Pausing for a photo following a news conference Friday where Sen, Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced grant awards for lead paint hazard abatement and other safe housing initiatives, were Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Regional Director David Tille, Collins, Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier, Maine State Housing Authority Director David Brennan and University of New England President James Herbert. Biddeford received more than $3 million through the initiative. Tammy Wells photo

BIDDEFORD — Exposure to lead, especially in children, can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slow growth and development, and result in learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech issues, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to lead can put a pregnant woman at risk for miscarriage, according to the CDC.

Now, Biddeford, will be able to address lead hazards in 135 housing units, with a $2.9 million grant through the federal Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction program. Additionally, the city will receive $298,060 in Healthy Homes supplemental funding to assess conditions in 130 housing units.

The grant was announced by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R- Maine, on Friday, Oct. 18. at a news conference at Biddeford City Hall.

“The goal is to eliminate and reduce lead hazards and make sure more Maine families are living in safe, healthy homes,” Collins said.

There were also grant awards for Portland, Lewiston and the Maine State Housing Authority, and including Biddeford, provides $15 million in total to aid about 750 of Maine’s most vulnerable families, the senator said.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, at a news conference on Friday announced that Biddeford would receive more than $3 million in funding for lead paint hazard removal and safe homes assessments. (Tammy Wells photo)

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, at a news conference on Friday announced that Biddeford would receive more than $3 million in funding for lead paint hazard removal and safe homes assessments. (Tammy Wells photo)

Maine’s housing stock is some of the oldest in the nation, Collins pointed out. In Maine, 57 percent of the housing stock was built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned, she said.

“Maine (homes) have the highest level of lead paint in the United States, Collins said.

Last month, the U.S. Appropriations Committee advanced Collins’ fiscal year 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill, which includes $290 million to combat lead hazards nationwide, $11 million more than last year’s level.

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant said that the age and condition of the city’s housing stock has been a concern for years. After a fatal fire a few years ago, the city began inspections, he said, and noted that out of 690 housing checks, about 35 met the basic standards of life, health and safety.

The city will work with a host of partners to make Biddeford homes safer, Casavant said. The $298,600 Healthy Homes grant will leverage about $200,000 in weatherization, home repair and aging in place funding by York County Community Action Corporation and Biddeford Housing Authority, he said.

Among a lengthy list of partners is the Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition at the University of New England, which will provide education and outreach and Community Concepts, whom Casavant described as the program delivery partner.

He said the grant is the largest award the city has ever received.

Others on hand for the grant announcement were U.S. Housing and Urban Development New England Regional Administrator David Tille, Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier, Maine State Housing Director Daniel Brennan, Portland City Councilor Jill Duson and University of New England President James Herbert.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or twells @mainelymediallc.com.

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