$4m cut in community block grant funding proposed

With next year’s projected federal budget proposal calling for more cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program in 2008, state officials are worried the dwindling funds will hurt people who rely on the funds for development assistance.

The cuts will likely end up totaling more than $4 million, falling from $9 million this year to less than $5 million next year, according to Executive Councilor Ray Burton.

The program, he said, “has enabled towns, cities and counties to do projects that would never make it into a town’s budget,” he said. “To see New Hampshire drop from $9 million to $5 million is just unacceptable. This will result in big losses for the people of New Hampshire.”

Michele Talwani of the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority said the reduction would be an extraordinary hit, especially when considering the cuts the state saw last year.

CDBG funds for New Hampshire fell from $13.3 million in 2006 to $9.79 million in 2007 – a more than 25 percent difference.

Another problem, according to Talwani, is the plunge from five urban areas in the “entitlement funds” portion of the program in 2007 to only two urban areas in 2008. As it currently stands, approximately 70 percent of CDBG funds go toward entitlement areas, while 30 percent are used for “statewide” regions.

The result, she said, would mean that “we’d end up having a larger applicant pool for statewide funds.” And, since 2002, she said, the statewide program only has served 60 percent of CDBG applicants.

The latest proposal, she added, “would make New Hampshire’s loss the largest in the nation.”

Burton said he’s contacted U.S. Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu as well as Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Congressman Paul Hodes to try to get them to fight to protect the funds.

“It’s too important,” he said. “These funds have helped create senior centers and community centers all around the state.”

According to Talwani, the statewide appropriation over the last five years has led to $52.3 million in total community support, with 130 applicants and 148 communities receiving help, 1,969 jobs being created or maintained, and 132 housing units being developed.

“Low- to moderate-income citizens will be hurt,” Talwani said, adding that the cuts “will hurt jobs created by initiatives from the program. The whole state will lose.”

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