GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County and the city of Grand Rapids will be getting a combined $8.5 million from the federal government to tackle lead hazards in area homes.

The grants are from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Kent County was awarded around $2.5 million from the Lead Hazard Reduction Capacity Building Grant. It plans to use that funding, along with American Rescue Plan Act funds, over three years to develop a program to remove lead from homes in Kent County outside Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids already has funded programs set in place to assist property owners in removing lead hazards.

“We’ve seen the model of the success that the city of Grand Rapids has and we want to take that model and apply it to greater Kent County that hasn’t been previously accessible to our residents,” said Sara Simmonds, the environmental health director with the Kent County Health Department. 

The new Kent County lead program is just getting started, but is set to help at least 180 residents for the next four years.

Money will be dedicated toward assisting 40 individuals or businesses in getting lead abatement supervisor certifications, and training 600 rental property owners, contractors, and others in lead-safe practices. 

“Qualifying residents will in the future have access to funding depending on their eligibility for lead abatement services that they didn’t previously have access to,” says Simmonds.

In its ninth grant from HUD, the city of Grand Rapids will be receiving $6 million from the Lead Hazard Control Demonstration Grant as well as $600,000 from Healthy Homes supplemental funding. Over four years, the city plans to use the money to remove lead-based paint in 180 homes, help people get lead abatement supervisor certifications and educate property owners and contractors in lead-safe work practices.

4 out of 5 homes in Grand Rapids have lead paint and in Kent County, 3 out of 5 homes have lead exposure. According to a community lead knowledge survey by the county health department, there are several area codes such as 49503, 49504, and 49507 that have higher numbers of lead exposure in homes. Lead is a problem inside the city of Grand Rapids and throughout Kent County and now this new program can help residents in Kent County. 

“If we find lead in the home … that we have a financial resource for people that’s available that they can readily access,” said Simmonds. “That wasn’t there before and that was a real deficiency in the strategy to reduce deficiency in children’s exposure to lead in greater Kent county.”

Lead paint and dust pose many dangers to children, including developmental consequences.

“It’s a neurotoxin that many kids can’t recover from,” said Simmonds. 

That’s why experts say the millions of dollars in federal grants from the Housing and Urban Development agency will hopefully prevent and assist with lead exposure in Kent County. 

“The integration with the health department as well as our amazing partners at the Department of Kent Community Action also working all together with our county administration and the partnership with the City of Grand Rapids this really enabled us to create a really beautiful partnership to help stop the exposure of lead in our children,” said Simmonds. 

The Kent County Health Department currently has resources for families for lead testing through First Steps Kent. Home health screenings for pregnant residents and families with children five years old or younger are offered. The health department can also connect families to the help they need, according to First Steps Kent.

“This service, provided by the Kent County Health Department and funded by the taxpayer-approved Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage, assesses potential health hazards in a home and allows the Health Department to educate families on ways to limit exposure. Also, they suggest what to do if your family is exposed.”

Connect with Kent County’s Ready by Five team by calling 616.326.0753 or contacting

More information on lead poisoning in Kent county can be found on the Kent County website or by going to Getting Ahead of Lead.