Nonprofits Seek Block Grant Funds in Small Michigan Town

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February 27, 2014; Adviser & Source

Budget deliberations in exurban Washington Township, Michigan—about 30 miles north of Detroit—are unlikely to garner national media coverage, but pending decisions by local officials there about how federal funds are distributed to local nonprofits typify appropriations activities across America.

This past month, local nonprofit organizations made their cases for consideration of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds distributed by the township for 2014. As in just about every other eligible municipality in the U.S. for the past 40 years, the County of Macomb, where Washington is located, receives CDBG funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote community development.

Those funds are used for a range of activities that benefit low- and moderate-income individuals, or prevent or eliminate urban blight. Part of those funds is designated for nonprofits that apply for them each year, with the rest used on government capital projects. This year, according to the local Advisor & Source newspaper, the township will receive a total allocation of $115,000 from the county for its own projects, as well as what it grants out.

The paper goes on to describe the various nonprofit spokespeople who showed up at the Township’s February 19th board meeting, illustrating how much local governments outsource human and community services to private nonprofit agencies, and how much federal funding is distributed by local public officials.

Among the presenters are groups like those you might find in any community in America:

  • Wigs 4 Kids in St. Clair Shores, which provides handmade wigs for children with cancer.
  • Care House of Macomb County, which offers crisis counseling, trauma therapy, parent and child support groups, and child abuse prevention training.
  • Starkweather Art Center, which submitted a request to help restore its vintage 1860 building.
  • Hope Center Food Pantry, a food bank.
  • Samaritan House, which offers basic needs services to low-income families with children.

The Township board formed a committee to review the applications and make recommendations. It’s a process being repeated annually in municipalities as small as Washington and as large as New York City. Despite the differences in size, one thing remains the same in all these communities: the critical importance of nonprofit leaders making a clear and compelling argument for support and funding in front of local elected officials.—Larry Kaplan