Government Should Strengthen CDBG, HOME

Government spending can sometimes get a bad name.

That will happen when government goes out of its way to waste money on unnecessary projects, exorbitant salaries and benefits that far outstrip what is available in the private sector or pork spending projects that benefit the few and connected instead of the many who have needs. Such spending should be wrung out of public budgets from the federal level all the way down to the smallest village.

At the same time, not all government spending is bad. Take, for example, the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs. Jamestown has long been an entitlement community for Community Development Block Grant program, a designation that offers funding for community development programs to help downtown Jamestown businesses and property owners with exterior building and handicapped accessibility improvements.

For all the good that has been done over the years, the CDBG program is having less and less of an impact on the community. That isn’t because there aren’t needs. Nearly 20 city residents recently attended Jamestown’s public hearing for its 2014 Community Development Block Grant and HOME program action plan. Tops on the list of city residents’ concerns is demolishing blighted houses in their neighborhoods and improving sidewalks so it is easier for people to walk throughout the city. Another city resident suggested a walking and biking pathway from downtown to Jamestown Community College. Other concerns raised include improving unattractive and unappealing gateways into the city, better signs in the Jamestown area to direct people to local attractions, better access to Chadakoin Park – including better areas to cross Washington Street, improving the streets around the park and better restrooms in the park, lead paint rehabilitation programs and more money to support low-income families who need to do home improvements.

All are worthy ideas that will be considered for the city’s CDBG and HOME plans along with existing programs that set aside money for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, programs that help low- and moderate-income homeowners and landlords fix their homes and facade improvement money for storefronts. No one knows yet how much Jamestown will receive in 2014, but everyone involved in the process knows Jamestown won’t receive enough to pay for all the work and projects that need to be done.

We know this because recent history tells us the city won’t receive as much for CDBG and HOME funding as it did in 2014. Since 2005, CDBG funding has decreased from $1,591,516 to $1,054,609. HOME program funding, which is separate but related, has decreased from $419,201 in 2005 to $281,273 in 2014. It would be shocking if there was more money coming to Jamestown in 2015.

One of the most common complaints heard about the federal government is that not enough money is spent taking care of U.S. citizens – an argument bolstered by the recent history of CDBG and HOME program spending. If we’re serious about taking care of our own, the federal government will begin increasing spending for the CDBG and HOME programs.