CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (AP) — A bill first proposed by Hillary Clinton to help homeowners clean up lead hazards that can poison children is getting new life after the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Two Democratic U.S. senators — Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, and Charles Schumer, of New York — plan to introduce a bill in Congress this week that would give federal tax credits of up to $3,000 to homeowners or landlords who eliminate lead dangers found in old paint and pipes.
Clinton proposed a similar measure more than a decade ago when she was a senator from New York. It never passed, but Whitehouse said at a Rhode Island event unveiling the new legislation Monday that Flint has changed the country’s awareness of lead poisoning.
“We wanted to seize this opportunity,” he said. “We have to do something about lead.”
The bill is more generous than the original 2003 proposal by Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. The new legislation would provide up to $3,000 to help cover the cost of a lead abatement project, or $1,000 for work that reduces but doesn’t eliminate the danger. Any homeowner or landlord would be eligible if residents of the home make less than $110,000 a year.
The culprit in Flint was the water supply, tainted by lead pipes. But most lead poisoning cases are tied to dust or flakes from old layers of paint made before leaded paint was outlawed in 1978.
Whitehouse unveiled his bill at a preschool in Central Falls run by nonprofit Progreso Latino. The compact city of old triple-decker apartment buildings has a high percentage of children with elevated lead levels in their blood, which studies have shown can cause long-term health and behavioral problems.
He noted that he was speaking on the 10th anniversary of Rhode Island’s short-lived legal victory that found paint companies liable for cleaning up lead contamination in homes. The verdict was overturned two years later. Whitehouse initiated the case when he was state attorney general.
“It’s a very sad anniversary for some of us,” Whitehouse said Monday, describing how an industry “which has a huge share of the blame has zero share of the cleanup.”
Whitehouse said his bill could get bipartisan support because it might be included in a Republican-backed energy bill. Clinton’s bill had a Republican co-sponsor.
“Lead has always been a somewhat bipartisan issue,” said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Maryland-based Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, who helped craft Clinton’s bill and attended Monday’s event. “I think Sen. Whitehouse is going to be able to tap that.”