The Oakland Press: Officials fight cuts in grant program

Apr 25, 2006

(Southfield) - Saying the program is responsible for helping low-income residents find affordable homes and other assistance, a veteran congressional member is calling for help in opposing proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program.
   U.S. Rep. Sander Levin met with local officials in Southfield on Monday to ask them to oppose a proposal by President Bush to cut CDBG funding by $736 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
   Bush last year proposed doing away with CDBG as a separate program and fusing it with larger programs. That proposal was eventually dropped. 
   "This time, the president has proposed a 20 percent reduction in CDBG, and to do so would be in my judgment ... a grievous mistake," said Levin, D-Royal Oak.
   The federal program, which began in 1974, provides flexible development grants to state, county and local governments. The funds cover programs as diverse as lead abatement, day care and local road improvement projects.
   Southfield, Oakland County's third most populous city, received $629,000 in CDBG funds for the 2004-2005 funding cycle and said it used the money to benefit more than 2,000 low- and middle-income families. The city uses the grants to offer low-income home loans, minor home repair programs for seniors and assistance for battered women, among other things.
   The city has received $16.1 million in CDBG funds since 1975 and has rehabilitated 913 single family homes in that time.
   Mayor Brenda Lawrence said the cuts could force the city to stop providing transportation to many senior citizens and curtail a program for battered women and a children's summer camp. 
   "They say all politics is local. This is where the rubber hits the road," Lawrence said. "This is where it's going to have an immediate impact." 
   Oakland County also administers CDBG money through its Community and Home Improvement program, which has 50 participating member communities. The county division has invested more than $161 million in CDBG funds since 1975.
   Also appearing with Levin to oppose the proposed cuts were state Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D Huntington Woods; county Commissioner David Coulter, D Ferndale; Southfield District Judge Stephen Cooper; and Paul Tait, executive director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. They said the program helps maintain property values while serving as a safety net for vulnerable residents.
   Jennifer Hing, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R Bloomfield Hills, said Knollenberg does not support the president?s proposal for CDBG funding. Knollenberg heads a House Appropriations subcommittee that has conducted hearings on the matter and expects to have its spending bill completed by July 4. 
   "He has always been a very, very strong supporter of CDBG," Hing said.
   Levin said there are other areas of the federal budget where cuts could be made, such as ending tax subsidies to oil companies or not extending tax cuts on capital gains and dividends.