MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - On Tuesday, the City of Memphis announced it received a federal grant for $5.6 million to identify and address lead-based paint hazards in more than 300 housing units across Memphis and Shelby County.
"Over 55% of the housing units in the City of Memphis were built before 1978. Units that were built before 1978 have the most propensity to have lead paint,” said Paul Young with Housing & Community Development.
To qualify for the program, homes must have been built before 1978 and currently be occupied by low-income families with children under the age of 6.
"The children of Memphis are special and we must all do our part to protect them from lead hazards in the place they call home,” said Sernorma Mitchell with the Department of Housing Urban Development Memphis field office.
Data from the Shelby County Health Department shows from 2016-2019, more than 1,700 children under the age 6 tested positive for lead exposure.
Earlier this year, Shelby County Schools reported high levels of lead in water sources at more than two dozen schools.
"It actually impacts their ability to learn and it can impact their behavior,” said Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department.
Health officials say education is also important when trying to identify sources of lead in the home.
"Lead pipes is another. Toys that are built in countries that are not monitored and those toys may have paint on them that contains lead,” said Haushalter.
The grant will cover risk assessments, education and inspections over the next 42 months. It’ll incorporate healthy homes interventions in 120 of those eligible units. The funding will also provide training resources and job opportunities to more than 80 low income residents.
According to city leaders, they've been doing lead abatement in homes for more than a decade. This grant, which is the largest grant that was awarded in the southeastern region, allows the city to continue that work.
"I don’t know if there will ever be enough funding, but our goal is to use what resources we have available to us to do as many as we can,” said Young.
The application process is expected to open in late January.