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South Bend and St. Jospeh County faced with less funding to fight lead

WSBT 22

Right now, South Bend and St. Joseph County have fewer dollars to fight lead in area homes.

That's after a federal grant, worth millions of dollars, was rejected.

The Lead Hazard Control Program aims to reduce lead-based hazards in homes. Officials say other communities had a stronger plan, but local homeowners say they need help.

"Sure, lead has been a stubborn issue and problem in the Near Northwest Neighborhood,” said Near Northwest Neighborhood Executive Director, Kathy Schuth.

Lead is known to harm an unusually high number of children under age seven in South Bend's Near Northwest Side, according to state data. That issue now has fewer federal dollars going toward abating lead.

"This would've exponentially increased the opportunity for those grant funds for neighbors to get involved and do some of this abatement work themselves,” said Schuth.

That's because a local grant application for the federal Lead Hazard Control Program was not filled this year, putting South Bend and St. Joseph County out of millions of dollars. In previous years, those dollars helped clear more than 100 homes of lead.

“The City of South Bend certainly was an eligible applicant. Certainly South Bend does have a problem with lead in housing,” said Dr. Warren Fiedman with HUD. “They are concerned appropriately. We are concerned as well. It's not that they were denied. It's that these are competitive grant programs we have.”

Officials say they were looking for applicants with a strong approach to address the lead.

South Bend can apply again in 2018, but Schuth says there's things homeowners can do now to cut their risk.

Even something as simple as removing your shoes can cut down on the contaminates that you bring inside your home.

"Yeah, parents watching right now, I want them to know that they shouldn't wait for a HUD lead grant to take action. That they can act immediately and have their child tested at the health department. If they, if their child is under Medicaid, those children can go to their physicians. They can get free certificates to go to the South Bend Medical Foundation and get free blood lead level testing,” said Schuth. “We can just take action now."

Friedman says the state of Indiana received a $3-million HUD grant under a different program.

The St. Joseph County Health Department will also do a free risk assessment for families with a child under the age of seven and a pregnant woman living in the home.

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