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Typical HUD Grantee, No Concern or Idea of AFFH; Just Give Us the Money

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Bismarck Tribute – ‘We have no idea what’s going to happen’: Local leaders fear

funding cuts

Sam Easter Forum News Service
North Dakota, county of Burleigh and city of Bismarck

All around Grand Forks — and the country — nonprofits, local leaders and others are asking the same question they always do: How much federal funding will we get next year?

But this year, the question is more pressing. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget has slashed dollars for a long list of expenditures, and it’s still not clear exactly how much funding Congress will restore.

Just one pressing example are two pools of money that filter through the Department of Housing and Urban Development: Community Development Block Grant dollars and HOMES funding. Trump’s budget cuts both, and while House committees have leaned toward restoring much of the funding, legislators are poised to leave cuts $100 million deep in each — at $2.9 billion in CDBG funding and $850 million in HOMES funding.

Grand Forks leaders in housing and health said those funds are used in myriad ways to help boost the community, from lowering housing costs to operating downtown Grand Forks’ social detox center.

“For the most part, we have no idea what’s going to happen,” said Emily Wright, executive director of the Grand Forks Community Land Trust. “It seems that the budgets that are being projected would (include cuts),” she said. “If it’s just reduced budgets, that’s something we’ve seen for the last couple decades. But there comes a point where it’s reduced so much that you can’t provide the service you’re supposed to provide.

“At this point, we haven’t seen something that’s going to be disastrous, but we know that budgeting process is out of our hands, and we have to find a way to make things work.”

CDBG funding stands for Community Development Block Grant, a program that has disbursed billions since the 1970s. The city of Grand Forks steered $325,000 to a project to house the homeless in downtown Grand Forks earlier this year, and Terry Hanson, executive director of the Grand Forks Housing Authority, said the funding has been used over the years for housing development and “rehabilitation.”

HOME funds boost low-income housing. Two years ago, they paid for a $1.4 million exterior renovation at Riverside Manor, the low-income residence overlooking the Red River by the Kennedy Bridge. Hanson said it’s the largest HOME project in state history. Wright said HOME funds are used by her organization and others to support affordable housing in the community.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said final dollar figures for those funds “will look a lot more like ours” than Trump’s. And any cuts he said, would be “a move backwards”

“At the same time, this president and Congress is moving back all sorts of regulations,” he said, suggesting that the economic impact to communities from those changes will outweigh the difference in lost funding.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement he’s long been a supporter of CDBG and HOME funds, and that he anticipates funding staying at this year’s level in a bill coming out of one of his committees.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., called the programs “lifelines in rural communities,” and touted her support for them — which includes a call to increase CDBG funding next year. According to her office, North Dakota received $5 million in CDBG funding and about $3.35 million in HOME funding in the 2017 fiscal year.

“I’ve been pushing to make rural priorities front and center — pressing housing appropriators and administration nominees on their support for CDBG and HOME programs that bolster underserved, rural American communities, and … I’ll keep working to protect and strengthen support for these programs down the road,” she said in a statement.

Sam Easter is a local government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. Reach him with tips, comments or story ideas at (701) 780-1102.

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