May 1, 2017; Syracuse Post-Standard
The new federal spending agreement that’s due to be voted on by Friday of this week shows no cuts to the $3 billion budget for Community Development Block Grants. More than 1200 localities and community groups depend upon the CDBG program, which is overseen by HUD and has been a mainstay of community funding since 1974, when Gerald Ford created it as a source of flexible funding to be devoted in a tailored way to local community development needs.
The program requires local citizen participation in the disbursal of the money and requires that it benefit low- and moderate-income residents. But the very flexibility that has made it something of a godsend to communities is exactly what President Trump appeared to object to in his proposed budget, where he charged that CDBG “is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results.” The George W. Bush administration rated the program as “ineffective” in its “ExpectMore.gov” accountability project, and HUD officials have acknowledged that few evaluative studies have been done of CDBG. However, many disagree with these assessments, including a sampling of the country’s mayors surveyed by Politico.
On April 3rd, the U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Congress that reads, in part:
Of course, as we mention in today’s feature, these battles will likely need to be refought this summer and early fall as the fiscal year budget is developed.—Ruth McCambridge