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Utica Has Many Homes And Structures Built Before 1978 When Lead Paint Was Banned, Increasing Risk Of Exposure For Utica Children - With Oneida Among Counties With The Highest Levels Of Childhood Lead Poisoning In NYS

Senators Have Long Fought To Get The Lead Out Of Utica – Securing Another $3.5 Million To Remove Lead Hazards From Homes In Utica In 2018- And Latest Investment Will Boost Efforts Even Further To Rid Utica Homes Of Toxic Lead Paint

Schumer, Gillibrand: Federal Funding Is A Shot In The Arm To Protect Utica’s Children And Public Health 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $3,974,989 in federal funding for the City of Utica from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program. The Senators explained that the funding will create lead safe, healthy, and affordable housing units for low-income families with children under 6 years living in or frequently visiting pre-1978 properties in Utica.

“No amount of toxic lead exposure is safe for the children of Utica. For years, Utica has been among the highest for exposure to lead, but now I am proud to announce we have secured nearly $4 million for Utica to remove lead paint from homes to protect our children and public health,” said Senator Schumer. “Lead poisoning is an irreversible, preventable tragedy that robs many families and children of their future. This major federal funding is the shot in the arm the Utica area needs to boost lead paint removal and lead poisoning prevention to boost the health and safety of families across Utica.”

“Too many children in Utica are exposed to lead paint, which jeopardizes their health, development and futures,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Residents of Utica deserve to live in a home that is free of hazardous lead paint. That’s why I’m proud to announce this funding, which will help protect the health of countless children and families. I will continue to fight so our communities have the resources they need to keep our children healthy and safe.”

“The elimination of lead poisoning needs to be a top priority for the City of Utica, the United States of America and all of our partners. In the last six years, we have been able to reduce the rate of children showing elevated blood levels by 37 percent by working together. The latest efforts of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand are invaluable to continuing to drive the rates down to zero. We must all come together as a community to protect the health of our children and our collective future. I commend both U.S. Senators, as they have already made monumental differences in the lives of Utica’s most precious residents. We will not stop until all of the lead is out of our children’s homes,” said Mayor of Utica Robert M. Palmieri.

“Oneida County has long been providing services and educating the public on the dangers of lead through our Health Department and has made great progress in combating this serious issue, especially in the City of Utica” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “Protecting our children from the perils associated with lead poisoning is of the utmost importance and I thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for securing this funding that will greatly aid in the protection of the families in our County Seat.”

Schumer and Gillibrand said this nearly $4 million will go towards Lead Safe Utica’s 2022 Lead Hazard Reduction & Healthy Homes (LHR & HH) Program, which will reduce lead and other health and safety hazards in 88 units in the City’s most distressed communities through a comprehensive plan of lead hazard reduction and healthy homes measures, enforcement, job training, education, and outreach. The Program’s coordinated approach will utilize multiple local government agencies, organizations, and community partners to implement LHR & HH strategies in properties where children at risk reside.

Specifically, the Lead Safe Utica LHR & HH Program will:

  • Complete HUD funded lead hazard control and healthy homes interventions in 88 units
  • Deliver 80 Post Remediation Kits to participants to better maintain lead safety over time
  • Provide 98 free lead inspection risk assessments for owners to identify lead hazards
  • Refer program units to Weatherization/Energy Efficiency to achieve measures in 75 units
  • Perform leverage funded housing rehabilitation interventions in 44 program units
  • Provide 150 free Lead Worker training and certification to residents and contractors
  • Conduct 75 outreach and education events

With Oneida County having some of the highest levels of lead poisoning in New York State, the Senators said this funding will be critical for lead hazard reduction interventions in pre-1978 housing with a priority for low-income households that have a pregnant person or child under age 6. New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) 2017-2020 data identifies Oneida County, with Utica as its largest City, as having the fifth highest incidence rate for high blood lead levels among all counties in the state. Additionally, according to the NSYDOH, in 2020, at least 196 children under the age of six in Utica were poisoned by lead paint, and 19.19% of children who had their blood tested for lead displayed elevated levels of the toxic metal. The NYSDOH also reports that Oneida County’s “Incidence of confirmed high blood level” is 46.8, which is more than four times higher than the state average of 10.4 and among the highest in the state.

The Senators explained that lead exposure is a particularly pressing issue for Utica, especially in structures homes built before lead paint was banned in 1978, as it was frequently used in homes and apartments. The Senators said that with at least 6,812 occupied rental properties built prior to 1940 and 22,027 occupied housing units built prior to 1978, residents in those units and properties are at a significantly heightened risk for lead-based paint hazards. In response to lead based paint concerns, the City of Utica and more than two dozen community partners launched the Lead-Free Mohawk Valley Coalition with an initial $1 million investment in 2015. The coalition has since grown to include more than 100 individuals from over 40 partner organizations.

In response to the work being done by the City and its partners, Schumer and Gillibrand helped secure $3.5 million in federal funding through the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program in 2018 to supercharge ongoing efforts. These crucial federal funds helped remove or address lead hazards in 180 housing units for low and very low-income families throughout Utica. In 2019, the senators helped neighboring Onondaga County secure $5.6 million in federal funding to continue addressing and removing lead-based paint hazards in homes throughout the county, particularly in low-income communities in the City of Syracuse, which have been grappling with the threat of destructive lead-based paint for years.

In addition to fighting lead exposure in paint, Schumer has also lead the charge to increase federal funding to eliminate lead service pipes for drinking water in New York. The senator secured one of the largest federal investments ever into eliminating lead service pipes in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Law, which includes a $15 billion carve out within the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) over 5 years ($3 billion every year) for lead service pipe replacement. 49 percent of the funding will be administered as grants and completely forgivable loans to target aid towards disadvantaged communities who disproportionately experience the impact of lead pipes. The historic law also reauthorizes the EPA’s lead reduction projects grant program and increases the program’s authorization to $100 million annually through fiscal year 2026. It also amends the grant program to clarify that the program is intended for the replacement of any lead service line, and that eligible entities shall give priority for lead pipe service line replacement to disadvantaged communities.

Schumer has long been a driving force in securing federal funding to reduce lead exposure in New York. In 2016, after reports of elevated lead levels in Ithaca and schools across the state were published, Schumer took action to help jumpstart lead testing programs for schools and day care centers and in 2018, ensured that those programs were fully funded.

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, still encasing the walls of many homes, often erodes and settles on children’s toys on the floor, eventually falling into the hands and mouths of children. For children under the age of 6, lead exposure can result in developmental delays, learning difficulties, and behavioral issues, which may lead to lifelong health and financial consequences. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have long advocated for protecting New York’s children and families in the past by securing millions of dollars in federal funding to eradicate the toxic element from homes in order to reduce lead-poisoning cases. Lead poisoning can cause developmental difficulties, physical pain, and neurological damage.

The purpose of the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program is to identify and control lead-based paint hazards in eligible privately-owned housing for rental or owner-occupants. These grants are used to assist municipalities in carrying out lead hazard control activities.