AUBURN — The city will receive federal funding to remove or encapsulate lead from more than 100 housing units.

An announcement from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Monday said Auburn will receive $3.4 million to address lead hazards in 110 housing units, helping to make homes safer for low-income families with children.

According to the news release, Collins, the ranking member of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, wrote a letter of support on Auburn’s behalf to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“For decades, childhood lead poisoning has negatively affected the lives of many in the Auburn community,” she said in the announcement. “This funding will be transformational for more than 100 Auburn families and will specifically focus on improving developmental outcomes for children by limiting exposure to lead, lowering the incidence of lung cancer by mitigating radon, improving energy efficiency in older homes, and promoting aging in place by preventing catastrophic falls.”

The Lewiston-Auburn region has struggled with high rates of childhood lead poisoning, and as of 2019, still accounted for the most cases in the state. Lead poisoning is known to cause an increase in learning disabilities, lower rates of IQ, speech development deficiencies, attention deficit disorders, and aggressive behaviors. The effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.

“This grant is truly transformative to our community by ensuring a healthy environment for our residents to work, live and raise their families,” Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said. “We appreciate Senator Collins’ strong advocacy for this funding through her leadership role on the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee.”

City Manager Phil Crowell said the funding “will have a tremendous impact on our city, allowing us to work with over 100 housing units to provide needed lead abatement and provide education.”

The funding will be used by Auburn’s Lead and Healthy Housing Program, which according to Monday’s release “leverages key stakeholders at all levels in a pursuit to end childhood lead poisoning, mitigate home health hazards, support small businesses, and engage the local workforce.

The funding was awarded through HUD’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Grant Program and Healthy Homes Supplemental Funding.

“This grant is a game-changer for the work we will be able to do in the city,” Glen Holmes, director of Business and Community Development in Auburn, said. “Helping over 100 more families will make a tremendous difference to families with a child with high blood levels.”

Holmes said Monday that areas that could potentially see a more “concentrated” impact from the grant will be the New Auburn and Union Street neighborhoods. However, he said, with more than 4,500 homes in the city built before 1978, “residents citywide will potentially see funds used in their neighborhood.”

He said he expects a formal work plan to come together over the next two months, at which time Auburn will look to add at least two additional staff to support the program. Then the program would hopefully begin identifying projects and deploying funds by the start of 2022, he said.

The larger Lewiston-Auburn area has received several grants aimed at curbing childhood lead poisoning, due to its prevalence of old residential buildings that house many low-income families with young children.

Lewiston received the same funding in 2017, which at the time was a second round of funding meant to support a three-year lead abatement program. In 2019, Lewiston was awarded $5.2 million through the same grant.


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