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HOW TO APPLY FOR HELP

Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis will do assessments of people's homes to determine whether they have lead paint problems, offer training to homeowners, and if eligible, pay for lead paint abatement and other repairs to make for a "healthy home." For more information and to get an application form, call 311 in Minneapolis or go to www.hennepin.us/leadcontrol.

U.S. grants will help Mpls., Hennepin County get rid of lead paint

  • Article by: RANDY FURST
  • Star Tribune
  • September 26, 2011 - 8:45 PM

Having made progress against a public health menace, local officials landed $6.8 million in federal grants to remove toxic lead paint and other hazards from homes in Minneapolis and elsewhere in Hennepin County.

The grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were announced Monday on the front lawn of Lynne Kelly's home on the 4200 block of Fremont Avenue N. To make her home safer, Kelly will have her lead-tainted windows and disintegrated front steps replaced under city and county programs.

"I appreciate it big time," said Kelly, mother of three children, ages 2, 11 and 16. "Otherwise it wouldn't be done."

Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman said that a city-county task force on childhood lead poisoning prevention had built "an incredibly successful partnership" to secure federal funding since 2002 that's seen a 67 percent reduction in children with high lead levels.

Still, Hennepin has between 800 and 1,200 children under the age of 6 with elevated lead levels, the highest in the state. Most children with higher lead levels live in Minneapolis.

"Lead poisoning can cause significant neurological, cognitive and other ... damage, particularly in young children, and may, at higher levels, cause anemia, coma, convulsions and even death," the county said in a statement.

Hennepin County and Minneapolis, together, as well as the state of Connecticut, received the largest grants of this kind from HUD this year, in part because they requested the maximum, but also because they had other funding partners and a history of performance, said Michelle Miller, director of the programs division of the HUD office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control.

The primary source of household lead is chipping or peeling paint. Homes built before 1978 may have used lead paint, and most homes built before 1950 used lead paint, officials said.

A non-profit group called the Sustainable Resources Center will install new windows in Lynne Kelly's home this week. Executive director Dan Newman said the center had done more than 1,000 "healthy home" surveys in the past year and a half, checking for lead paint, mold, excess moisture, pest infestations, safety hazards and other issues.

The grants will make an estimated 365 homes lead-safe, while 675 additional homes will be made safe from hazards identified as part of the healthy home program.

The $6.8 million HUD funding includes $3 million to the county for lead mitigation grants, and $1.9 million each to the county and city for healthy home grants.

Since 2003, HUD has provided Hennepin County with more than $24 million and Minneapolis with about $10 million for the programs, said Miller.

As with other federal programs, HUD's lead paint and healthy home programs have been cut in recent years. Funding was reduced from $140 million in 2010 to $120 million this year and another 10 percent may be cut in 2012, Miller said.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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