New Castle, DE – New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer announced today that New Castle County has been awarded $3 million dollars through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to combat lead hazards, plus an additional $300,000 in Healthy Homes supplemental funding. This is the first time the County has applied for this grant. This Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Grant will systematically make 130 housing units over a three-year period lead safe in New Castle County, including the City of Wilmington. The Healthy Homes supplemental funding will be used in those same units to help maintain safe, decent and sanitary housing as a means of preventing disease and injury. Matching funds, chiefly from New Castle County, the City of Wilmington and State of Delaware, brings the total funding to over $4 million.
“Lead is a toxin that is poisoning our children and affecting their ability to learn and succeed. The residents of New Castle County should not have to choose to live in a home that is unsafe because it is the only one they can afford. Scientific evidence continues to link health outcomes such as asthma, lead poisoning, and unintentional injuries to substandard housing. We welcome this major support from HUD to expand our efforts to eliminate lead and other health hazards which disproportionately affects our most vulnerable citizens and communities,” County Executive Matt Meyer said.
Much of the funding will go directly to construction costs to mitigate lead. The county has a small number of active partnerships with contractors and construction firms certified to do this work. The county will seek additional contractors to complete the work and will be partnering with local job training programs to increase the pool of lead-certified workers and contractors to bid on the jobs.
“This grant reflects the continued hard work by our community services department to bring federal dollars where they can do the most good in New Castle County,” New Castle County Community General Services Manager Marcus Henry said.
The communities eligible for these grant funds are in zip codes 19703, 19720, 19801, 19802, 19805, and 19806. The majority of houses in these communities were built prior to 1978 with over 15,000 built before 1940, many of which still have lead-based paint present. These Census Tracts are among the highest for children with elevated blood lead levels in the state. Data from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services indicates that between 2010 and 2017, more than 1,100 children under the age of six who resided in these communities and were tested for lead had elevated blood lead levels (over 5 μg/dL).
Lead poisoning affects the central nervous system and brain, especially in fetuses and young children, and hinders their development and ability to learn and regulate behavior. In addition to individual health effects, long term societal effects of lead poisoning include diminished academic achievement and educational attainment, increased crime rates and the reinforcement of the cycle of poverty.
“We have an opportunity to help families who may be unable to help themselves.” Penrose Hollins, New Castle County Councilman for the Fourth District, which covers much of Wilmington’s north and east side, said. “This is what makes public service worthwhile”
New Castle County will work closely with the City of Wilmington, State of Delaware and other community partners to promote the program and encourage families with children under six years of age, including pregnant women, who “rent” or “own” their home to participate in this program.
The funds distributed to New Castle County are part of a record $319 million awarded the HUD to 77 tribal, state and local government agencies across the country to fight lead-based paint and other home health hazards.
“HUD understands the close connection between health and housing,” said Matthew Ammon, Director of HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. “This year, HUD is awarding a record number of awards to jurisdictions to directly support their efforts to identify and clean up housing-based health hazards like lead and mold.”