Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cuts to Block Grant Program Hurting Cities

Cities are already suffering from budget shortfalls, decreasing tax revenues, foreclosures, and unemployment> Now they're being hit hard by cuts to the federal block grant program. From the New York Times:

The shrinking federal program, called Community Development Block Grants, was devised by the Nixon administration to bypass state governments and send money directly to big cities, which were given broad leeway to decide how to spend it. This year the federal government is giving out just $2.9 billion — a billion dollars less than it gave two years ago, and even less than it gave during the Carter administration, when the money went much further.


Cuts to the block grants program were cited in a recent report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, which noted that the number of vacant properties in America has jumped to 10 million from 7 million in 2000, threatening to attract crime and cause blight. “With sustained high foreclosure and unemployment rates and further declining home values, local officials said that continued, flexible C.D.B.G. funding would help them maintain efforts to address vacant properties in their areas,” the report noted.

Stabilizing neighborhoods that have been hard hit by foreclosure seems like a really good idea. Over 10 million vacant properties in the US is a recipe for disaster.

But mayors see it as an invaluable tool — one of the few federal programs that sends money directly to big cities, without going through the middlemen at the state level. Before its creation, mayors had to apply for small grants in many specific areas — leading to complaints of the this-food-is-terrible-and-the-portions-are-so-small variety. Tom Cochran, the executive director of the United States Conference of Mayors, said that mayors were thrilled when the Nixon administration agreed to consolidate the various grants into a single block grant program, which could be used broadly for community development, with local officials choosing their priorities. It was signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford.

It makes sense to let the cities decide what their own needs are, and not force them into one size fits all solutions.

From the website of the Community Bock Grant Program:

The CDBG program works to ensure decent affordable housing, to provide services to the most vulnerable in our communities, and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses. CDBG is an important tool for helping local governments tackle serious challenges facing their communities. The CDBG program has made a difference in the lives of millions of people and their communities across the Nation.

With poverty and homelessness on the rise, it seems more than a little short sighted to cut the funding for this program, especially given that this funding is a proven source of job creation.

cross-posted at MainSt/

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This isn't surprising and no one, certainly no Republican candidates, have any creative or absolute ideas for "fixing" this mess that was created by them. No doubt if a Republican is voted in, we'll be going off to another war, since this is that party's only spot solution for both diverting the nations attention and creating phony enemies. As for private enterprise, it's ludicrous that this area we live in continues to be built as a tourist destination. Winter business here is based soley upon weather and is a huge culprit for global warming. The fuel people have to burn up to get here to the ski areas and back again, the ski areas themselves using huge amounts of fossil fuels regardless of how many tout bio use. The water used for snowmaking is not a renewable resource. Once virgin water has been sucked out of the aquifers, it's gone forever, returning only as acid mist or rain soaking the earth with pollutants dragged back from the atmosphere. In our area, we need non-tourist solutions to creative jobs and affordable living and housing. A college should have been constructed where Settlers Green is (is the Green for greenback?), and this community may then have retained a little of its "quaint" New England small town appeal which has long since disappeared along with many nautral resources. Our nation must come to terms with consumerism versus citizenship and until all citizens do this, we won't get very far. Just yesterday I noticed town flooded with out of state cars, rude driving behavior and careless attitudes. The money is only going to individual hospitalities and businesses, but generally, the retail/hospitality staff here don't get too much financial benefit. With news that Sears and K-Mart are closing stores, a national dialogue has to be begin on where we wish to see our nation in years to come? Many of same people who lost their homes, are continuing to spend money and engage in risky behavior. I'm seeing this first hand from work acquaintances. We can't legislate common sense, but some sort of dialogue has to start.