Trenton, NJ – Today in a State House Press Conference Governor Christie announced $10 million in the FY2016 budget for lead containment and abatement programs for low and moderate income New Jerseyans, in a huge victory for the #LeadFreeKidsNJ Campaign.
“The $10 million in lead abatement funding that Governor Christie announced today is the minimum our children and families have deserved for the past six years,” said Ann Vardeman, Program Director at New Jersey Citizen Action. “Over 18,000 children have been poisoned by lead since Governor Christie took office, and no amount of funding can repair the damage done to those children, families, and communities. However, we can save future heartache by getting the lead out now. We are looking forward to continued investments to keep our most precious resource, our children, safe.”
Advocates, including New Jersey Citizen Action, the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, Environment NJ, and the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey joined together earlier this year to form the #LeadFreeKidsNJ Campaign to pressure Governor Christie and the state legislature to include funding for the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund in this year’s budget. The campaign collected hundreds of children’s handprints, thousands of petition signatures, and sent a letter signed by 109 organizations to Governor Christie urging him to include funding in this year’s budget.
“The Governor’s announcement is welcome news for NJ children and families who need these funds to remove lead in their homes,” said Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. “It’s a $10 million investment that moves NJ away from using kids as lead detectors. We can do more to make NJ lead free, but this is a big step in the right direction for our kids and our communities.”
New Jersey created the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund in 2004 to help remove lead from homes or isolate lead contamination, pay for emergency location of households with lead-poisoned children, and provide education and outreach on lead poisoning prevention. While Governor Christie claimed that the State already spends over $10 million every year in lead programs, he was referencing DCA inspections of multiple dwelling rental units and public health blood testing in children. No funding for abatement programs and emergency relocation funding, which was included in the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Program, has been appropriated since Christie took office in 2009. And according to a law passed in 2008, DCA should be inspecting single and two family rental units for lead, but the inspections have not been taking place. Senator Turner introduced legislation (S1143) earlier this year to shift responsibility for those inspections from the state to municipalities.