Cleveland Clinic Will Donate $50 Million to Lead Safe Cleveland

click to enlarge Mayor Justin Bibb speaks at Lead Safe CLE funding announcement, (1/13/22). - City of Cleveland
City of Cleveland
Mayor Justin Bibb speaks at Lead Safe CLE funding announcement, (1/13/22).

The Cleveland Clinic announced Thursday that it will donate $50 million over the next five years to the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition, dramatically increasing the nonprofit's capacity to tackle the crisis of lead-based paint in Cleveland.

Alongside the Clinic's contribution, the City of Cleveland announced that it would allocate $17 million of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to the cause, disbursing those funds over two years.

Together, this newly announced funding more than doubles the total money raised by the coalition to date. It will allow the coalition to "more comprehensively, quickly & DEFINITIVELY address lead poisoning." The funds will likely go toward funding for homeowners, for establishing a model of lead safe child care, for improved lead testing and screening, and for the training and employment of workers to carry out the coalition's plans. 

"By protecting the health and future of our kids, we are protecting the health and future of Cleveland," said Mayor Justin Bibb, in a Thursday press conference at City Hall. "This is one example of what we can accomplish through the power of collaboration, and this investment is one step closer in helping Cleveland become a safer, healthier, and more equitable city."

After detailed reporting from The Plain Dealer and pressure from the activist organization Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH), Cleveland City Council finally passed a lead certification law in 2019. It required that all residential rental units built before 1978 be certified as lead safe by March of 2023. The Lead Safe Cleveland coalition was the public-private coalition established to carry out the goal of that legislation: ensuring that no child in Cleveland is poisoned by lead. 

Cleveland Clinic CEO Tom Mihaljevic appeared alongside Mayor Bibb and Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin Thursday. He said that the hospital system was making the lead crisis its top community priority in 2022.

"This effort is critical because prevention is the only effective approach," Mihaljevic said. "There is no cure and no way to reverse the damage of lead poisoning once it is done. I want Cleveland to be safe for all children, and I know this is a problem we can solve. Our communities can only be safe and healthy when every person has the opportunity to live in a safe and healthy home."

Today's news comes after the Clinic has garnered unwanted publicity in recent months for its abysmal community impact. The Cleveland hospital system leads the nation, in fact, in community spending relative to its tax exemptions, what's known as a "fair share deficit." The Clinic makes $261 million more each year in tax breaks than it spend on the community.

Over the next five years, when the hospital will be donating $10 million per year to the lead safe efforts, that deficit will fall to $251 million annually, still No. 1 in the country by a substantial margin. 

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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