governing
lead-based paint hazards. In 2016, he joined then-HUD Secretary Julian
Castro to announce the modernization of HUD’s intervention standard for
children with lead poisoning to align with the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention’s (CDC) most up-to-date recommendations. To help public housing
agencies comply with this new standard, Senator Reed included $25 million in
the fiscal year 2017 Omnibus, from which these grants were awarded.
Senator Reed also worked to improve inspections and the enforcement of
regulations in assisted housing in that bill.
“Every child deserves a safe and healthy
home. Eliminating lead-based paint hazards from public housing is both a
moral and economic imperative, and Congress must do its part to protect at-risk
children and families. Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy, and these
grants will help prevent kids from being exposed to harmful lead-based paint
hazards in their homes,” said Senator Reed. “This isn’t a problem that will fix
itself. We must be proactive and accelerate efforts to identify and clean
up lead-based paint hazards, reduce exposure, and strengthen our
communities. There are simple steps we can take now to prevent permanent
damage that could last a lifetime, but we have to provide the resources and
collective commitment to get the job done,” said Senator Reed.
Including these awards, Senator Reed has
helped to secure over $15 million in federal funding for lead abatement efforts
across Rhode Island over the last five years.
According to HUD, 70 percent of lead poisoning
cases in the United States are the result of exposure to lead-based paint
hazards in the home. This exposure usually stems from the presence of
lead-based paint in homes built prior to 1978 as lead was commonly used in
household paint at that time to increase its durability. In 1978, Congress
banned the use of lead in paint for residential use. According to the
Rhode Island Department of Health, an estimated 80% of Rhode Island homes were
built before 1978 and likely contain lead-based paint, which is the most common
source of lead exposure to children in Rhode Island.
Lead poisoning disproportionately affects the
lives of children from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds and can have
lifelong, irreversible consequences, including severely inhibiting healthy
development and compromising learning ability. According to the CDC, children
in at least 4 million U.S. households are being exposed to high levels of lead.
Exposure to lead-based paint hazards at a young age poses not only serious
immediate health consequences, but may also permanently jeopardize potential for
upward social mobility throughout adulthood. Children who are exposed to lead
hazards are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more
likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.
The CDC now estimates that 535,000 American
children under 6 years of age are affected by lead poisoning. According
to the Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Factbook: “In 2017, 953 (4%) of the 24,501Rhode Island children under
age six who were screened had confirmedvelevated blood lead levels of ?5
µg/dL. Children living in the four core cities (6%) were more than twice
as likely as children in the remainder of the states (3%) to have confirmed
elevated blood lead levels ?5 µg/dL.”
In the fiscal year 2019 Senate THUD bill,
Senator Reed secured $260 million in federal funding for lead abatement and an
additional $25 million to expand inspections for and remediate lead-based paint
hazards in public housing. This combined funding level represents a $175
million increase in funding for these activities since fiscal year 2016.
Senator Reed also helped to include a new
grant program in the fiscal year 2019 Senate THUD bill that will identify ways
to lower the cost of remediation of lead-based paint hazards in homes so that
federal funding can be spent more efficiently and protect more children.
This new grant program will support projects to dramatically reduce
lead-based paint hazards in five neighborhoods with high rates of housing stock
built before 1940, low-income families with young children, and elevated blood
lead levels in children under the age of six years old. The fiscal year
2019 Senate THUD bill will also improve HUD’s processes to identify at-risk
neighborhoods and ensure that lead-based paint regulations are complied