Five different times the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health applied to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for funding to address lead abatement issues in older houses across the area.
And five times those applications were denied.
That changed in 2016 when the Department of Public Health received a $1 million competitive grant to protect children and families from the hazards of lead-based paint.
Wednesday morning, that change was sustained with even more fiscal backing.
This go-around, HUD is awarding the Department of Public Health more than $2.9 million to protect families from lead and home hazards.
According to Department of Public Health Director Brian Hanft, the money will be used over a 42-month period and work will commence in the next three-to-six months. As of now, 15 homes are already on the wait list for this new round of funding.
In the last period, the Department of Public Health achieved 113% of its benchmarks as they performed lead hazard removal on 57 homes over the past three years.
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A key point that multiple speakers hammered home during the presentation was that such programs are vital because children, in particular, are most at risk for lead poisoning. According to the Mayo Clinic, children younger than six who are afflicted by lead poisoning can have severely altered mental and physical development. As Public Information Officer Kara Ruge put it: "Children depend on adults to make their homes safe."
Also of issue for a county such as Cerro Gordo is that so many of the homes were built when lead paint was still permissible.
North Iowa Landlords Association President Brian Huntley shared that several of his tenants have had the work done and were really happy with it.
"In Cerro Gordo, four out of five homes were built before 1980 when lead was finally removed from lead paint," North Iowa Area Council of Governments Senior Planner Myrtle Nelson noted.
She went to say that as good as it is to be aware of the problem, being able to fully address it is far more important.
"Unless you have money to back ideas, you don't get anything done."
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