Bed bugs in hotels and entire neighborhoods have become a growing problem worthy of attention even by federal agencies. On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced grants worth $550,000 to control if not eradicate bed bugs. Low-income neighborhoods are the primary recipients of the five grants because these areas have limited resources to address the problem. The grants will be managed by state governments in Maryland, New Jersey, Missouri, Texas and Michigan over the next two years, the EPA said. The Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene will get $142,440 to extend technical assistance to hotel operators, residents and retail outlets in the Baltimore area and other areas plagued by bed bugs. Hotel managers, healthcare workers and local pest product companies will be included in the educational outreach program. Rutgers University of New Jersey meanwhile, will receive $99,688 to develop and implement an educational campaign against bed bugs for low-income areas in the state. “Lessons learned from the grants will be available for use by other communities,” said EPA spokesman Dale Kemery. The problem has become widespread and significant enough that the EPA organized a national bed bug summit two months ago. Last year, New York hotels and high-end clothing stores experienced a serious proliferation of the brown insects that feed on human blood but have been known to live up to one year without feeding. Correct identification of the insects, cleaning, pesticide application and simple tidiness measures are some of the common ways in getting rid of bed bugs.

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