MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced on Tuesday, Oct. 1 the City of Milwaukee was the recipient of $5.6 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money will be used in the city's lead abatement and lead poisoning prevention efforts -- particularly lead paint abatement.
Mayor Barrett said in a news conference at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center that since 2004, the city has put more than $66 million into the lead abatement and lead poisoning prevention efforts.
"Over 17,000 housing units have been made lead safe," said Mayor Barrett. "Over 70% fewer kids have been tested with lead poisoning."
The money will help the city tackle lead paint exposure -- addressing lead hazards in 320 housing units in the city.
"If you were to look at what the scientists and the experts say, in terms of what's the number one cause and determinant of elevated blood levels, it's lead paint," said Chris Rasch with the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center. "If you're going to get the biggest bang for your buck, this is where to invest it. That's not to say that the other issues aren't important in making sure that our water is safe, and our soil is safe, and the soil where kids are playing, but certainly, what experts are saying is that lead paint is the number one cause."
The mayor indicated the money from the federal government shows lawmakers in our nation's capital have confidence in how the city is handling lead abatement.
"What this demonstrates is that the federal government has confidence in the work that we're doing, said Mayor Barrett.
Officials with the Milwaukee Health Department said it's much-needed financial relief.
"We normally use this money, once we find out a child has lead poisoning, then the Health Department comes in, Department of Neighborhood Services come in, and we move forward from there," said Jeanette Kowalik, health commissioner.
While the financial win was celebrated Tuesday, all parties agreed this only makes a dent in addressing a much bigger problem.
"There's many different pieces of the pie that are starting to come together for a more comprehensive campaign towards addressing the lead issue," said Rasch.
Here are some of the goals for the grant money:
- City leaders want 400 properties assessed for lead, 320 units enrolled and abated, and "Healthy Homes" work at 114 of 320 units.
- City leaders want 40 individuals trained and hired for lead abatement work.