The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Lead Based Paint Hazard Control Grant Program is awarding the city of Allentown a nearly $1.4 million grant.
Headed by the city’s Department of Community & Economic Development through the Bureau of Building Standards & Safety and the Bureau of Health, the program will establish a 3-year self-forgiving loan program for financially eligible affected households. At an average cost of $15,000, including relocation, the city intends to clear 45 units of lead hazards in three years.
A 2014 study by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health (PADOH) that was released in late 2015 found that almost 1 in 4 children under age 7 tested in Allentown had an elevated level of lead in their blood. Lead exposure to children in Allentown results mainly from exposure to lead dust found in housing that was painted prior to the 1978 ban of lead based paint.
“This grant will significantly boost the city’s ability to increase the health and safety of our housing stock,” said Mayor Ed Pawlowski. “I am very appreciative that HUD is providing the dollars for the program. I want to commend city Grants Coordinator Manager Lauren Giguere, Interim DCED Director Shannon Calluori and Health Bureau Manager Vicky Kistler and her staff for collaborating on a fantastic application.”
In an email notifying awardees, Acting Director Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes Michelle M. Miller said, “While OLHCHH has achieved remarkable accomplishments over the past 20 years with the help of our grantees, millions of housing units still have Lead Based Paint Hazards that need to be addressed to protect children from being lead poisoned. The expansion into areas that have never been served by our program, and the continuance in areas with the highest concentration of old housing stock serve notice to the public that we are taking the fight against lead hazards very seriously.”
A Community Health Specialist will monitor Pennsylvania National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (PA NEDSS) for reports of children with elevated blood levels (EBLs) and refer within 3 business days for enrollment to determine financial eligibility. If eligible, the unit will be referred for an environmental lead investigation to the Health Bureau. A Sanitarian licensed as a Lead Inspector and Lead Risk Assessor will complete a lead inspection and risk assessment within two weeks. Any child identified with an EBL of >20 µg/dl, or two consecutive EBL reports of >15 µg/dl will result in an immediate environmental investigation and medical intervention by the Health Bureau, in accordance with Bureau policy and under authority of the city’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Ordinance. (In this case, referral for enrollment will occur after the lead inspection and risk assessment.) Work specifications will be prepared and the job will be offered for bid to contractors on the city’s approved list of licensed and certified lead-based abatement contractors.
All lead-based paint activities will be performed in accordance with HUD’s Guidelines for Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing.
Hazard control methods will be a combination of interim controls and abatement, including:
i. Dust removal
ii. Paint Stabilization
iii. Control of friction/abrasion points
iv. Repair of substrate
v. Treatment of chewable surfaces
vi. Lead safe maintenance
vii. Removal/replacement of components
x. Covering or eliminating access to bare soil
The city will monitor cleared units annually for a minimum of three years to assess the property owner’s compliance with maintenance requirements.
All eligible units will have a child with an elevated EBL.
Beginning with units where there resides children with the highest EBL reference values, units will be qualified for eligibility in accordance with grant specifications. At least 50% of rental units will be occupied or made available to families with incomes at or below 50% of the area median income level, and the remaining units occupied or made available to families with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income level. For owner-occupied housing, all units assisted will be occupied by families with income at or below 80% of the area median income level.
Occupied units are given preference.
If projects require additional funds to adequately protect the occupants, costs in excess of the average maximum per unit may be funded by the city’s matching CDBG funds of $150,000 annually dedicated to lead hazard control.
The city will hire a Program Manager to oversee administration of the grant.
The city looks forward to working with community housing and health partners like Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, Housing Association & Development Corporation, Allentown Promise Neighborhood and Alliance for Building Communities to help identify properties in need of lead abatement. Local hospitals and health networks such as Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke’s University Health Network and Sacred Heart Hospital provide mandatory reporting of child EBL referrals to the Bureau of Health for medical and environmental management. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Health provides access through the PA NEDSS reporting system to identify children in the target area with EBL reference values of 5 µg/dl or greater.
The grant to Allentown is part of more than $52.6 million in Lead Based Paint Hazard Control grants awarded to 23 local and state government agencies.