The flawed data has so far cost at least three Lewis County towns the opportunity to receive Community Development Block Grants this year.
The towns include Toledo, Vader and Pe Ell, which were all deemed to be too affluent for the funds.
Morton has also claimed to be ineligible for the funds. In some cases, the Census data used by HUD has been found to be as much as 91.5 percent inaccurate.
During a visit to the Toledo waste treatment plant earlier this month, Herrera Beutler promised to get to the bottom of the miscalculation, noting “You can be wrong but you can’t stay wrong.”
The congresswoman also noted during her stop in Lewis County that she had already sent a letter to HUD asking it to revise its data and promised that if she did not receive a timely response from the department she would address the problem through legislative action. According to a member of the congresswoman’s staff, “This the first step in that process.”
Now that her measure has been approved by the Appropriations Committee, the measure will be put to a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This whole process has been an example of big distant, indifferent bureaucracy that is working against small, rural, poor communities,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release. “We’ve been working for two years to show these communities qualify and we’ve got nothing but resistance. Now that HUD knows they have bad data, they should be fixing it, but that hasn’t happened yet. This transparency provision will put a spotlight on the fact that HUDs data is grossly inaccurate. It’s not an instant fix to solve the issue, but will put pressure on HUD to fix it.”
In her press release, the congresswoman used a quote from Toledo Mayor Steve Dobosh to highlight the importance of the CDBG grants to small, economically struggling communities.
“Community Development Block Grant Funds have made a significant difference in the lives of the citizens of Toledo. Projects to the water and sewer infrastructure, for safe drinking water and environmental concerns, could not have happened without this funding,” explained Mayor Dobosh in the press release. “The community is largely made up from low to moderate income citizens despite what the HUD data collection has revealed. The school district serves over 50 percent of its students free and reduced lunches and the Food Bank is serving approximately 300 families in the community. I would like to thank Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler for all of her efforts in rectifying how data is collected for the determination of HUD funding.”
Mayor Lonnie Willey, of Pe Ell, also included a note in the official press release. That remark noted, “Small and rural areas don’t have ability to do infrastructure projects and we need continued access to this program.”
Not to be left out of the mix, Vader Mayor Ken Smith noted that, “The city of Vader has definitely been impacted by being removed from the Low to Moderate Income (LMI) status with HUD. We are in imminent need of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for our Comprehensive Plan Update and our Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade. Incorrect LMI status reporting has made it virtually impossible for our little community of less than 700 people to fund these and other state mandated projects.”
The numbers currently being used by HUD are compiled using a five-year average from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Although the bureau has been using data with as much as a 91.5 percent margin of error for the small Lewis County towns, it does not make those figures publicly available. If passed, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee expects that HUD will make the applicable data public within 90 days.