U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $5.6 million in federal funding for Onondaga County Community Development Division’s (OCCD) under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program. The Senators explained that the funding will allow OCCD 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. Schumer explained that following his relentless advocacy for Onondaga and direct lobbying to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Carson called him directly this afternoon to confirm the funding. In addition to calling Secretary Carson, Schumer also wrote to HUD to support OCCD’s application earlier this month. Last year, Schumer helped the City of Syracuse secure $4.1 million in federal funding through the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program to reboot its lead hazard removal program, which had gone defunct because it hadn’t received funding since 2012.
“During my call with Secretary Carson, I made it clear that even forty years after the federal government banned the use of lead paint, children in Syracuse and throughout Onondaga County still continue to suffer the insidious consequences of toxic lead. I’m pleased to announce that he agreed with me, and committed to sending Onondaga County the full $5.6 million in federal funding it had requested to remove lead hazards from communities,” said Senator Schumer. “I’ve long fought tooth and nail for federal funding and programs that work to remove lead in Syracuse and Onondaga County homes, because lead poisoning is an irreversible, preventable tragedy that robs too many children across Central New York of their futures. I couldn’t be more thrilled to announce today’s fantastic news, which will be a major boon for public health in the region.”
“I’ve been fighting for this funding for years so that our children in Onondaga County aren’t forced to live in homes with dangerous lead,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This funding is a critical investment to start remediation and help keep some of our most vulnerable families safe.”
The Senators said that lead poisoning constitutes a major threat to public health in the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County. According to the Onondaga County Health Department, in 2017, at least 675 children in Syracuse were poisoned by lead paint. Additionally, in 2017, 11% of children who had their blood tested for lead displayed elevated levels of the toxic metal. The Senators explained that this is a particularly pressing issue for Syracuse homes built before 1978, before lead paint was banned, as it was frequently used in homes. The Seantors said that with over 90% of Syracuse housing built before 1980 and 50% of rental properties built prior to 1960, residents in those units are at a significantly heightened risk for lead-based paint hazards.
Schumer and Gillibrand explained that after years of decreased funding for HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, which administers the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program, they have successfully pushed their colleagues in Congress to increase funding in recent years. The office received $110 million per year from Fiscal Year 2014 to Fiscal Year 2016, which was significantly lower than what the program had received a decade earlier. Schumer and Gillibrand were successful in securing a $35 million dollar increase for Fiscal Year 2017, an $85 million increase in Fiscal Year 2018, and another $49 million increase in Fiscal Year 2019. After securing the increase in funding for 2018, Schumer and Gillibrand worked closely with Syracuse officials to deliver over $4.1 million from HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes last December, the first time the city received funding from the program since 2012. This followed Schumer’s visit to Syracuse to push for the funding and a direct call to HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
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.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to HUD appears below.
Dear Secretary Carson,
I am pleased to write in support of the Onondaga County Community Development Division’s (OCCD) application for funding through the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program (FR-6300-N-13). Such funding will enable the OCCD to continue to address and remove lead based paint hazards in homes throughout the county, particularly in low-income communities in the City of Syracuse.
A significant portion of the housing stock within Onondaga County’s population center, the City of Syracuse, consists of houses built pre-1978 finished with paint containing lead. As a result of the deterioration of this paint in housing communities throughout the city, over 600 Syracuse children were poisoned by lead paint in 2017. The prevalence of lead paint in homes continues to be a cause for serious alarm, and the risks it poses to citizens are dangerous and irreversible.
The Onondaga County Community Development Division has administered a variety of housing rehabilitation programs since 1979, helping thousands of low-income households with a wide variety of housing issues. Their work has been essential in identifying and addressing the presence of lead based paints throughout the county.
With funding, Onondaga County and their partners would target units at risk from lead poisoning and where the County Health Department have identified children with elevated blood lead levels. The removal of these hazards will have a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of some of the county’s most vulnerable individuals and families, and set them on the path to lead healthy, lead free lives.
I would like to thank you for visiting Syracuse this past July to discuss efforts to reduce lead paint poisoning locally. A coalition of advocates in Onondaga County – from non-profits and health officials to local governments – are making significant strides towards getting the lead out of our most vulnerable communities. This funding will go a long way towards helping them continue their important work
Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my Grants Coordinator in Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.