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Upstate New York’s Housing Stock Is Old & Many Housing Units Built Pre-1980 Could Contain Lead Paint – In 2014, Over 2,300 Upstate New York Children Tested Were Found To Have Lead Poisoning

Schumer Will Also Announce Push to Increase Funding for HUD Lead Hazard Control Program Grant Program; Funding Has Plummeted Since 2003

Schumer: Bill Would Provide Federal Tax Credits to Help Homeowners Get The Lead Out 

During a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced new legislation that would directly address the persistent lead problem in Upstate New York. Lead paint was not banned until 1978 and countless homes built before then contain lead paint. Schumer said federal funding for lead poisoning prevention has plummeted and Congress must act fast and pass his legislation to help homeowners reduce the cost of removing lead from homes. Schumer said that, progress has been made in New York combat the problem, lead poisoning still remains a big problem. Based on the most recent 2014 Children’s Blood Lead Surveillance Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2,300 Upstate New York children tested were found with blood-lead levels of above 5 micrograms per deciliter, which is associated with permanent neurological damage and behavioral disorders, according to the CDC. The CDC says even low blood-lead levels is a major concern for children under 6 years of age because their brains are not fully developed and are sensitive to lead exposure.

“Lead poisoning is an irreversible, preventable tragedy that robs many families and children of their future. We need to do everything we can to eliminate this hazardous lead from Upstate NY homes, which are vulnerable because so many were built before 1978 when lead paint was banned,” said Schumer. “This new $3,000 homeowner tax credit and critical increase in federal investments will help more families and communities get the lead out. That is why I am introducing a bill to finally give families, eligible landlords and homeowners a $3,000 tax credit to help cover the cost of removing lead hazards in their homes. We need to act now and we need to act fast to get toxic lead out of our homes, before it is too late.”

Schumer said that, despite successful work over the past decade to reduce the number of children with at least 10 micrograms per deciliter across Upstate NY, there is still a large number of children now known to have blood-lead levels between 5-9 micrograms per deciliter. Since 2012, the CDC uses a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter to identify children with blood lead levels that are much higher than most children’s levels and are considered dangerous. According to New York State data in 2000, 42 percent of homes in New York were built before 1950 when using lead paint was commonly used. Schumer said this underscores the continued need to bolster lead hazard abatement efforts. However, federal funding for lead poisoning prevention and remediation has plummeted in recent years. Therefore, Schumer said Congress must act fast to both restore historic funding levels and to pass legislation he is co-sponsoring with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI], which would reduce the cost of removing lead from homes.

The CDC recently revealed that half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 have blood-lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, which, since 2012, is the level at which the CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), lead is much more harmful to children than adults because it can affect children’s developing nerves and brains. Lead-based paint – which still encases the walls in older homes that were built when the substance was widely used – often erodes and settles on everything from food on a table, to children’s toys on the floor. This then easily allows the substance to get into the hands and mouths of children. In addition, many older homes contain pipes made with lead. Many plumbing fixtures, such as spigots and faucets, were allowed to be manufactured with lead levels above 8 percent before 2014. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 10-20 percent of the lead that poisons children comes from tap water.

According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, childhood exposure to lead has lifelong consequences, including decreased IQ and cognitive function, developmental delays and behavioral problems. Very high levels of lead exposure can cause seizures, coma and even death. Some health organizations, like the National Center for Environmental Health in a 2012 study, argue that no safe blood-lead threshold in children has yet been identified. For this reason, Schumer said it is disturbing that a large percentage of housing units across Upstate NY were built before 1980 and could therefore contain lead. In fact, according to the New York State Department of Health, 42.9 percent of housing stock was built before 1950. In Upstate NY alone, 36.6 percent of housing units were built pre-1950.

Schumer said that the federal government has been able to better protect communities and children from lead poisoning by providing millions of dollars in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Lead Hazard Control & Healthy Home grant funding – to cities like Rochester as well as Monroe County, for example – in past years. However, overall federal funding to address this problem has plummeted and lead exposure remains a persistent problem in Upstate NY. According to the most recent 2014 Children’s Blood Lead Surveillance Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 8.3 percent, 2,335 of the 27,934, children tested for lead poisoning were diagnosed with blood-lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter.

During the call, Schumer broke these numbers down by region:

  • ·         In the Capital Region, 358 children – approximately 10.2% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In Central New York, 467 children – approximately 12.1% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In Western New York, 585 children – approximately 13.0% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In the Rochester-Finger Lakes, 329 children – approximately 8.8% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In the Southern Tier, 138 children – approximately 8.2% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In the Hudson Valley, 360 children – approximately 3.9% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In the North Country, 98 children – approximately 7.0% – tested positive for lead poisoning.

As a result, Schumer launched a two-pronged plan to combat lead poisoning across Upstate New York. First, Schumer today introduced legislation with Senator Whitehouse aimed at providing federal tax credits to help homeowners and communities get lead out of their housing units. Schumer said this bill would do the following:

  • ·         Provide tax credits to eligible homeowners and landlords, which would allow them to cover up to 50 percent of the costs of removing lead in homes;

o   This includes an up to $3,000 tax credit for getting rid of lead pipes, lead paint and replacing painted surfaces, windows or fixtures contaminated with lead paint;

o   It also includes an up to $1,000 tax credit for specialized cleaning, monitoring and resident education about lead paint contamination.

  • ·         This tax credit would be fully refundable and amendable against prior year returns, so the value can be claimed quickly;
  • ·         Includes the replacement of lead pipes among the hazard mitigation efforts that would qualify for this tax credit;
  • ·         The tax credit would be available to all households earning up to $110,000 per year;
  • ·         The previous 2009 version of this legislation only allowed households with a child under 6 years of age or a household with a woman about to bear a child and that was built before 1960 to claim the credit.

As the second part of his effort, Schumer is pushing federal appropriators to increase funding for HUD’s Lead Hazard Control & Healthy Home grant program, which has been consistently shortchanged over the last several years. The Lead Hazard Control & Healthy Home grant program received its highest level of funding in 2003, at $176 million, but it has seen significant declines ever since. Since FY 2014, the program has only received $110 million and the President’s Proposed FY17 Budget released earlier this month again calls for it to be funded at only the $110 million level. Schumer said beginning this year, it is critical to reverse this declining funding trend and move back to the program’s higher historic funding levels. He said this is particularly important, as the findings of the Presidential Lead Commission a decade ago said it would take $230 million per year, over a 10-year period, to clean up the worst houses. Many of these homes were built before 1960 and in the neighborhoods with the most need. Schumer is therefore urging federal appropriators to increase funding for the HUD program, up to the $230 million level.

Schumer said NY State municipalities have received millions in Lead Hazard Control & Healthy Home grant funds over the last 10 years (2004-2014). The Capital Region received a total of $13,517,173 over that 10 year period; Central NY received $42,130,705; Western New York received $24,893,650; the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region received $18,537,596; the Southern Tier received $2,200,000; the Hudson Valley received $15,417,045; and the North Country received $611,285. Schumer said that, if overall funding for HUD Lead Hazard Control & Healthy Home Grant program continues to shrink, there will be less funding available to sustain these local low-income grant programs. 

Schumer said the $3,000 tax credit that would be created by his legislation would complement the existing grant program used by homeowners to reach more homeowners and encourage them to replace windows with lead paint, doors with lead paint and other lead paint hazards. Schumer noted that the tax credit would be available to those with household incomes up to $110,000. Finally, Schumer said addressing these housing-related health hazards makes economic sense, as every $1 spent to reduce home lead hazards provides a benefit of at least $17.