Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan for the Lead and Healthy Homes Grant Announcement Conference Call

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thank you all. I'm pleased to join all of you today as we announce $127 million in grants to 48 recipients to reduce or eliminate lead-based paint and other health hazards in homes throughout the country.

This investment is so important because it reminds us that "home" isn't just bricks and mortar. It's a place where our kids should feel safe and secure -- where they can play, learn, and grow, under the loving support of their parents and caregivers.

The last thing our families need is to be afraid that their home might make them sick.

But too often, families do have that worry. Or even worse, they don't know that their children are at risk.

We banned lead-based paint for residential use over three decades ago -- yet today some 24 million homes still have significant lead-based paint hazards.

Don't get me wrong. Thanks to the remarkable work of Jon Gant and his staff at HUD's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, we've reduced the number of children with lead poisoning by 75 percent over the last decade.

But I think most people would be shocked to know that 24 million homes are still dangerous to kids.

That's not right. And it has to change.

And with President Obama's Recovery Act, it has begun to change.

In May 2009, Vice President Biden announced that HUD would be awarding nearly $100 million in Recovery Act funds to help eliminate dangerous lead-based paint and other health and safety hazards from low-income homes.

And I want to take this opportunity to thank the Vice President for his long-standing commitment to fighting for healthier homes for America's families.

Because of it, with the help of the Recovery Act, we were able to produce over 16,700 housing units free from lead paint and other health hazards.

Today's announcement takes this progress to the next level -- as HUD announces $127 million in grants that will allow our local partners in 24 states and the District of Columbia to clean up lead and other health hazards in more than 11,000 low- and moderate-income homes across the country, train workers in lead safety methods, and increase public awareness about childhood lead poisoning.

That's 11,000 more families who will have the opportunity to live in healthier, safer homes and communities -- without having to face the tragedy of childhood lead poisoning, the debilitating effects of asthma or so many other home-related health hazards.

The funding announced today will also address those homes in our communities that are simply too unsafe or unhealthy for children and the elderly to live in.

Indeed, the $10 million in Healthy Homes Production funding included in these grants will target homes that contain carbon monoxide and radon, that pose a risk for accidental injuries from falls, or are vulnerable to excessive cold and heat.

We know these investments produce a serious return for the taxpayer.

A Pew Center report from last year found that for every dollar spent controlling lead hazards, at least $17 would be returned in health benefits, higher lifetime earnings, tax revenues, and lower special education costs, among others.

Given all we understand about the relationship between stable home, health outcomes and costs, the time is right to transition the platform we've established for lead to a broader healthy homes agenda.

That's what we're doing with the healthy homes model I've described as well as with our newly developed public-private partnership called the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative -- which recognizes the critical role the private sector, foundations and non-profits have to play in these efforts.

Our goal should be nothing less than for every home in America to be designed, built, rehabbed and maintained to support the health and economic security of American families.

Moving us closer to that goal is what today's announcement is all about -- and it's why I'm so very glad to join you all today.

Thank you, and I'd be happy to take any questions.


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