ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. - Allegheny County is facing a significant shortfall in contractors needed for projects to remove lead paint from older homes.
A $3.4 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant allowed Allegheny County officials to partner with the health department and Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority to identify low-income families at high risk for lead paint exposure.
But since launching the program in April 2017, the county has dealt with a significant shortfall in contractors available to do the work, meaning fewer than 20 actually got help.
Even though lead paint has been banned for decades, there are a lot of older homes that still have it.
"Mostly in windows, they're going to check the seal because that's usually the most dangerous place for a child," said J.R. Botti, who is a contractor certified in lead remediation.
Lead paint was panned in 1978; 86 percent of houses in Allegheny County were built before that.
Within a 60-mile radius, there are only 17 contractors who are certified to do this.
"I would say half of those don't do any work in family homes," said Cassandra Collinge, the Allegheny County assistant director of housing.
So far, 82 families have qualified, but 11 Investigates found out only 19 homes have been fixed due to the shortage of contractors.
"The contractor availability isn't one we anticipated going on, but it's something we're working hard to address," said Lance Chimka, the Allegheny County economic development director.
To help offset the shortfall, the county's workforce development office is now paying for more contractors to get their lead remediation certifications, with three more expected to come on board within a month.
Chimka told Channel 11 the task won't be easy, but he's hoping all 82 families will be helped by the end of the year.
11 INVESTIGATES: Allegheny Co. has a multi-million dollar program to remove lead paint from the homes of low-income families. But a significant shortage in qualified contractors is delaying the work. The call for help before the federal $ runs out NEXT on #WPXI at 5:45 pic.twitter.com/11WVbSFNTe— Aaron Martin (@WPXIAaronMartin) February 13, 2019
"There's a lot of households to assist, but we have to just keep slogging through each individual project," he said.
The HUD grant is set to expire in early 2020, so it's likely the county will need an extension to help as many families as possible.
Allegheny County is accepting more low-income families to apply for free lead remediation on their homes and contractors interested in completing the work.
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