City Officials Present Block Grant Action Plan

City officials have publicly presented their draft plan for how they think it is best to spend around $1 million in federal funding.

On Monday, a public hearing was held so city officials could present their 2017 allocation plans for the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships programs. Jeff Hollern, city planning/special projects assistant, said this year’s planning process has been delayed following the change in presidential administrations from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. He said city officials are usually informed how much funding they will receive for the year in February or March. This year, he said they weren’t informed until June 14.

Jamestown will be receiving $1,056,212 in CDBG funding and $230,231 for the HOME Investment Partnerships program. Compared to 2016 funding levels, the city will receive an additional $6,459 in CDBG funding and a $25,288 decrease for the HOME program.

Hollern also said the city’s plan is usually due to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in June, but this year the submission deadline is Aug. 17. HUD officials have three purposes for the use of CDBG funding. First is to prevent or eliminate slums or blight, second is to benefit low-to-moderate-income residents and third is to meet a particular urgent need for the municipality. The CDBG program stipulates that at least 70 percent of funding must be used for low-to-moderate-income benefit activities, and no more than 30 percent of funds can be used for slums and blighted areas.

In this year’s proposed CDBG action plan, city officials have increased the appropriation for Americans With Disabilities Act improvement fund for public facilities by $30,212, to a total of $180,212. City officials have also increased the allocation for neighborhood target area infrastructure improvements by $76,198, to a total of $296,000. For 2017, neighborhood target area demolition proposed funding has increased $55,000, to a total of $150,000.

Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, said the target areas for the CDBG plan are the city’s three major gateways — one is from the north border, which is Route 60 and North Main Street; the second gateway is the East Second Street corridor; and the third city entrance area will be the section of downtown Jamestown on Second Street from Washington Street to Foote Avenue, which will also consist of First Street.

During the public hearing, city resident Doug Champ was the only person to speak. Champ had several proposed ideas for city officials to consider, including developing a low-interest loan program so city officials can recoup some of the funds from the CDBG and HOME programs. Typically, the federal funding the city receives is granted to organizations or individuals. Champ said with the CDBG and HOME program potentially being cut in the future, a revolving loan fund would allow city officials to continue some of their programs even if they don’t receive federal funding.

Earlier this year, in Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget, there was a $6 billion cut to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department’s budget, which would go from $46.9 billion to $40.7 billion. The proposed HUD budget has a $3 billion cut that would provide no funding for the CDBG and HOME programs.

Teresi said since 2003, the city has received $29.6 million in CDBG and HOME funding, which has gone toward several programs to stimulate development and provide housing renovations. Eight different city programs have received more than a million in funding since 2003 through the CDBG and HOME programs. More than $7 million in federal funding has gone toward the city’s streets and infrastructure improvement program; $4.4 million has gone toward Americans with Disabilities Act public facilities improvements; $3.6 million has gone toward city-wide rental rehabilitation program; $3.2 million has gone toward target area rehabilitation program; $3.1 million has gone toward the downtown greenlining facade program; $2.1 million has gone to demolish condemned houses; and $1.6 million has been funded to assist downtown business through the downtown handicap access rebate program.

“Where would we be as a community without these dollars?” Teresi said in March.

According to a news release released last month on HUD’s website — HUD.gov — the proposed 2018 presidential budget reflects Trump’s commitment to support HUD’s critical functions that provide rental assistance to low-income and vulnerable households and to help work-eligible families achieve self-sufficiency. Trump’s 2018 budget continues to provide rental assistance for 4.5 million households while recognizing a greater role for state and local governments, and the private sector, to address community and economic development needs.

Trump is seeking the elimination of the CDBG program, devolving the activities the block grant program supports to the state and local level. Since 1980, and most recently in 2013, HUD studies found that CDBG is increasingly not well targeted to the poorest communities and has not demonstrated a measurable impact on communities. Similarly, the budget proposes the elimination of HUD’s HOME program because state and local governments are better-positioned to serve their communities’ needs.

Copies of the city’s proposed 2017 CDBG and HOME action plans can be viewed in the mayor’s, city clerk’s and Development Department’s offices located in the city Municipal Building, located at 200 E. Third St. Copies of the action plan can also be viewed at the James Prendergast Library, located at 509 Cherry St. Public comment on the city’s CDBG action plan can be submitted to city offices before July 24.

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