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Erie County & Niagara County Are Applying For Two Separate Federal HUD Programs, Which Would Allow Them To Remove Lead-Based Paint Hazards & Conduct Lead Risk Assessments In Hundreds Of Homes Throughout The Two Counties

Lead is a Potent Neurotoxin That Can Cause Permanent Learning Disabilities, Especially in Children – More Than 40% of Niagara Housing Stock Was Built Before 1950 & Could Contain Lead, And More Than 42% of Erie’s Housing Stock Was Build Pre-1950

Schumer To HUD: Fed Funding Would Better Help Homeowners Across Western NY Get The Lead Out

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to approve $5.1 million in federal funding through two separate federal grant programs that would help Erie and Niagara Counties address and remove lead-based paint hazards in homes throughout the Western New York region. Specifically, Schumer said Erie County is applying for $3.4 million in federal funds through HUD’s Lead Based Paint Hazard Control program, and Niagara County is applying for $1.7 million through the same program. Schumer said lead-based paints pose a serious threat to public health in the region, particularly to children and economically disadvantaged residents. This funding will enable Western NY to help reduce the danger posed by lead poisoning, and work to ensure that citizens across the county are able to lead safer, healthier lives. 

“Lead poisoning is an irreversible, preventable tragedy that can harm children and cause serious learning disabilities for the rest of their lives. We need to do everything we can to eliminate lead from homes in Erie and Niagara Counties, which are vulnerable because so many were built before 1978 when lead paint was banned. Western New York communities have been working tirelessly to rid homes of lead, but they need far more resources to provide safer environments for our residents and children, and particularly our most vulnerable,” said Schumer. “So I am urging HUD to approve this desperately needed $5.1 million in federal funding as soon as possible – because 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 the ability to tap these federal resources would greatly help Western New Yorkers combat lead poisoning. With this funding, Erie County estimates that it would be able to better protect nearly 400 vulnerable children through lead hazard education programs and capacity building activities. It would also undertake a risk assessment of more than 200 housing units and complete lead abatements in 180 housing units, both public and private. Niagara County plans to remediate lead in housing units throughout the county in order to better protect vulnerable citizens and enhance the county’s ability to shield hundreds of families from the dangers of lead based problems in private and public housing.

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. 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.

According to the CDC’s 2014 study, approximately 8.3 percent – 2,335 of the 27,934 – of children tested for lead poisoning were diagnosed with blood-lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter. In Western New York, 585 children – approximately 13.0% – tested positive for lead poisoning. In addition, according to New York State data in 2000, 42 percent of homes in New York were built before 1950 when lead paint was commonly used. In Erie County, 42.8 percent of the housing stock was built before 1950; in Niagara County, 40.7 percent of housing stock was built pre-1950. Schumer said this underscores the continued need to bolster lead hazard abatement efforts. 

Schumer has long fought to increase federal funding levels 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, therefore, has previously pushed federal appropriators to increase funding for the HUD program, up to the $230 million level.