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Council members reaffirm funding support for lead-safe program as ARPA recommendations take shape

lead paint
Posted at 5:59 PM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 18:33:41-04

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland City Council continued its discussion Monday morning over what to do with the expected $511 million hitting the city’s coffers by way of the American Rescue Plan Act. Supporters said an earmark of just three percent of that funding — or $17.5 million — could help bolster the work being done by the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition, ultimately benefitting thousands of children both now and in the future.

The council’s Health and Human Services Committee heard from members of the LSCC on Monday for a status update on the initiatives currently underway as well as their arguments on why the $17.5 million in ARPA funding is needed. A consortium of public, private, and philanthropic entities and organizations, the LSCC has been tasked with raising money and helping to administer the Lead Safe Cleveland program. Beginning in 2022, some landlords will be required to have their properties certified as lead-safe.

Augie Napoli, the president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Cleveland, said the coalition’s fundraising arm has secured $45.9 million of the $99 million needed to fully fund the program. As part of the program, grants will be offered to landlords for home repairs and renovations needed to become lead-safe certified.

“It cannot be overstated, the significance of these new home repair products and what it means for changing the way we invest in our housing stock in our community,” said Kevin Nowak, the executive director of CHN Housing Partners.

In 2019, the Cleveland City Council passed sweeping legislation targeting the thousands of homes and, specifically, rental properties across the city that are presumed to still have lead paint. As much as 90% of the city’s housing stock was built prior to 1978. Complicating matters further, as much as 60% of the city’s rental properties are owned by “mom and pop” landlords, many of whom are low income.

“It’s a rare opportunity to invest in our communities and, simultaneously, in racial equity,” said Marcia Egbert, the program director for The George Fund Foundation’s Thriving Families and Social Justice initiative. “Why grants to landlords? Over the course of five years, the lead-safe home fund projects a need of $35 million in grants to property owners. We are asking the city for just half of that. If the city was able to provide half, that needs it would help us leverage the remaining dollars from the other private sources. Grants to low-income property owners, which comprise 60% of landlords is a critical piece of the puzzle.”

Members of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee repeated vows of support for the $17.5 million allocations of ARPA funding. Representatives of the LSCC were confident that allocation would be sufficient to help leverage the remaining $17.5 million needed to hit the organization’s fundraising goal.

“While the reality that our children are continuing today to be lead poisoned in the city of Cleveland — and while we should all see that as completely unacceptable — we are in a position to do something about it,” said Councilman Kerry McCormack (Ward 3).