MICHIGAN CITY — Low-income Michigan CIty residents who live in older homes that may still have lead-based paint can sign up for free home inspections, and repairs, though a new federal/state program.

Mayor Ron Meer announced Monday that the city has been included in the State of Indiana’s Lead-based Paint Remediation program, sponsored by Medicaid and administered through the Indiana State Department of Health.

Homeowners, landlords and renters who live or own a home built before 1978 can receive a free home inspection to determine if they are being exposed to lead-based paint hazards, according to the Mayor’s office. Homes providing child care are also eligible.

If lead-based paint exists, the program will also pay for removal of the lead hazard.

“The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Indiana State Department of Health and Indiana Community Action Association agreed a couple of months ago to include Michigan City in an on-going program that was funded by HUD last year,” according to Deborah Chubb, a member of the Michigan City Committee on Lead.

“The funding supports free home lead inspections and remediation to remove lead-based paint hazards in homes built before 1978, in which at least one person lives or frequently visits who is under 19 years old or pregnant and at least one person living or frequently visiting the home who receives Medicaid assistance.”

While some past efforts at community outreach have not been met with a high level of interest, officials hope the free inspections and repair work might get more people to take part.

“We are actively reaching out to neighborhood organizations, child care homes, and other groups to help them access this funding,” Chubb said.

The program will help with city efforts to deal with its lead problem, which primarily affects children in areas with lower incomes and older homes.

Lead poisoning can have a number of severe health effects, and complications are most prominent in children.

The Committee on Lead was established in 2017 to help educate the community about the dangers of lead and measures to protect families from exposure to lead, Meer said in December, when the city received a $2.3 million grant to help implement LeadSafe Michigan City, a program aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning.

“Michigan City was also awarded a separate HUD grant to fund remediation of lead-based paint hazards in December 2018,” Chubb said.

“The implementation of that grant was put on hold during the federal government shutdown, however, we are now actively working with HUD to develop the specific plan for its implementation. We expect to put the plan into action within the next few months,” she said.

Michael Kuss, general manager of the Michigan City Sanitary District and chairman of the Committee on Lead, has said the primary source of lead contamination is lead paint, especially in older homes and primarily in rental units.

To be eligible for the new free service, the home must have a Michigan City mailing address; must have been built before 1978; and property taxes and homeowner’s insurance must be paid.

At least one person living in or frequently visiting the home must be under the age of 19, and at least one person living in or visiting the home must be receiving Medicaid assistance.

Applications to participate in the program are available at the Michigan City Sanitary District office at 1100 E. 8th St.; or online at emichigancity.com/cityhall/departments/sanitary.

Chubb said the lead problem “is all pretty confusing, but we want everyone to know that there is currently funding available to support lead-based paint remediation in older homes.”

Call Destiny Morris at the Michigan City Sanitary District at (219) 874-7799 for more information or to get help applying for the funds. The information and application is also available on the Michigan City Committee on Lead facebook page, facebook.com/MCLeadCommittee/

Applications should be submitted as soon as possible because funding opportunities may end in April 2019, though it might also get extended after that, Chubb said.

—From staff reports

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