The city of Augusta now has $3.3 million to protect families from lead poisoning. The grant is the first of it’s kind and Augusta is the first and only city in Georgia to receive this kind of gift.
The money will go towards eliminating lead- based paint in homes that are in low income areas. The city says they are going to focus primarily on houses where children live.
“This $3.3 million grant will provide a lead safe environment for children in Augusta. I want you to think about that for a moment. Not only children, but parents of children who are raising them in a community like ours,” said Mayor Hardie Davis on Thursday.
The comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development by way of the Georgia Department of Public Health. Mayor Davis points out that congress set aside roughly $324 million to for this kind of work across the United States.
“With a grant like this, we not only have an opportunity to eliminate lead based paint and other health related health hazards, to the tune of nearly 12,000 low income homes across america,” says Mayor Davis, “but it reduces the number of lead poisoned children in high risk communities…These interventions will also result in reduced healthcare costs that will make a difference for generations to come.”
Dr. Stephen Goggans with the Department of Public Health explains some of the health risks.
“Lead exposure in children, as a physician, is a tragic, but preventable problem,” says Dr. Goggans. “The neurological problems from lead are lifelong so when you have a 1 year old, 2 year old child, exposed to lead, you’re talking about decades of impact there on their entire lives.”
Augusta Housing and Development Director Hawthorne Welcher says they have already identified homes where this is an issue.
“We know in districts 1 and 2, there are 28,000 30,000 potential cases so this allows us to sort of just touch that,” Welcher says. “At the end of the day, if we are truly going to build healthy communities then we have to be sure that we’re comprehensive in our approach and not just talking about it and I think what we’ve done is been able to be proactive and say we’re going to bring 3.3 million dollars into Augusta Richmond County to make a difference.”
Thursday was the celebration for the grant money donated to the city of Augusta. They will start the work at a later date.
If you think your home contains lead-based paint, you can reach out to the Housing and Development Department at (706) 821-1797.
Photojournalist Gary Hipps