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CDBG Public Hearing Spurs Debate On Funding

Should funding from the federal government go toward assisting people buy a new home or to aid small business owners?

On Tuesday, the Jamestown Development Department hosted a public hearing on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) five-year consolidated and annual plans that will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) detailing how city officials plan to use $1.5 million in 2020 funding and also how the federal funding will be used in the following four years. Only two members of the public attended the online public hearing and both said city officials should designate more funding toward helping new homebuyers purchase a home.

City resident Doug Champ said the city should make more of an effort and financial commitment for homewonership.

“We’ve become a city of renters. I would like to see that turn around to be a city of homeowners,” he said.

City resident Melissa Paterniti agreed with Champ that there should be funding available to assist people who want to buy a home so they are no longer paying high rent prices. She said the city’s CDBG annual plan for 2020 has $238,150 allocated for a small business investment fund. She added that small businesses already received assistance from the $700,000 in funding the city already received through the CARES Act, which city officials used $528,700 of on 27 grants given to small businesses.

Seth Piccirillo of Mercantile Inc. of Buffalo, a consultant the city hired to assist them with the CDBG plans, said city officials have allocated $457,483 in the annual plan toward the neighborhood investment fund, of which this funding can be used to help people with closing cost for potential or existing homeowners.

Champ suggested that the city should be funding the down payment for new homeowners. He also, along with Paterniti, asked how providing funding to small business owners is assisting low- to moderate-income city residents. He added that most small business owners don’t qualify as low- to moderate-income people.

According to HUD, the CDBG program stipulates that at least 70% of funding must be used toward low- to moderate-income benefit activities.

Crystal Surdyk, city development director, said that small businesses hire employees who make a low- to moderate-income. Paterniti questioned whether that’s accurate by saying she believes most small businesses in the city are mainly operated by the owner and might only have a few additional employees. She also said if the city’s plan doesn’t change and $238,150 in funding goes toward a small business investment fund that the money should be used to help people find transportation to go to work. According to the city’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, transportation is a significant reason why some city residents don’t have employment.

Along with the public comments, Piccirillo presented the 2020 funding plan, which also included $50,000 toward a civic engagement fund; $55,000 for a lead poisoning prevention project; $55,000 for an environmental assessment and remediation program; and $57,517 for a target code enforcement officer. The city is scheduled to receive $1,141,437 in CDBG funding this year, with $228,287 going toward administrative costs.

Along with the CDBG funding, city officials will also receive $392,004 in Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME). The 2020 plan for the HOME funding includes $294,803 for the Jamestown HOME investment fund, which will assist low- to moderate-income people; $58,001 will go toward a Community Housing Development Organization in the area to assist the agency with its programs; and $39,200 will go toward administrative costs.

City residents can view the plans by visit www.jamestownny.gov/departments/department-of-development/cdbg-and-home/2016-action-plan. City residents also can participate in a survey by Sept. 25 to provide input into the plans at the same site. Also, city residents can submit public comment by Sept. 25 on the plans by mailing City of Jamestown, Department of Development, 200 E. Third St., Jamestown NY 14701 or by email at dod@jamestownny.gov.

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