New Jersey Misused $54 Million Meant to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning
A decade-old program designed to get lead out of the home lives of children in New Jersey has been routinely underfunded despite the dictates of state law.
An investigation by the Asbury Park Press found lawmakers, including Republican and Democratic governors, approved the shift of $54 million in funding from the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund (pdf) over a 10-year period.
“At least $77 million and up to $154 million in dedicated sales tax revenues was supposed to go into the lead fund through fiscal 2015,” journalist Todd Bates reported. “But only $23.3 million went to the fund to date.” Only once, in 2006, was the fund fully seeded with tax revenues collected from the sale of paints and surface coatings, the newspaper discovered.
Arnold Cohen, senior policy coordinator at the Trenton-based Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, told Bates: “It's another horrible example of the governor taking money that was designated for an important purpose and putting it in the general fund.”
The decision to divert the money, which was used to pay state bills and salaries, left the lead fund nearly empty. Lawmakers have yet to approve legislation that would restore some monies into it.
Meanwhile, thousands of children have been left at risk to lead exposure and poisoning, which can result in brain damage, learning disabilities and other health problems. Every year, above-average lead contamination is found in more than 5,000 New Jersey children, most of whom are low-income minorities who live in cities where older buildings were made with lead-based materials, according to Bates.
There are more than half a million American children who have higher than normal levels of lead contamination.
To Learn More:
$50M Taken from NJ Child Protection Fund (by Todd Bates, Asbury Park Press)
Lawmakers: Lead Poisoning Fund Needs Money (by Todd Bates, Asbury Park Press)
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