Too many requests chase too few Anoka County CDBG dollars

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars were distributed by the Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), but as in past years, there were some applicants that did not get a penny.

The county’s allocation of $1,365,789 was close to last year’s level of funding.

But once again, the demand for dollars from agencies and programs in the county far exceeded the supply of money.

Case in point. There were 18 applications for public service dollars totaling $490,957.

But under the regulations of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which administers the CDBG program, only 15 percent of the total CDBG pot can be allocated to public service programs.

That amounted to $204,868, meaning eight of the 18 requests received no money.

According to Karen Skepper, county community and economic development coordinator, 70 percent of the CDBG dollars (excluding planning and administration) must benefit low- and moderate-income households.

Besides the $204,868 set aside for public services, $704,722 went to projects in a competitive pool, while the city of Coon Rapids, because it is an entitlement community with a population of more than 60,000, automatically received $197,122, which it has earmarked for its housing rehabilitation program.

Fair housing and planning activities will get $9,000 and $250,077 will go for administration.

According to Skepper, HUD allows 20 percent to be set aside for administration; the county is making do with 18 percent.

The unanimous HRA action made no changes to the recommendations of the staff and the HRA Management Committee.

In recommending allocations for the 2012 CDBG grant, Skepper said several changes were made to past practices because the CDBG program comes under scrutiny every year and “significant cuts are likely to occur in the near future.”

Those changes are:

• Fewer grants so that projects can be funded at a higher level and the ongoing monitoring of projects required by federal law will be significantly reduced.

• Select projects that have the ability to serve the largest number of Anoka County residents.

• Select projects that are ready to go.

• Applications that did not meet one of the national objectives (assist low- and moderate-income households, eliminate slum and blight or other urgent needs) were not considered.

According to Skepper, requests were also scored on how they met performance measurements if they had been funded the past two years.

Only four of nine requests for funding in the CDBG competitive pool received allocations from the HRA.

• Anoka County Community Action Program to remove blighted manufactured homes from mobile home parks in the county, $100,000.

• Anoka County Community Development Department single family home rehabilitation program for low-income homeowners, $100,000.

• Anoka County Community Development Department, rehab the Cronin Building near the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center for use as a homeless shelter/public facility, $208,272.

• Coon Lake Community and Senior Center, develop and upgrade public facility to conform with building code and meets ADA accessibility requirements, $296,450.

Project requests that were not funded were Alexandra House, replace and expand parking lot, $104,200; city of Andover to acquire and demolish a four-unit apartment building, $200,000; city of Centerville, acquire two parcels with structure and demolish, $190,000; city of Columbia Heights, commercial revolving loan program, $100,000; and Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation, countywide home rehabilitation, $300,000.

Public services programs that were awarded funding include:

• Anoka County Community Action Program Chores and More senior program, $10,000.

• Alexandra House emergency shelter full-time advocate position, $30,000.

• Family Promise of Anoka County, case manager and support services for homeless services, $40,000.

• Free2B! Inc., emergency car repair program for clients in danger of losing employment, $24,848.

• Lee Carlson Mental Health Center for Bridgeview transportation program, $20,000.

• Meals on Wheels (three agencies) for meal delivery to homebound, $20,000.

• North Metro Pediatrics to reduce emergency room use among uninsured and under-insured, $20,000.

• Rise Inc., senior adult day care, $10,000.

• Stepping Stone Emergency Housing, support services for homeless clients, $20,000.

Requests for public service dollars that were not approved were Commonbond Communities, $13,000; Family Life Mental Health Center, $10,000; HOME Line eviction prevention, $31,433; North Suburban Counseling Center, $15,000; Nucleus Clinic, $20,000; YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis, $24,700; Youth First Community of Promise, $15,920; and Youth Way Ministries, $40,000.

Under planning allocations, fair housing activities in the county received $6,000 and the county’s Continuum of Care and other homeless initiatives was allocated $3,000.

Before approving the CDBG allocations, which will go to the Anoka County Board for final action April 24, a public hearing took place.

Only two people spoke – Becky Fink, executive director of Nucleus Clinic, and Connie Moore, executive director of Alexandra House, who thanked the HRA for its support of the shelter’s advocacy program.

Fink appealed in vain for the HRA to reconsider the staff’s recommendation not to fund Nucleus Clinic’s $10,000 request, which would increase clinic visits from 45 minutes to an hour and fund nursing staff.

While not veering from its primary mission as a reproductive health clinic, the money would allow Nucleus Clinic to partner with the Anoka County Community Health Department in implementing programs funded by a state health improvement grant, Fink said.

This would involve working with clinic clients, mostly women, on obesity, nutrition and physical activity issues, which are the focus of the state grant program, she said.

Admitting that Nucleus Clinic fell into the high priority category for funding, Skepper said a lot of different factors went into making funding decisions and there was no just enough money to go around.

“Other applications rose above this one,” she said.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]