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Hennepin County pushes for lead paint removal

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Pointing out chipping lead paint
Lisa Smestad points to chipping lead paint on the front door of a north Minneapolis rental house. A child in this home was poisoned by lead paint.
Lorna Benson | MPR News

Hennepin county officials, with millions more in grant money, are looking for families living with lead paint in their homes.

The county is getting $3.4 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund the grants. Low and moderate-income families living in houses or apartments in Minneapolis, St. Paul and neighboring communities are eligible, with priority given to families with children under the age of 6. 

"At times over the years we've had a long waiting list, but right now we actually don't," said Michael Jensen, lead abatement program manager for Hennepin County. "It's about 3 weeks to a month long. So, we are actively looking for families to enroll in the program."

Applications are available on the county's website.

Grants generally cover window replacement, which averages about $7,500 for a home. Temporary housing assistance also is available.

Homeowners don't have to provide any matching funds, but apartment owners are required to do so. 

Since 2003, Hennepin County has received more than $33 million in federal money for lead paint removal grants. The grants have provided money for the testing of more than 5,500 housing units and the creation of some 4,600 lead-safe homes and apartments, the county said.

Jensen says most homes built before 1940 have lead paint, as do some houses built after that.

Last year, nearly 400 children who had a blood lead test in Hennepin County had blood lead levels high enough to damage their health.

Young children exposed to lead can suffer brain and nervous system damage, as well as learning, behavior and other problems.