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Syracuse public to choose which idea to boost lead testing gets $150K

People sit at tables across a room to listen to a speaker on a stage.
Katie Zilcosky
Community members listen to a proposed plan to improve the rates of lead testing among Syracuse kids during a meeting of the Central New York Community Foundation's participatory budgeting process.

A new local grant will soon award $150,000 to a program that residents feel will best help increase lead testing among kids in the city of Syracuse.

One non-profit organization wants to use the funds to train residents as go-to resources on lead poisoning and testing. Another wants to cover rideshare costs to testing facilities, while a third wants to leverage doulas to expand awareness and prevention, and a fourth group wants to intensify outreach and bring testing to city streets.

However, the recipient of the grant is not up to the funder, Central New York Community Foundation, it's up to the public. The foundation’s Qiana Williams said residents know best which pitch will meet their community’s needs.

“Syracuse city residents, ages 16 and up, will have a chance to consider and then vote on the project that they feel will most meet the needs of raising awareness, getting people tested, and providing advocacy,” Williams said.

About 10% of Syracuse kids have elevated levels of lead in their blood, and the rates are far higher among children of color. Williams said the winning program will help make sure marginalized communities get the needed support and resources to get more kids tested.

“It's going to get more families involved; it's going to basically help people get their children screened, help them get the tests, help them to navigate a system that hasn't been very user-friendly," Williams said.

The proposals stemmed from an eight month-long project examining systematic barriers to testing.

Voting in-person and online is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. All Syracuse residents sixteen years of age or older are invited to vote. The winner will be revealed at the end of a results party which begins at 6 p.m.

Editor's note: The Central New York Community Foundation is a financial supporter of WAER.