NJ Lawmakers Commit to Lead Prevention Funding in Budget
Renew efforts to send Gov. Christie $10 million appropriation bill


New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D- Bergen/Hudson) joined local families, community leaders, and advocates at a State House press conference today to build support for funding childhood lead prevention in the state budget. The event was part of the #LeadFreeKidsNJ campaign to get $10 million appropriated in the FY 2017 state budget for the Lead Hazard Assistance Control Fund (LHACF).

“Since Christie’s pocket veto of these funds, we’ve all been disheartened to learn about lead in water in our public schools. Lead poisoning is an epidemic facing our kids and our communities,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. “Our elected officials must step in and end this preventable health crisis. We are grateful to the leaders and members of the Legislature who have committed today to funding lead prevention in the budget and urge their colleagues and the governor to do the same.”

Since the revelation that 3,100 children were diagnosed dangerous elevated blood lead levels in the last year and the tainted water supply in Camden and Newark schools, lawmakers at the federal and state levels of government have taken action. Bills have been introduced to require government regulations for the evaluation of lead contaminated dust levels in children be consistent with the Center for Disease Control standards. Also, efforts to expand inspections in homes and schools are currently under consideration.

"There is no higher priority than protecting the well-being of our children,” said Senate President Sweeney. “Exposure to lead is a very real and very dangerous threat to the health of thousands of children through both lead based paint and in crumbling infrastructure. Today I committed to making sure $10 Million is appropriated for the Lead Hazard Control Fund and I strongly urge the governor to keep it there."

“It’s been roughly 40 years since a concerted effort began to remove lead from household products and yet we’re still seeing the devastating effects lead can have on our children, particularly in communities with older housing stock,” said Speaker Prieto. “We can and should be doing more. I’ve joined the Senate President in pledging to make sure that funding for lead abatement is included in this year’s budget. For the sake of so many children, and their future, I hope the governor will join us in this commitment.”

“This is a public health crisis that cannot be ignored, nor is it one that we will allow to go unaddressed by government,” said Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex), prime sponsor of the lead prevention appropriation bill. “The Legislature has demonstrated its commitment to providing money to the lead fund for remediation, relocation and other measures. There is more to do to eliminate lead exposure to children, as the recent lead problem in Newark has demonstrated, but this funding is a major step forward in our effort.”

“Many children suffering from lead poisoning are living in our impoverished neighborhoods and having their God-given potential snuffed out before they even begin school,” said Senator Shirley Turner (D- Mercer/Hunterdon). “We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more to provide special education services and law enforcement and penal costs when it would cost so much less to fix the lead problem. We have to get the lead out.”

“There is no more important duty than protecting our children,” said Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) “We must look toward a comprehensive approach to preventing lead exposure in our homes and our schools. The funds needed to correct this problem are a fraction of the long term cost of not taking action."

"Lead poisoning is completely preventable, that is why we need to take action to avoid exposure through remediation and other measures to thwart the dangerous health effects caused by this harmful substance," said Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex). "Nothing is more important than the safety of our children and no price tag can be placed on their health and wellbeing."

Nonprofit community developers witness the scope of the problem first hand. The LHACF would support their work to remediate hazards found in older housing stock they say.

“Given the age and deteriorating conditions of much of Camden’s housing stock, we know that lead exposure is always a risk,” said Bridget Phifer, executive director of the Camden based Parkside Business and Community in Partnership. “Even demolition can be harmful if appropriate precautions aren’t taken because the dust spreads so easily.”

“Due to limited resources, we’re only able to remediate a limited portion of the lead contamination families may face,” said Raymond Ocasio, executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro. “More often than not, lead still remains in other areas of the home because program constraints prevent us from addressing it.”

“Last month, the governor said if funding for lead prevention was important to the people of NJ, he would include it in his budget - he did not,” said Ann Vardeman, program director for NJ Citizen Action. “Over 3,000 poisoned children is ‘over-dramatized’ he claims. We’re thankful to our legislative leaders for recognizing this health epidemic and taking action to protect our children.”

For more information on the Lead Hazard Assistance Control Fund and #LeadFreeKidsNJ, visit www.hcdnnj.org/lead.

About the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ
The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey is the statewide association of more than 250 community development corporations, individuals and other organizations that support the creation of affordable homes, economic opportunities, and strong communities. For more information on the Network, visit www.hcdnnj.org.

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