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Federal grants boost city’s lead-paint removal program

As part of the national Lead Safe Awareness Week, Lead Safe Springfield will be reaching out to local day care agencies and kindergarten classes about the dangers of lead-based paint.

“We’re just trying to help as many people in Springfield as we can,” said Bobbie Reno, the city’s lead safe coordinator.

Lead Safe Springfield is a federally-funded program which assists residents in cleaning up lead-based paint from homes or apartments.

The program has received $17.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Since 1997, the program has reduced hazardous paint in over 1,200 housing units in Springfield and Clark County.

The program will be entering its 17th year in 2014. Community Development director Shannon Meadows said the city “never expected” it to be a long-term funding situation, but said it’s a testament to the relationship with property owners that the program has continued for so long.

“It’s an amazing program and HUD seems to think so, too, because they keep funding us,” Meadows said.

In 2012, the city received a $2.4 million grant from HUD — its sixth grant period overall. The money also included healthy homes funding, which helps people who qualify for the lead safe program make repairs to household safety items such as hand rails and smoke detectors.

The city’s goal under this grant is to reduce lead-based paint in 160 homes by May of 2015. They’ve already provided assistance to 22 homes since they received the grant since July of 2012.

They’ll be distributing 370 packets to the Springfield City Schools’ Head Start programs, which includes coloring books and program information.

Lead-based paints can cause brain damage, mental retardation, blindness and in some severe cases, death. It can also affect pregnant women and their unborn child.

Houses built before 1978 are likely to have lead-based paint, Reno said.

A home must have a pregnant female or a child under the age of six to qualify, unless it’s a property with no tenants. The home must also have decent, safe and sanitary conditions, and if it’s an issue, the program will help address those concerns.

Through the program, residents can receive up to $8,000 in interest-free deferred loans for a single unit, or $16,000 for a double. The program can also help with relocation funds while repairs are being made.

Income restrictions apply, but are based on the residents’ income, not the landlord. The deferred loans are due when property is sold or the title is transferred. If participants comply with the terms for three years, half of the payment can be forgiven.

The program will have a presence at city schools next week to answer any questions parents may have, Reno said. They’ll begin marketing in the county later this year.

“We want people to know we’re still here to help,” Reno said.

Meadows said some residents have been hesitant to participate in the program due to the economy and real estate market, but the city is doing whatever it can to make homes safer.

“Staff is working very hard to work with tenants and landlords to get it done, regardless of circumstance,” Meadows said.

For more information on Lead Safe Springfield, log on to or call 328-3930.

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