Senators request more funds for CDBG
In May, 62 Senators signed and sent a letter to the chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies to request the appropriation of $4.1 billion for the federal Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG). In 2001, CDBG received $4.41 billion, but since then, funding has been cut 15 percent, and President Bush is proposing a 20 percent cut in the 2008 budget from the program’s current funding of $3.71 billion. CDBG program grantees say if that happens, they will be forced to choose between which social services they can continue to offer.
The CDBG program provides annual grants to entitled cities, urban communities and states for affordable housing, community development and economic programs primarily for low- and moderate-income persons. In 2006, CDBG was cut by 10 percent, amounting to $3.71 billion rather than the $4.11 billion appropriated in FY2005 for state and local government programs. Funding in 2007 did not change because the appropriations bill for this year was not finished. Over the next few months, the House and Senate appropriations committees are expected to start ramping up efforts to increase funding.
In March 2006, a coalition of 20 national associations, community development practitioners and non-profits prepared a survey on the projected effects of last year’s reduction in CDBG funding. “The big trend we saw was that cities anticipated doing layoffs rather than scaling back on projects,” says Mike Wallace, a lobbyist for the Washington-based National League of Cities.
The Malden, Mass., Redevelopment Authority, a quasi-public agency that handles the city’s HUD entitlement programs, counts on CDBG grant money not only for housing but for the revitalization of parks and for public service programs, says Community Development Director Peter Garbati. “Programs like [the federal block grant HOME program] are just for housing, but CDBG is the only flexible federal money that cities across the country can use for many other community development needs,” Garbati says. If the proposed cut passes, Garbati says Malden could lose $300,000 to $400,000 in funding, which could force the city to reduce funding for some programs or eliminate others.
Sacramento and Sacramento County, Calif., receive approximately $10 million in CDBG grant money annually, which funds a variety of programs, including emergency home repair and housing retrofits for disabled persons, says Anne Moore, executive director of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, which serves the city and county. “That money is oversubscribed every year,” Moore says. “Here in California, the state is cutting funds for [social service] programs. There are just huge challenges in finding social service dollars these days.”
Portland, Maine, has seen a decrease of more than $413,000 in CDBG funds since 2002, says Amy Pulaski, Housing and Community Development program manager. The city has calculated that 33 percent of the funding goes to public services, 47 percent to public improvement projects, and 20 percent to planning and administration.
Pulaski says Bush’s proposed budget cut would force the city to eliminate one major area of funding for social services and one major public improvement project, and to lay off personnel. “[This] cut will not only affect our public improvement and housing projects, but also our soup kitchens [and other social services such as] child care providers [and] senior programs, and our community policing program that helps to keep our city neighborhoods safe,” Pulaski says.
Annie Gentile is a Vernon, Conn.-based freelance writer.