Program supports infrastructure, economic development and neighborhood revitalization in local cities and towns
Congressman Brian Higgins is sounding the alarm on a proposal that would slash funding for the Community Development Block Grant program in half. Under the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill introduced in the House of Representatives, the program would drop from more than $3 billion to just $1.6 billion nationwide.
"Cutting Community Development Block Grant funding is completely counterproductive and will cost the country in the long-run," Higgins said. "This program supports projects that meet the most basic needs of local communities, including housing and infrastructure. The annihilation of block grants would erode community revitalization and job creation capabilities, only adding to the financial burden on our federal budget."
Communities in Higgins' congressional district received approximately $21 million through the CDBG program in 2012. Most communities in Erie County are eligible through the county consortium. Several municipalities, including the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls and the towns of Amherst, Cheektowaga and Tonawanda, receive funds separately through formula entitlements.
Just a few recent examples of local projects that have benefited from CDBG funding include demolition of seven blighted, vacant properties in the City of Lackawanna; preservation of the historic water mill in Williamsville; replacement of a senior center roof in Grand Island; neighborhood police substations and security cameras in the City of Niagara Falls; infrastructure improvements, including road resurfacing and sidewalk installation in the Town of Tonawanda; rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing through low-cost loans in the Town of Cheektowaga; demolition and subsequent design and construction of a bicycle path at the former Spaulding Fibre site in the City of Tonawanda; and rehabilitation to seven community centers, 15 parks and sidewalks on 20 streets in the City of Buffalo.
Higgins denounced the cuts in remarks on the House Floor:
"Mr. Speaker, the 2014 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, which is currently awaiting consideration on the House Floor, has a devastating 50 percent cut to the Community Development Block Grant program.
"These grants provide eligible communities with flexible funding to use as they know best to increase economic activity and create jobs. Many regions, including Western New York, have benefitted from the availability of Community Development Block Grants to support neighborhood reinvestment, affordable housing, and economic development.
"Mr. Speaker, this program has a strong history of bipartisan support since its creation by President Gerald Ford in 1974. Shamefully, the amount funded this year is actually $1 billion less than what was allocated to the program 39 years ago.
"I am proud to have joined over 100 of my House colleagues to express serious concern with this funding cut and urge Community Development Block Grant funding to be fully restored. These cuts, that come at the expense of our local communities, would have a negative impact on the national economy."
Higgins noted CBDG funds have already decreased by 25 percent, or $1 billion, since 2010. He is concerned that Western New York residents and the community as a whole would suffer from further cuts. In April and again in June, Higgins joined other members in sending letters to committee leadership expressing concern about CDBG cuts and urging the program funding be restored to $3.3 billion for fiscal year2014.
HUD estimates every $1 of CDBG invested leverages another $3.55 in non-CDBG funds.