Congress passes bill to require carbon monoxide detectors in public housing

Congress has passed a requirement for carbon monoxide alarms in subsidized housing – the first time the federal government would mandate these safety devices in public dwellings, after incidents in which toxic gas leaked into residents’ homes and left them in hospitals Was given or died.

The provision was included as part of a $ 900 billion Kovid-19 relief bill that cleared the House and Senate on Monday night, and an in-depth NBC News investigation of carbon monoxide deaths in public housing. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.

NBC News found last year that at least 13 public residences had died of colorless, odorless gas since 2003. Housing units funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development must be “decent, safe and sanitary” and subject to regular health. And security inspections, but the federal government did not require carbon monoxide detectors.

“A family should not worry about dying in its sleep,” Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., Who wrote an earlier version of the legislation, said in a statement. “The government should take the responsibility of protecting working families.

Ashley, Monique and Alicia with their parents, Gwendolyn and Anthony Fleming.Family photo

Recent victims of carbon monoxide poisoning include Anthony and Gwendolyn Fleming, a 60s Michigan couple who died in their subsidized apartments in February 2019 after toxic gas leaks. Fleming’s three daughters said they were grateful that the new law would help protect others from the same danger.

The daughters said in a statement, “There is nothing in the world that we want more than spending holidays with our parents; the greatest gift we can get is to honor them.” Gifts. “

The bill provides for $ 300 million in funding over three years and requires carbon monoxide detectors in all traditional public housing units, as well as private properties whose owners or tenants receive federal rental subsidies according to the text of the bill . The requirements also apply to federally subsidized housing for the elderly, people with disabilities, people with AIDS, and low-income rural families. While some states and local governments require detectors, not all do, and specific requirements vary, creating an uneven patchwork of security measures.

In the wake of the NBC News investigation, the House and Senate introduced bills to require carbon monoxide detectors in public housing in 2019. Legislation written by Garcia was passed by the House, but such legislation did not come for a vote in the Senate. Week, despite strong bipartisan support from members of Congress and the Trump administration.

In 2017, then-Commissioner Jesus Garcia of Cook County at a press conference in Chicago.Christopher Dilts / Bloomberg via Getty Image File

Emily Benfer, a visiting professor at the Wake Forest School of Law and an expert on public health and housing law, said, “For decades, the utterly prevented deaths of public housing residents were largely ignored, even Extra life was also endangered. “

Sen. Tim Scott, RS.C., who previously co-wrote with Sen. Need for a Senate Bill. Robert Menendez, D.N.J. Stressed the importance of passing the provision as head of the country in winter, when heavy use of gas -available equipment increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Even in our public housing facilities, a preventable death is very high, and this important provision will help eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning for families across the country,” Scott said in a statement.

Menendez said in a statement: “This law will help protect children and families from dying unnecessarily in their homes.”

Sensor. Bob Menendez, DNJ, and Tim Scott, RSC.AP file / Reuters file

Carbon monoxide is particularly harmful to the elderly, who often have other underlying health conditions, as well as infants and young children. High levels of gas can kill within minutes, as well as cause permanent brain damage, heart problems, and other serious health conditions.

The Public Housing Authority and private owners of the Federal Subsidiary Properties will have two years to comply with the new requirements. According to congressional aides, it is intended to give them sufficient time for delays and plans for the installation of carbon monoxide detectors, particularly the risk of bringing in contractors during the epidemic.

Separately, HUD is in the process of finalizing a new rule requiring carbon monoxide detectors in public housing – a move that Congress was not required to act on – and soon mandated the devices Can. The draft rule is awaiting White House review, but it cannot be finalized before the end of Trump’s term, and may face further delays under the next administration.

A Garcia spokeswoman, Fabiola Rodríguez-Ciampoli, said his office was in touch with the Biden-Harris transition team and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, President of HUD Secretary for Elections, about the proposed rule. Make sure the agency’s new leadership can hit the running ground. ”Vice President Elect Kamala Harris wrote in an earlier Senate bill requiring carbon monoxide detectors in public housing that a vote did not come.

While the need for safety equipment may not apply until 2023, the housing law expert, Benfer, urged landlords to act immediately to protect vulnerable residents. “Increasingly public housing authorities can set up CO alarms,” ​​she said, “saving more and more lives this winter and in the future.”

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