McHenry County receives $2.2M in federal funding for lead abatement services

McHenry County was the recipient this week of about $2.2 million in federal funding to protect children and families in low-income households from lead-based paint and other home health hazards.

The grant funding came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to tackle lead and household hazards.

“HUD understands the close connection between health and housing,” Matthew Ammon, director of HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, said in a news release issued Thursday. “This year, HUD is awarding a record number of awards to jurisdictions to directly support their efforts to identify and clean up housing-based health hazards like lead and mold.”

Funding from HUD – which amounts to about $2 million for McHenry County – is meant to abate lead-based paint in households with children younger than 6. HHS funding – which amounts to about $200,000 for McHenry County – will address other home health hazards such as lead services pipes, asbestos, mold and radon.

Planning and Development Director Dennis Sandquist said homes must be identified as having lead paint issues before they can receive other home health support.

The McHenry County Planning and Development Department’s Community Development Division submitted a request for the funding in August. HUD notified McHenry County officials Sept. 30 that the county was awarded the full amount.

According to a resolution to increase the Planning and Development Department’s fiscal 2020 revenue and expenses in the amount of the grant funding, the number of county residents that experienced the detrimental effects of lead-based paint increased by more than 72% in one year.

In 2017, McHenry County reported 58 cases of children with elevated lead blood levels. That number jumped to 100 in 2018.

High levels of lead in the blood of children younger than 6 could result in developmental delays.

“Children have a right to live in healthy homes, and thanks to this funding, 100 homes will be made safe from lead and other hazards for some of McHenry County’s most vulnerable kids,” McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said in the release. “We owe a debt of gratitude to HUD and to our Planning and Development Department for working together to achieve this extraordinary result.”

Sandquist said municipalities throughout the county contain housing built before 1978 – when lead-based paints stopped being used – and the county is looking to work with various community partners to identify these properties.

Approval of the resolution – which will come before the McHenry County Board during its Tuesday meeting – also will result in the creation of a community development specialist role in the Planning and Development Department.

Community Development Administrator Hans Mach said 75% of this role would focus on abatement activities such as identifying eligible properties and ensuring abatement work meets HUD standards.