Aldermen met Thursday night to begin the process of allocating Community Development Block Grants to local nonprofits amid federal funding cuts.
The community development and human service committees met to prepare for the process of distributing CDBG money available to the city. These grants, which were reduced from $3,891,395 last year to $3,673,534 this year, are federal funds given to cities such as New Haven for local nonprofits. The grants fund a wide range of programs in New Haven, including JUNTA, the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven, Crossroads and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter.
“There is an attack on this grant,” Ward 26 Alderman Sergio Rodriguez said. “We have a reduction this year, and the word from Washington is that Obama has level-funded the grant [for this coming year], but getting it through Congress it not going to be easy.”
Doubts about the future of this funding adds incentive for Board of Aldermen members to ensure the money is effectively utilized, Rodriguez said. In addition to deciding on allocations of CDBG money, the Board of Aldermen will decide where to channel federal funds from the HOME Investment Partnership, the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS and the Emergency Solutions Grant. CDBGs are some of the few grants that cities ever receive directly, Rodriguez added.
At the joint committee meeting last night, Elizabeth Smith, the CDBG program manager for the city of New Haven, presented aldermen with an overview of the grant allocation procedure. The process begins in October, Smith said, when nonprofits are sent a letter from the mayor’s office soliciting applications for funds. This letter is followed by a mandatory meeting for all interested programs. The applications for funding must be delivered to the Office of Management and Budget, where they are reviewed for completeness and eligibility, Smith said. If the application fails to meet either completeness or eligibility standards it is rejected, she said.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. compiled a list of proposed funding for organizations based on these submissions after Smith’s office reviewed the applications. The next step in the process is for the community organizations to testify in front of the Board of Aldermen. During the testimony, nonprofits will explain how they plan to use funding, Smith said.
Last year, Habitat for Humanity in New Haven received between $30,000 and 35,000 from a CDBG grant, said William Casey, the organization’s executive director. This money was used to purchase six new properties, he added.
“The city’s support, not only through CDBG, is really invaluable,” Casey said. “It is difficult for us to acquire property to begin with, [so funding is] absolutely essential.”
In his report on the CDBGs, DeStefano proposed to give $40,000 to Habitat for Humanity in the upcoming year, which Casey said he expected would be well-received by his organization.
Habitat for Humanity will testify in front of the Board of Aldermen community development and human service committees on March 6 at 6 p.m.