With a deadline looming for thousands of contractors nationwide, the government is allowing a less time-intensive and costly option for lead paint removal refresher training that could save millions. But not everyone will benefit from the changes right away.

A March 31 deadline for refresher training is approaching for more than 100,000 contractors who were certified under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule and Lead-Abatement programs. Thousands more will need recertification later in 2016 and 2017, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Previously, the EPA training permitted a partial online training component. A hands-on course was still required to get certified or recertified every five years. But in early February, the EPA allowed a new option that allows contractors to complete refresher training solely online.

That option could save millions in travel costs and lost productivity, said Paul Emrath, vice president, Survey and Housing Policy Research at NAHB. Many states only offer hands-on training at a few locations, causing some contractors to travel long distances and lose valuable work time, said Tim Shigley, NAHB Remodelers chair who’s also president of Shigley Construction Company. “By going online you have expense and travel out of the way,” he said. “It really gives a an opportunity for huge savings for contractors across America.”

The bulk of contractors should be able to take advantage of the online training option right away. But 14 states — Ala., Del., Ga., Ia., Kans., Mass., Miss., N.C., Okla., Ore., R.I., U.T., Wash. and Wisc. — have opted to offer their own training separate from the federal government. Contractors in those states will have to wait until state online training programs are available, Shigley said.

And while the EPA is allowing online refresher training, it won’t be equal to hands-on training. Online training will only be good for three years; hands-on training will be good for five years. Online training without hands-on training is also only allowed every other time contractors get recertified.

Those kinds of caveats are problematic, Shigley said. “NAHB Remodelers appreciate that the EPA’s changes provide some flexibility, but the limited and convoluted parameters of the online training option are unnecessarily complicated and could affect the number of renovators who opt to become recertified,” he said.

Other organizations had similar laments. “While it would have been better to allow online learning for all recertification, we hope this change will provide needed flexibility to window and door installers, remodelers and other involved in the retrofit industry,” said Window and Door Manufacturers Association president and CEO Michael O’Brien.

Those complaints aside, the new option is a relief. “Overall, this is a win for everybody,” Shigley said.

Along with the online refresher training, EPA modifications removed abatement jurisdictions, which will yield fewer applications and fees. It also clarified language to training provider requirements under both RRP and abatement programs.

To learn more about the EPA’s lead program go to www.epa.gov/lead.