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Attorney General settlements are a non-traditional source of funding that can be used to fund lead remediation. Settlements occur when an entity that violates a law or regulation and agrees to pay a fine instead of going to trial or reaches settlement through other means. Settlement funds are received and overseen by the Attorney Generals either at the state or federal levels. Attorneys General determine allowable uses for the settlement funds, often in coordination with state or federal policy-makers. Strategic uses for Attorney General settlement funds include gap funding to foster cross sector collaboration between housing, health and energy partners in your community or state, funds to facilitate coordinated leveraging of funds (including to fund a GHHI outcome broker or learning network activities) and reduce client deferral rates for families that would otherwise be deferred due to home-based environmental health hazards in their property.
In order to secure and deploy Attorney General Settlement funds in your state or jurisdiction, start by developing a relationship with your state’s Attorney General. Schedule and meeting and effectively communicate the needs around lead hazard remediation in your state with the Attorney General even if there is no current or pending settlement fund availability. Make the business, health and social impact case for lead remediation, by discussing how these efforts can improve health outcomes, energy efficiency, housing quality and financial stability for families in your state as well as reducing criminal justice and special education costs. Research potential opportunities to access Attorney General funds in your state (a Google alert is a good tool to learn about these settlements). At the appropriate decision point (usually after the case is filed but before the settlement is announced) convene your GHHI Learning Network or a group of stakeholders that includes community providers and community member directly impacted by lead poisoning and approach your Attorney General to make the case for an allocation of funds to address lead hazards in your state and community. Consider these Attorney General funds as an opportunity catalyze the development of a broader partnerships of cross sector stakeholders, and collaboratively develop or adopt an integrated housing assessment and intervention process.
The Cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse and the State of Rhode Island were all able to strategically utilize Attorneys General settlements as gap funding to address health and safety issues for energy efficiency projects. In these jurisdictions, lead hazard remediation was considered an allowable expense for settlement funds, along with other health and safety measures where properties were receiving energy efficiency interventions.
In New York State, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has provided the following funding to collaboratives to address identified needs in the local housing stock but also to spur innovative practices: $2.3 million to collaboratives in the City of Buffalo, $1 million to the City of Buffalo and $1 million to the City of Syracuse. The GHHI Buffalo and GHHI Greater Syracuse sites have utilized that funding to solve for health and safety issues where funding was inadequate and have used the funding to implement integrated housing intervention processes through their local GHHI Learning Networks and housing triage teams.
In 2014, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin provided $597,00 in funding to GHHI Rhode Island to support the development of an integrated health energy services platform including direct funding support for energy efficiency and healthy homes interventions in low income homes in jurisdictions throughout Rhode Island. The first Rhode Island Attorney General awards supported comprehensive interventions in 175 homes in 23 different jurisdictions in Rhode Island. In 2016, Volkswagen entered into a settlement with both the federal government and individual states for allegedly cheating emissions standards.1 The federal settlement totaled about $14.73 billion, which includes payments to individuals and states. Rhode Island Attorney General Kilmartin determined that $4.1 million in grants would be invested into various environmental projects, including storm water remediation, fresh food access, and more effective transportation.2 3 4 GHHI Rhode Island and its partners such as Rhode Island Housing, Community Action Programs and the City of Providence Department of Community Development coordinate lead hazard control, healthy homes, energy efficiency and housing rehabilitation through an integrated process. GHHI Rhode Island recently received a new $500,000 grant to provide gap funding to support the partnership’s work to address lead hazards and home-based health hazards in properties receiving energy efficiency interventions through a coordinated process that is improving health and energy outcomes and reducing client deferral rates for families in poverty that may otherwise not receive the comprehensive services their homes require.