CDBG: Grants from shrinking pot recommended by Citizens Committee

February 13, 2008
Santa Paula News

With an ever-shrinking pot of federal dollars, the Community Development Block Grant Citizen Advisory Committee tried to spread out the funds as much as possible when they met February 2.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesWith an ever-shrinking pot of federal dollars, the Community Development Block Grant Citizen Advisory Committee tried to spread out the funds as much as possible when they met February 2. And in the their recommendations to the Council, the committee also called on the city to quit relying on the CDBG funding for the salary of the city’s Senior Center coordinator.The committee, appointed by Council members, had only four members who split on who should chair the session. Ray Gonzales, appointed by Mayor Bob Gonzales, nominated former Councilwoman Laura Flores Espinosa, who had been selected by Councilman John Procter. Dion Anderson, selected by Vice Mayor Ralph Fernandez, was nominated for the chair by Councilman Ray Luna’s appointee Andrew Castaneda. The results were decided by a rare straw poll, which determined that Anderson would chair the hearing.2008-2009 CDBG program funding is $381,220, said Assistant to the City Manager Elisabeth Amador, whose report noted that due to new complex reporting guidelines the 15 percent reserve for nonprofits had been reduced from about $57,000 to $34,119. In all there were a dozen applicants in the public service category, including the Senior Center coordinator and 11 nonprofit agencies, ranging from legal aid to rent assistance, shelters to the Boys & Girls Club to the Santa Paula Family Resource Center.Community Action Santa Paula President Gordon Welsh said the $5,000 requested for the Food Pantry was to help fund the minimal overhead expenses of the organization that expects to provide 57,000 equivalent meals this year to more than 1,000 children and adults.
There are 192 residents in two Santa Paula nursing homes, and an estimated 60 percent have no relatives or others to look out for their interests and well being, said Long Term Care Services of Ventura County Executive Director Sylvia Taylor Stein. The ombudsman program is volunteer-driven and allows one visit per week - federal mandates are only once annually - at each of the county’s more than 200 convalescent hospitals. Stein noted that Ombudsman made 99 visits to Santa Paula’s convalescent hospitals last year.After more applicant testimony, Amador said that the upcoming allotment marks the 23rd year that the city has been a CDBG program participant, and noted that HUD allotments are “shrinking every year.” But it is the leftover funds not expended from past grants that have caused the city to tighten its public service belt and shift funds to the project/economic development program, a “policy decision” by Ventura County, which oversees the CDBG program for smaller cities.“It’s hard for me to believe” that the county would interpret HUD in “such a harsh manner” that is taking dollars away from public service, said Espinosa, who asked that the committee recommend two plans for both levels of funding. And, Espinosa noted, it is time for the city to find the funding for the Senior Center coordinator other than CDBG, an issue she has spearheaded in the past.“I agree with you that’s it’s a staff position,” said Anderson. Anderson also suggested that the committee “assume we only have $34,000,” and if the balance is received a proportional increase could be added to those recommended for funding. “It’s all pie in the sky,” he noted after more discussion. “We don’t have a clue” as to what the actual grant amount will be.The committee also decided to tinker with the project/economic development grant requests - some of which were reduced - that included Code Enforcement ($107,310), Housing Rehabilitation Program ($60,000), Las Piedras Park Community Center ($94,000), WEV Self Employment Training ($15,000), Business Micro Loan Program ($30,000) and a replacement fund for a city fire engine ($25,000). The Council will discuss the committee’s findings and award the grants at a March meeting.

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