Amid budget woes, aldermen divide federal grant funding

A greater number of New Haven’s nonprofit organizations will share a smaller pie of federal grant money for community development programs in 2013-’14 than in the current fiscal year.

The city finalized a plan on how to distribute roughly $3.4 million of Community Development Block Grant funds to 60 agencies and programs for social services after the federal funding was cut by about 8 percent this year. The Joint Community Development and Human Services Committee of the Board of Aldermen approved the budget based on a March 27 public hearing when applying agencies and community members gathered to discuss how to allocate the money.

The grant, funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, supports community efforts for providing good living conditions and economic opportunities for low-income individuals.

“The program is inspiring but sad at the same time,” Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12 said. “The money is nowhere near the level that [the community agencies] need.”

Because of the cut in federal spending, many nonprofit agencies received much less financial support than they applied for. BHcare Birmingham Group Health Services, Inc, which provides services to adult victims of domestic violence and their children, received $5,000 for its outreach program — less than half of last year’s funding of $12,437.

A smaller budget will require many social service programs to provide benefits to fewer people. For this reason, many of the local organizations appealed to the joint committee regarding why they need the funding at the public hearing, said Eidelson.

“It’s important money,” Ward 26 Alderman Sergio Rodriguez said. “It’s money that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

Because of the increase in the total number of applicants and decrease in total grant money, aldermen gave priority to programs that support job training and employment opportunities, youth development activities, homelessness prevention and rehousing projects. Some applicants were rejected because of incomplete paperwork or overlaps with other programs in sevices provided.

The number of agencies that applied for funding for the first time this year affected the decrease in the available funding. Among the 60 groups and agencies that applied this year, 18 were first-time applicants, including housing projects, nursing facilities, health services and after-school programs.

“Some good people that didn’t get money [in previous years] got good money this year,” Ward 29 Alderman Brian Wingate said.

Eidelson said that it is difficult for new organizations to apply because of the complicated application process, which includes tedious paperwork and participation at a public hearing. The city government is trying to lessen the burden for the agencies, she said.

Together with CDBGs, the Committee also approved the budget for other social services programs, including federal funding for the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA), Home Investment Partnership (HOME) and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG). These federal grants were cut by 10, 26 and 8 percent from last year, respectively.

The CDBG program started in 1974.

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