County gets additional federal CDBG dollars

Anoka County has received more 2014 federal Community Development Block Grant dollars than expected.

When the Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority Management Committee acted on the block grant funding requests Feb. 11, Congress had not yet set the 2014 allotment, so county staff estimated that it would receive $1,294,233 based on the 2013 allocation.

But when the grant funding proposals, recommended by the full HRA Feb. 25, went to the Anoka County Board for final approval, which took place by unanimous vote April 22, the grant amount had increased to $1,406,213.

“We hope that’s a trend,” said Karen Skepper, HRA executive director.

No new projects were added to competitive pool, where funding grew from $662,463 to $738,739, but it does leave an unallocated balance of $173,571 when money left over from the initial funding is factored in.

Come July 1 when the grant program year starts, the county will take applications for projects on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Skepper.

Competitive pool projects funded were Van Buren Group Home accessibility rehabilitation in Blaine, $65,168; countywide single-family rehabilitation program, $300,000; and city of East Bethel septic systems upgrade and/or replacement, $200,000.

The city of Coon Rapids, as an entitlement community under U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations because its population is over 60,000, will receive $188,786 for its citywide housing rehabilitation program.

Block grant funding for the public service pool, which under HUD regulations can only be 15 percent of the total grant, has increased from an estimated $185,000 to $210,931.

But where those dollars will go has yet to be determined. The first round of applications were rejected by the HRA’s Management Committee because none of the 13 requests, which totaled $403,188.35, reached the required score.

According to Kate Thunstrom, community development manager, the applications did not address the HUD regulation that the grant funding for public services can go to new programs or for a quantifiable expansion of services.

In addition, funding requests were received from public service agencies that will be serving people who should be covered by the federal Affordable Care Act, Thunstrom said.

A mandatory meeting took place with the organizations who submitted the original requests and other agencies who had not made applications the first time around were also present, after which agencies were invited to submit a second round of applications, either revised or new, Skepper said.

Deadline for receipt of those applications was April 25, and both Skepper and Thunstrom expected that some agencies that did not submit applications the first time would do so in the second round.

According to Thunstrom, representatives of agencies were told at the meeting that applications must be for new programs or for a quantifiable increase in an existing program, and block grant dollars cannot be used to supplement health care funding received through the Affordable Care Act.

Staff also encouraged applications from agencies who provide services for people with disabilities, Skepper said.

Following staff review and public comment, funding recommendations are anticipated to go to the county board for approval in June in time for the start of the block grant program year, Thunstrom said.