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East Greenwich Pendulum: Towns lose thousands in expected grants


EAST GREENWICH - Several Rhode Island towns are facing negative impacts after being notified in late July that many of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) applications for local programs and agencies will not receive the funding they typically see.

Locally, six social services programs applied for a total of $136,702 to fund several projects in the area, and after the meeting in late July, East Greenwich, along with many other towns across the state, were notified that none of their applications from the Plan Year 2016 will receive funding. 

“Historically you’d ask for it, and you’d get something,” said Community Development Consortium Director Geoff Marchant. “You wouldn’t always get everything you asked for, but you got part of it, and now, nothing.”

According to Marchant, the reason the RI Office of Housing and Community Development announced the applications would not be funded is due to over expenditure in the Office of Housing and Community Development’s three “set-aside” programs: housing rehabilitation, affordable housing and economic development. Historically, East Greenwich is eligible for between $150,000 and $200,000 in funds through the CDBG grants, funds that provide necessary money to community agencies that support and provide services to the low income population. The town has been applying for and receiving funds from the program for the last 40 years. 

“Last year somehow the state lost track of $4 million, and towns that had applied for federal Fiscal Year 16 money only learned about a week and a half ago that they weren’t getting anything, because the money is gone,” said Marchant.

East Greenwich is one of 33 non-entitlement communities eligible for the program, non-entitlement meaning all Rhode Island towns with smaller populations than the six larger cities; Cranston, East Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick and Woonsocket. 

Aside from East Greenwich, many of the other non-entitlement communities including Cumberland, Barrington, Burrillville, Charlestown, Coventry, Exeter, Glocester, Hopkinton, Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Narragansett, New Shoreham, Newport, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Richmond, Smithfield, Tiverton, Warren, West Greenwich, Warwick, Westerly and Bristol are now facing the impacts of their projects not being funded. 

After being made aware of the changes, the towns mentioned above wrote and signed a letter to Chief of Housing and Community Development Michael Tondra, objecting the proposed changes to the CDBG annual funding process. In the letter it was stated that several annual funding changes will now take place and HUD will no longer consider applications for public improvements such as streetscape or social services, adult education programs and ESL education. 

“We are dismayed that public facilities and improvement projects and public services activities focused on low and moderate income communities are proposed to now be such low priorities that they are unlikely to be funded in the future,” the letter reads. “Much needed improvements to parks, roads, and municipal infrastructure, as well as social service programs are at stake. We have been receiving such funding since CDBG was created in 1972. Now, abruptly and with minimal notice and explanation, these critical projects and programs have been rendered practically ineligible.”

In addition, future applications related to affordable housing will be given highest priority and eligibility to apply for future annual grant rounds will be restricted to only the towns with the highest number of low and moderate income residents. However, according to a letter to Governor Gina Raimondo from South Kingstown Town Manager Stephen Alfred, no specific threshold or percentage was given for future eligibility criteria and the non-entitlement communities are unsure if they will be able to apply for funding rounds in the future. 

“The changes being sought by OHCD could have major, negative implications for all 33 non-entitlement communities, including South Kingstown; however, the full extent of the ramifications of the proposed changes is unknown at this time,” Alfred wrote in his letter. 

Locally, in April of 2016, the East Greenwich Town Council approved the CDBG applications for six projects including the East Greenwich Housing Authority to replace heating units throughout the public housing, Opportunities Unlimited requested funds to replace a walkway in front of a home that houses three women with developmental disabilities, Cornerstone Adult Services applied for funds to assist in providing adult day health services, Kingstown Crossing applied for money to provide intensive case management services for the formerly homeless and low income families who occupy the complex, Welcome House of South County is asking for funds to provide operations support for the state-wide emergency shelter, and London Bridge Learning Center in East Greenwich applied for $40,000 to assist in the sliding fee scale that helps low income families needing child care who do not qualify for department of human services assistance. With the recent announcement, none of the projects will be funded. 

“These changes will have a significant, significant impact on the CDBG consortium,” said East Greenwich Town Manager Gayle Corrigan during last week’s town council meeting. 

Corrigan also mentioned a $300,000 deficit in the CDBG Consortium due to the program changes, however; Marchant stated it was unclear where that amount came from. 

“The financial analysis that Corrigan always refers to needs to be done,” he said. 

Courtesy of East Greenwich Pendulum 

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