Tartaglione Joins Wolf to Announce $1.1 Billion Funding Plan to Fix Toxic Schools And Community Infrastructure
Asbestos and lead paint detection and remediation will be two focus areas for statewide targeted investments at schools, day care centers, homes, and public water systems.
Harrisburg, PA, January 30, 2020 – State Senator Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) yesterday joined Governor Tom Wolf and many of her legislative colleagues to announce a $1.1 billion combined state and federal funding proposal for the remediation of toxic materials including asbestos and lead from Pennsylvania’s schools, day care centers, homes, and public water systems.
The major portion of the proposal is an investment of up to $1 billion in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant opportunities for aging schools throughout the state where toxins threaten the health of students, teachers, staff, and the community members who visit the facilities.
“This is a timely and meaningful commitment to Pennsylvania’s students and educators, a far-reaching and comprehensive investment in our aging school buildings,” Senator Tartaglione said. “There is an urgent need for these resources because with every week, every day, and every hour that passes, countless individuals may be exposed to undetected toxic substances.”
The governor also proposed leveraging $4 million in state funding to obtain $10 million in additional federal funding through the Health Services Initiative (HSI), a collaboration involving the Department of Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to remediate lead in places where children have been exposed to high levels of the harmful substance.
Further, the governor proposed employing recently adopted federal legislation that allows states to transfer dollars from their clean water state revolving fund allocations into their drinking water state revolving funds. Doing so could free up to $90 million in Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) grants for lead water service line replacements.
To address housing-related lead-based paint hazards, Pennsylvania and several local communities within the state have been awarded $22.5 million in grants through the federal Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program since last September. The governor has proposed to convene a roundtable of these recipients coordinated by the state’s Department of Health to ensure collaboration in the implementation of their hazard reduction projects.
Finally, the Wolf administration has applied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a $1.7 million Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water Grant. The EPA has not announced the award recipients for the program. Funding would support environmental testing at 3,000 Pennsylvania schools and childcare facilities.
In recent months, Senator Tartaglione has worked closely with public school stakeholders from Philadelphia and from throughout the Commonwealth to develop solutions to the pervasive toxic schools problem.
Six public schools in Philadelphia, including several in Senator Tartaglione’s district, have been shut down for emergency repairs this academic year after environmental tests revealed the presence of hazardous asbestos. One elementary school was closed for more than three weeks, declared safe to reopen, then closed again just two days later when additional asbestos was detected.
“We know that until the late 1970s, asbestos was commonly used in school construction. In Philadelphia and communities of all sizes throughout the state, most schools fall into that category,” Senator Tartaglione said. “We know the threat. The fear is what we don’t know about. Experts tell us it can take years, even decades, after someone is exposed to asbestos for harmful and often fatal illnesses to surface.”
Earlier this month, Senator Tartaglione convened a summit of local, state, and federal elected officials, organized labor leaders, and public-school officials where participants shared knowledge and ideas on the issue.
“Our conversations then and those I have had with various stakeholders since then reaffirm that this is not just a Philadelphia issue, a Democratic or Republican issue, or an urban or rural issue,” Senator Tartaglione said. “It’s an issue for all Pennsylvanians. Protecting the health of our school children, teachers, staff, and administrators must be our highest priority as we fulfill our Constitutional obligation to provide all kids with access to equal and safe public education. We have inherited a heavy burden, and we all have a role in carrying the load.”
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