Joined by HUD Secretary Ben Carson in Syracuse, Rep. Katko, Local Housing Organization, City & County Officials Participate in Rountable Discussion on Lead Paint Remediation

July 19, 2019
Press Release
Rep. Katko Announces Bipartisan Legislation Aimed at Improving Lead Paint Screening for Children

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK — U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) was today joined by U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson for a roundtable discussion with officials from the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County, as well as local housing organizations for a roundtable discussion on lead remediation.  The discussion was held at Home Headquarters in the City of Syracuse.

In 2016, a study found that Syracuse had the nation’s highest percentage of children with lead poisoning between 2009 and 2015.  It is estimated that 11% of children in Syracuse tested for lead have elevated levels of lead in their blood.  In some neighborhoods on the South Side of the City of Syracuse, more than 24% of children tested for lead have elevated levels.   Lead poisoning is prevalent in Syracuse because 90% of homes in the City were built before the federal ban on lead paint in 1978.

“Lead poisoning is a public health crisis faced by hundreds of families in the most distressed neighborhoods in our community. Families deserve the peace of mind of knowing that their children are not being detrimentally impacted by the long-term impacts of lead exposure,” said Rep. Katko. “Housing organizations in our community work on the ground every day to make sure families in our community know the risks of lead poisoning, and fight to address the lead exposure crisis in our community – but federal dollars are critical in this effort.  I met with HUD Secretary Ben Carson earlier this year in Washington on this issue, and invited him to Syracuse to sit down with our community leaders and advocates to hear firsthand the importance of prioritizing this issue.  I’m glad to welcome him to Syracuse today to continue the conversation.”

At today’s roundtable, Rep. Katko announced bipartisan legislation he introduced this week in Congress to improve lead paint screening for children nationwide.  Katko’s bill, the Preventing Lead Poisoning Act will help ensure that children enrolled in both Medicaid and CHIP are tested for lead poisoning at the proper ages to increase the likelihood of preventing long-term effects of lead exposure.  Currently, Medicaid relies on guidance that all children enrolled in the program must receive a lead screening test at 12 and 24 months, and between the ages of 24 and 72 months if not previously tested.  However, it is not law.  Katko’s legislation codifies that guidance and expands the Medicaid requirements to include children enrolled in CHIP program.

Rep. Katko continued, “I’m continuing to focus on this issue in Washington as well – and introduced a bipartisan measure in the House this week to ensure that children enrolled in both Medicaid and CHIP are tested for lead poisoning at a young age.  Doing so will help ensure families in our community and nationwide are protected from exposure to lead paint.”

In addition to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Rep. Katko was joined today by Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, City of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, as well as representatives from Home Headquarters, CNY Fair Housing, the Greater Syracuse Tenant Network, the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York, Housing Visions, Syracuse Housing Authority and experts from SUNY Upstate specializing in lead poisoning.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development pulled annual grant funding for the lead abatement program in the City of Syracuse because proper testing guidelines were not being followed.  However, in December of last year, with Rep. Katko’s advocacy, HUD approved funding to restart the program, which is currently a collaborative effort between the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County.  The City of Syracuse applied for and was awarded $3,500,000 in Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction grant program funding and $600,000 in Healthy Homes Supplemental funding.