8/20/2019 — 

WOONSOCKET, RI – Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed and Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt announced that the Woonsocket Housing Authority is receiving a new $1 million federal grant to remove lead-based paint from the city's public housing.  The federal funding will enable Woonsocket to identify and eliminate lead-based paint hazards, which are particularly dangerous to children.

The federal funds, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developments (HUD) Public Housing Lead-Based Paint Capital Fund Program, may be used for lead-based paint risk assessments, inspections, abatement, interim controls, and clearance examinations.

“Every child deserves a safe and healthy home, but too many low-income families remain at-risk of being chronically exposed to lead-based hazards.  We can’t just screen children’s blood for lead levels and hope for the best, we need to proactively screen the infrastructure and environments where children live and play and eliminate hazards.  This federal funding will help prevent kids from being exposed to harmful lead-based paint hazards in their homes, and it will help upgrade and improve public housing units for years to come,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, who secured over $16 million in federal funding for lead abatement efforts across Rhode Island over the last five years.  “This isn’t a problem that will fix itself.  We must be proactive and I commend Mayor Baldeli-Hunt for prioritizing and accelerating efforts to identify and clean up lead-based paint hazards, reduce exposure, and strengthen our communities.”

Senator Reed has pushed to strengthen HUD regulations governing lead-based paint hazards. In fiscal year 2017, he helped modernize HUD’s intervention standard for children with lead poisoning to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) most up-to-date recommendations. To help public housing agencies comply with this new standard, Senator Reed included a combined $50 million in the fiscal year 2017 and 2019 Consolidated Appropriations laws, from which these grants were awarded.

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.

According to the Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Factbook: In 2018, 635 (3%) of Rhode Island children under age six had a confirmed blood lead level of ≥5 μg/dL.13

Senator Reed also helped to include a new grant program in the fiscal year 2019 Senate THUD bill to 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 with.