LEWISTON, Maine — One of President Trump’s cabinet members got a close-up look Friday of government funding at work.
Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a 2016 candidate for President, was taken to Lewiston by Sen. Susan Collins to see how HUD programs are working.
The pair visited the home of Robert and Christine Edwards, who were able to use grant money the city gets from HUD to remove lead from their new home and get it insulated for the first time.
"It made a big difference," the couple said, noting that the insulation cut their heating bill by more than half. They said their 5-year-old daughter could not play on the back porch prior to the lead removal.
Carson and Collins spent time on that porch talking with the Edwards family on Friday, where Lewiston’s Community Development Director discussed HUD programs that helped pay for the work.
Collins said lead abatement is a major issue in much of the northeast and is an important issue for Congress -- but especially important for Lewiston.
"The Tree Street area has the largest concentration of young children in the entire state of Maine," Collins said. "It also has some of the most dilapidated housing with high lead content in the state of Maine."
Cason, who is also a physician, agreed removing lead is a vital task for government.
"Lead is a neurotoxin, which has long term impact," Carson told reporters, adding, "and is one of the reasons we dedicate so much money to its eradication, and we will continue to do so."
Collins is chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that deals with the HUD budget. She said they are hoping to provide additional funds for lead programs.
The Senator and the Secretary also toured the Tree Streets Youth Center, where HUD funding helps pay for a variety of programs that help immigrant and other low income children in that neighborhood. City officials say all those programs are vital for Lewiston, and they want to make sure they are protected in President Trump’s budget.