The U.S. House and Senate each have a Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Bill under consideration. The House bill proposes $1.6 billion for the Community Block Development Grants (CDBG), and the Senate version calls for $3.2 billion, compared to $2.94 billion last year.
Lorri Dunlap, grants administrator for Warren County, said on Friday, "I've heard rumors that CDBG cuts could be as much as 50 percent."
"We typically apply for the grants in March and April, but we haven't heard how much we will receive yet. It's kind of unusual to have to wait this late. Last year, we found out in April," she added.
Dunlap said she solicited requests from the municipalities last fall. "We've been instructed to use last year's numbers (to approximate what we will be able to do), but we can't apply this year until we know how much we will receive."
Cities receive a minimum of $300,000, and counties $200,000 but can get more, based on population. The grants must benefit low to moderate income populations, and are used for public infrastructure projects, like water, sewer and blight or slum remediation. They may also be used in a designated disaster area if and when funds are available.
Dunlap noted, "We are supposed to use grants within three years, and they want our projects to be 'shovel ready' when we apply. This can be difficult when funds don't become available until September, and projects have to wait for spring."
During last Wednesday's meeting, after re-allocating some CDBG funds, County Commissioner John Eggleston said, "I want to editorialize here. We've managed to squeeze a tremendous amount of dollars (from the CDBG grants). That's about to disappear because of the federal budget cuts across the board, instead of looking at the cuts line by line."
"Small communities are going to get squeezed," Eggleston continued. "We are forced every season to look at our budgets line by line. I don't understand why they can't do this on the federal level."
"The CDBG grants benefit middle to low income communities who couldn't do these projects without them. Yet they continue to build one and a half-million dollar Bradley tanks that the Army doesn't want, because some congressman wants to keep a factory in his district open," he concluded.