MILWAUKEE - Vice President Kamala Harris is set to be in Milwaukee on Tuesday. She'll be talking about the Biden administration's jobs and infrastructure plan. That includes a well-known issue in Milwaukee.
The issue of lead poisoning in children has been top of mind for health officials in Milwaukee for years. Passing out filters can only fix part of the problem. Mayor Tom Barrett hopes the millions on its way to Milwaukee could start to tackle lead on a bigger scale.
In 2018, Aidan Branch spent multiple nights at Children's Wisconsin after his blood lead levels were found to be dangerously high.
"By the time that I realized the severity of his lead issue, I felt like it was too late," said Deanna Branch, Aidan's mother.
Deanna branch said she had no idea the paint and possibly water in her Milwaukee apartment were causing her child's behavior issues.
"That’s just the worst thing I can hear as a mother, feeling like the place I pay rent at is literally killing my son," said Deanna Branch.
Branch broke her lease and moved somewhere safe, but the lead issues in Milwaukee continue years later.
"It’s my intent to try and get as many dollars as we can into the lead paint issue," said Barrett.
Mayor Barrett said he plans to use some of $405 million the city will receive from the already passed relief bill to clean up lead paint, but he is waiting address the lead lateral issue, hoping funds for that will come from the yet to be passed infrastructure plan.
"We clearly have an aging infrastructure, and it is important for us to replace that infrastructure," said Barrett.
The infrastructure bill will be a focus when Vice President Kamala Harris comes to town Tuesday. Local Republicans are concerned about the size of the bill and its broad scope.
"We want to make sure that Americans have safe, healthy drinking water, but when we really start to dissect the proposals put forward by President Biden, including the infrastructure proposal, only a small portion of that is actually related to infrastructure," said Congressman Bryan Steil. "There’s huge segments of that related to all sorts of pet projects."
Mayor Barrett is also hoping the infrastructure bill will help address the city's staffing issue with 40% of the workforce at the Milwaukee Water Works eligible to retire in the next five years.