Jacqueline M. Izzo

Loss of block grant funding would sting, mayor says

Published Mar 20, 2017 at 12:00pm

One aspect of President Trump’s proposed federal budget is the elimination of the the Community Development Block Grant program, a $3 billion effort that funds local improvement efforts. The CDBG program provides almost $1 million for Rome annually, according to local officials, who say its loss would impact the city and area
residents.

The proposal would decrease the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget by 13.2 percent, according to reports from the Associated Press.

One significant change would be ending the CDBG program. Mayors, city officials and housing advocates say the grants provide critical money to communities for infrastructure improvements for seniors, open space projects in poor neighborhoods, and social service programs such as Boys and Girls Clubs. The proposed budget says the block grant program “is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results.” While killing money for the grants program, the Trump budget would increase, by $20 million, money to promote lead-safe homes for low-income people.

Each year, Rome receives about $1 million from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. For 2016, the city received $926,572.

The money is meant to assist people with low and moderate income to receive safe, decent and affordable housing, a suitable living environment, expanded economic opportunities and aid in the elimination of slum and blight. 

Here’s the breakdown of how funding allocated in 2016 is being used in Rome:

  • Street, Sidewalk and Public Community Reconstruction — $400,000.
  • Administration — $181,572.
  • Economic Development — $110,000.
  • Housing Activities — $100,000.
  • Demolition and Acquisition — $75,000.
  • Public Services — $60,000.

Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo was not pleased with the proposal. “Obviously that would not be a happy day for us here in Rome. I’m hoping as this gets fleshed out by Congress I hope that the presidents’ team learns how this program helps out all across the country.” Also, “I will be contacting our — our senators and our congresswoman — about how this would impact us. Then we have to hope they become our advocates.”

If CDBG money disappears, it would almost certainly mean an impact on city taxes, Izzo noted, because much of the work funded through the federal money still needs doing. But, she said, “we’d have to start prioritizing that work. The street program would not be as large.” While CDBG money must be spent on target area based on family income, it allows city money to go to other areas. Izzo also noted that these programs hit people with low incomes the hardest. That includes such things as children’s programs that allow children in those families to still participate in enrichment activities regardless of whether their families could normally afford them.