U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Representative Dan Maffei, today announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has decided to remove the “high-risk” designation they had given Syracuse, which was preventing the city from submitting an application to receive critical lead removal funds and meant that Syracuse actually owed HUD a one-time, $1.4 million re-payment of funds HUD had allocated to the city that HUD claimed the city misused. Schumer, Gillibrand and Maffei explained that HUD’s decision has come in the nick of time, as today was the deadline for Syracuse to pay HUD the money it was seeking and submit its application for a new round of lead abatement funds. Schumer, Gillibrand and Maffei praised HUD’s decision because it allows Syracuse to be considered for funding and does not require the city to pay HUD $1.4 million it had not budgeted. Schumer, Gillibrand and Maffei announced that they would fight for Syracuse’s application for lead abatement funds and is calling on current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, as well as the soon-to-be-confirmed nominee to replace Donovan as HUD Secretary, Julian Castro, to approve the city’s application so it can continue implementing the type of lead safety practices that keep people safe.
“Cutting off the entire City of Syracuse from receiving federal lead control grants would have been unacceptable and wrong – and would only have hurt kids at-risk of lead poisoning,” said Senator Schumer. “I commend HUD for re-considering their position and allowing Syracuse to apply for these grants that enable Syracuse to protect kids from the irreversible neurological damage that comes from lead poisoning. Now that Syracuse has the green light to pursue this funding – and HUD has restructured the money owed – I am urging HUD to approve its request.”
“I am pleased that HUD worked with the City of Syracuse towards a last minute agreement and removed the ‘high risk’ designation, so they can continue to have access to the resources necessary to protect residents from exposure to dangerous lead-based paint,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Ensuring that our homes are safe and healthy for our children is a priority. Lead-based paint is known to cause severe mental and physical health problems in children and the Syracuse lead abatement program has helped countless residents make their homes safe.”
“I am pleased about HUD’s decision to remove the ‘high risk’ designation from the City of Syracuse for its lead hazard control grants,” said Rep. Maffei. “Thanks to work with the City of Syracuse, HUD, and our federal partners, we were able to find a common-sense resolution that provides the City of Syracuse the ability to continue its efforts to remove lead hazards in homes across the city. The City of Syracuse has a nationally recognized lead abatement program, and since its inception in 1994, this program has rehabbed dangerous conditions in nearly 2,500 residencies. I am glad that this important work can continue and that the City of Syracuse can pursue critical funding to combat the serious health risk posed by lead hazards to countless children throughout the City.”
Schumer, Gillibrand and Maffei previously co-wrote a letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan expressing concerns regarding the future of the City of Syracuse’s nationally recognized lead abatement program, and they pushed both Donovan and Castro to re-consider HUD’s decision to label Syracuse as “high-risk.”
HUD gave the City of Syracuse a “high risk” designation following an on-site review conducted in November 2012 in which the agency identified four key program deficiencies in the City’s lead abatement program. As a result of these deficiencies, HUD imposed a repayment order and future funding restrictions on the City. The City responded in a timely manner to all of the findings, yet HUD has continued to designate the City as “high risk.”