County HRA distributes federal CDBG dollars

Allocations of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars to the Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) have been dropping significantly.

From 2010 to 2012, CDBG funds from the U.S. Department of Urban Development (HUD) decreased 27.5 percent.

Another 8.9 percent cut will take place this year if Congress and the president don’t agree to a federal budget fix by today (Friday, March 1) and automatic cuts at the federal level take place, called sequester.

“This is a significant cut,” said Karen Skepper, county director of community and government relations.

If the sequester does not occur and the county received more CDBG dollars than anticipated, the extra money will go to planning and administration, to which the full 20 percent allowed was not allocated, according to Skepper.

But if there are further cuts, then that, too, would come from planning and administration, Skepper said.

With the 8.9 percent built it, the county HRA will get $1,294,233 in CDBG dollars for 2013.

It received 26 applications and action by the Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Feb. 19 to approve the CDBG funding package left eight of them without any CDBG dollars, five of them projects and three of them public service programs.

With the cuts, Kate Thunstrom, community development manager, outlined for the HRA, changes staff proposed in how the funds would be allocated.

• Making fewer grants so projects can be funded at a higher level.

• Select projects that will serve the largest number of Anoka County residents.

• Select projects that are shovel-ready, critical in HUD’s eyes.

• Fund new and expanding programs as the annual grants are not to be used as a continuous funding stream.

• Funding is directed to high priority projects listed in the county’s HUD-required 2010-2014 consolidated plan.

• Performance measurement goals have been met for funding over the past two years.

• Countywide services or cooperative agreements were strongly encouraged so an many low- and moderate-income people were served as possible.

• Cost effectiveness was reviewed.

• Ability to spend the grant within the timeframe of the CDBG program.

• For the public service grants, the number of clients served as well as the funding was for new or expanded services was reviewed.

Of the $1,294,233 in CDBG funding available, 70 percent, excluding planning and administration, had to benefit low- and moderate-income households, no more than 20 percent of the total grant could be use for planning and administration and no more than 15 percent could be allocated to public service activities.

From the total pot, $233,019 went to administration and $3,000 to fair housing planning activities.

Public service programs were allocated $186,635 (15 percent); applications totaled $378,527.

From the competitive pool pot of $871,579, $179,577 was automatically taken out for the city of Coon Rapids, which is an entitlement community under HUD guidelines because its population is over 60,000.

The city will use the money for its ongoing single-family housing rehabilitation program.

The competitive pool pot was $692,002, but there was $2,007,273 worth of applications.

“It was a very difficult job,” Skepper said.

Competitive pool projects funded were:

• Anoka County single-family home rehabilitation program, $200,000.

• City of Bethel well/fire hydrant project, $57,058.

• City of Centerville water main residential hook-up, $286,729.

• City of Columbia Heights, Mady’s redevelopment, $123,215.

• City of Ham Lake senior center appliance replacement, $25,000.

Project requests that did not receive funding were Anoka County Community Action Program (ACCAP) manufactured home removal, $100,000; city of Andover acquisition/demolition of four-unit apartment building, $200,000; Dominion Acquisition LLC, acquisition for townhome development in Lino Lakes, $500,000; Good Shepherd Covenant Church, Blaine, bathroom remodel, $30,000; and Park Plaza Cooperative, Fridley, mobile home park infrastructure, $300,000.

Of those projects, the county ran out of available CDBG dollars for the ACCAP and Andover projects in its ranking system, while the Dominion project was not shovel-ready and the church and mobile home park projects had eligibility issues, according to Skepper.

Public service programs that were funded were:

• ACCAP Chores & More, senior assistance, $10,000.

• Alexandra House, lethality assessment position funding, $20,000.

• Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services, asthma education and product purchase for low income households, $5,000.

• Family Promise of Anoka County, case management and support services for homeless families, $20,000.

• Lee Carlson Mental Health Center and Wellbeing to help purchase a 15-passenger van for the Bridgeview transportation program, $26,635.

• Meals on Wheels (three agencies), meal delivery to homebound, $30,330.

• North Suburban Counseling Center, co-pay assistance for services and/or medication program, $10,000.

• Nucleus Clinic to pay portion of staff salaries, $15,000.

• Southern Anoka County Community Assistance food shelf, $15,000.

• Stepping Stone Emergency Housing, $20,000.

• Youth Way Ministries, meal for youth getting homework help, $14,670.

Not funded were CommonBond Communities transportation advocate staff, $21,000; Good Shepherd Covenant Church, staff for Manna Market, $30,000; and North Metro Pediatrics, emergency room utilization reduction program, $39,050.

According to Skepper, the CommonBond Communities program as ranked a lower priority than the other requests, while the church request had eligibility issues under HUD regulations and North Metro Pediatrics had received CDBG funding the previous four years and HUD rules frown on continuously funding the same programs, according to Skepper.

“We will have several public service agencies that will have been funded four straight years with the 2013 allocation so it will be difficult if they apply next year,” Skepper said.

At the public hearing, most speakers thanked the HRA for providing funding for their programs.

But a representative from North Metro Pediatrics asked the HRA to reconsider the staff recommendation not to fund its program.

Following the public hearing, the HRA made the only change from the staff recommendations for funding.

Anoka County Board Chairperson and HRA member Rhonda Sivarajah made a motion to shift $5,000 from the Nucleus Clinic allocation to Stepping Stone Emergency Housing.

“I realize we have some really difficult choices between a lot of good projects and programs,” Sivarajah said.

But she said Nucleus Clinic will be able to tap into more public funding sources with the state’s ability to expand Medical Assistance eligibility through the federal Affordable Care Act.

And right now, it is more important for people to have a roof over their heads, according to Sivarajah.

Anoka County Commissioner Carol LeDoux, also an HRA member, was the lone dissenter.

According to LeDoux, Nucleus Clinic provides vital reproductive and other health services to young women raising kids alone.

LeDoux did support the motion to approve the final CDBG package, which passed on a 6-0 vote. County Commissioner Robyn West, one of four county board members on the seven-member HRA, was absent from the meeting.

The Anoka County Board will take final action on the CDBG package once a required 30-day comment period is completed.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]