After he says he witnessed lead poisoning firsthand, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says he is taking steps to force HUD to protect families living in taxpayer-funded housing.
The Republican Florida Senator along with two co-sponsors -- Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty -- filed the bipartisan Keep Children and Families Safe From Lead Hazards bill Tuesday night.
The bill would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to inspect for lead hazards in Section 8 housing and fix any problems found.
According to Rubio, the legislation would direct HUD to:
- Conduct an annual risk assessment of Section 8 housing programs to identify risk exposure to lead hazards -- including lead wall paint and lead drinking water service lines
- Develop an action plan to remediate lead hazards
- Require that lead hazards become a graded factor in Uniform Physical Condition Standards (UPCS) inspections
- Require an annual report to Congress on all Section 8 properties with lead hazards that are home to children under the age of six
Rubio says action is needed now after discovering this past May that 29 HUD properties in Florida failed inspection -- adding that the Government Accountability Office reports over 6,300 children under the age of six currently live in 205 out of 562 Florida HUD properties that expose residents to lead.
He says this paints a picture of a consistent danger in Florida, something he saw first-hand in Jacksonville five years ago. In a statement to the News4Jax I-TEAM, Rubio said:
“I first witnessed child lead poisoning at Eureka Gardens Apartments by the nefarious Global Ministries Foundation (GMF) in 2016. The dangerous conditions at several HUD properties throughout the state of Florida, and the rest of the country, are the result of routine negligence and lack of oversight by HUD. Lead hazards pose a serious risk to tenants, especially young children and pregnant women. It is unacceptable for HUD to ignore this threat. My bill would ensure that exposure risks are identified and mitigated, so that no family in HUD-assisted housing has to suffer any devastating effects of lead poisoning.”
It’s important to note, dangerous living conditions at Eureka Gardens were fixed when The Millennia Companies took over the complex and rehabilitated and renamed the government property as Valencia Way.