* This story was originally posted on March 6.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, residents and heads of local organizations will lobby for a piece of a pie known as Community Development block grants, but the funds made available through this federal program will likely continue to shrink, as they have in recent years in Long Beach and other cities nationwide, as Congress has made cuts to the program.
The council will vote to authorize the City Manager Jack Schnirman to file through Nassau County for these federal funds, made available by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), for fiscal year 2012-2013. Previously in Long Beach, about 20 percent of the funds had gone to pay city employees who administer the program and 15 percent to public services, such as police and fire departments and civic-based organizations, while the remainder goes into various categories, including code enforcement, property acquisition and upgrades to parks, recreation and public facilities.
Last March, Long Beach residents and organizations asked the council and then City Manager Charles Theofan about the availability of funds for projects ranging from repairs for residences, a handicapped elevator for an after-school program at Christian Light Baptist Church, upgrades to a playground in North Park, and beautification projects in the West End, as well as for community-based programs such as Long Beach Reach.
“We were told that we can expect a cut of about seven percent,” Theofan said about HUD’s projected funding for Long Beach during last March's council meeting.
For the 2010-2011 funding year (from September to August), Long Beach received $808,000 for Community Development projects, and Theofan said that, as Congress would look to make across-the board cuts to the program while the recession continued, the city would budget for $750,000.
Last November, Congress cut the grants program—which goes to about 1,200 local governments across the nation—to $2.9 billion, a billion dollars less than it gave two years ago, according to the New York Times. Moreover, President Obama proposed to reduce the program, too, by about 7.5 percent. His budget proposal reads:
“This is a tough choice that balances the need to decrease the budget deficit with the tough fiscal conditions confronting state and local governments.”
The grants program was originally devised by President Nixon to bypass state governments so that the federal funds could go directly to cities, giving them greater flexibility to decide how to spend the money.