County to make decisions on CDBG funding in small cities
By Anna Bakalis
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The five smallest cities in the county no longer have the final say in the disbursement of community development block grants for projects and services for the poor in their areas.
A committee and the Board of Supervisors will decide who receives the nearly $2 million in CDBG funds for Moorpark, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Fillmore and Ojai, said Christy Madden, deputy executive officer with the county’s Executive Office.
“This streamlines things for the applicant while cities still have the ability to weigh in,” Madden said.
It’s meant to centralize the application process for the agencies responding to an increase in need while facing an ever-shrinking pot of federal money, she said.
The cities give their recommendations, which will be reviewed by a committee of city and county officials and then approved by the Board of Supervisors.
For the past 15 years, the smaller cities and the unincorporated areas have been a part of the county’s CDBG entitlement area, but cities held their own public hearings and the councils made the final decision on disbursement.
This year, the cities had the choice of either participating in the county’s CDBG program with the new rules, or going through the state CDBG program, which can be more difficult to navigate, Madden said.
She said the new program also tries reduce the cities’ liability and improve equity in addressing the needs of the underserved.
Madden said there were about 40 applications for the CDBG money received by the deadline of Jan. 4. City and county officials will meet to review the ranking sheet between now and March 5. After that, applicants will have a chance to speak about their projects or services at a public hearing, she said.
The five cities have received about the same amount of CDBG money this year as in previous years.
In Moorpark on Wednesday night, the City Council discussed the priorities of funding for nine organizations seeking a total of $550,000, while the city had only a $199,000 CDBG allotment.
“In previous years, you’ve been the authority and the county has funded what we approved,” said Hugh Riley, assistant city manager. “This year it’s different …,” he told the council.
The CDBG program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for affordable housing, services for low- and moderate-income residents and the creation of jobs through the expansion of businesses.
HUD guidelines limit the amount of funds eligible for each of three groups: Public service nonprofits are allowed the smallest amount, 15 percent; 65 percent plus unspent funds from the previous years go to housing and community development; 20 percent goes to planning and administration of the program.
The city’s staff ranked the requests for grants, and the council approved them. The order of the ranking was Ruben Castro Human Services Center, Catholic Charities, FOOD Share, Community Action of Ventura County’s eviction prevention and lease assistance program, Long Term Care Services of Ventura County, RAIN Project, Ventura County Human Services Agency Homeless Services Program, Women’s Economic Ventures, Community Action’s Legal Assistance Program and Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association.
“We were particularly looking for projects who would provide services in Moorpark,” Riley said “We gave priority to those who were going to locate here physically.”
He noted most of the public projects and services won’t get what they have requested.
“You’re really going to get through only four of these before you use up all the money,” Riley said.
For nonprofits like Catholic Charities, which used to have to go before multiple cities, will now apply once.
“It actually wouldn’t change much for us,” said Michael Perry, the regional director for Catholic Charities.
The charity is estimated to help about 3,000 low- and moderate-income people in Moorpark and thousands more throughout the county.
Moorpark Councilman Mark Van Dam used to sit on the city’s committee that reviewed the CDBG applications. He said Thursday that while it does make sense for one agency to review all applications, he wishes the final decision could be made locally.
“I would prefer the city being able to make these decisions,” he said.