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Local nonprofits confront cuts in grant

By Brian Cuaron
June 12, 2011 at 1:12 a.m.
Updated June 13, 2011 at 1:13 a.m.


HOW THE GRANT MAY BE DISTRIBUTED

Mortgage Assistance Program (assists lower-income residents with buying homes): $25,000

Code Enforcement (Addresses blight, like abandon vehicles, in lower-income neighborhoods): $42,000

Neighborhood Clean Sweep (Keep Victoria Beautiful, cleans three neighborhoods): $25,000

Public Facilities (Assists facilities that help lower-income residents): $300,095

Public Services Agencies (Services, likes Kids Backpack Feeding Program, geared for lower-income residents): $84,500

Program Administration (Pays for staff and supplies to administer the grant): $89,700

TOTAL: $566,295

NOTE: Information was taken from the city's preliminary allocation of the grant money based on the federal government's estimate of what it would receive. The city later learned that it would receive $566,307.

Only 15 percent of the grant may go to public services agencies and only 20 percent may go to public administration, a city official said.

Dennis Brown doesn't want to let any child go hungry.

But, as executive director for the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, he may have to do just that.

"That's the whole problem with poverty," Brown said. "Even our government is going bankrupt trying to help everybody."

The food bank feeds homeless students in the Victoria school district. It added 83 more children last fall to its Kids Backpack Feeding Program, which provides the students with food for the weekend.

The program's expansion was possible because of funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant. Several Crossroads nonprofit agencies are hurt by cuts to the block grant.

The funding for the backpack program and others will be less this year because the city received only $566,307, or 16.5 percent less than last year.

How we got here

The grant helps cities with at least 50,000 residents to assist lower-income neighborhoods and families, said Jared Mayfield, the city's deputy director of development services.

Victoria once allocated much of that funding toward the Home Rehabilitation Program. It helped lower-income residents with roof repairs, plumbing and electrical problems, Mayfield said.

But the city was only able to assist 12 to 15 families a year because of increasing costs and a decreasing grant allocation, Mayfield explained.

More cities became eligible for the grant after the 2000 census. However, the grant's funding didn't keep up with that, Mayfield said.

So the city partnered with local nonprofits last year to do more for more people.

Yet, federal budget cuts have further driven down the city's grant allocation this year.

The city held a workshop with local nonprofits in May and let them know the city's grant allocation decreased, Mayfield said. It received and fully funded nine applications last year, but received 14 applications this year.

"It's more applications than there's money to fund it," Mayfield said.

The city staff will give its recommendations for funding to the city council July 5.

The council will make its final decision Aug. 2 because the staff must turn in its plan to the federal Housing and Urban Development department by Aug. 15.

Groups respond to cuts

Thomas Yantis, executive director of Keep Victoria Beautiful, said that the community block grant has a significant impact on his organization's $85,000 budget.

The city awarded the group $35,000 to help clean three neighborhoods.

Should the city cut its allocation to the organization, Yantis said, it could cut back on expenses like air conditioning and paper costs.

"Open the doors, run the fans. That's proven to save 22 percent of the electric bill," Yantis said.

Keep Victoria Beautiful can also look for funding elsewhere from other grants, fundraising or through community support, Yantis said.

The Community Action Committee of Victoria received $10,000 last year for its Meals on Wheels program. It's a delivery service for the home-bound, elderly and disabled, said Vicki Smith, executive director for the organization.

Smith said she hopes for $10,000 this year, too. She added that if their clients don't have the meal service, they may have to move into an assisted-living situation.

"I don't want them to think they're not going to receive these meals," Smith said of the agency's clients. "We're going to find the funding, but we'll just have to look harder."

Not everyone is that optimistic.

Brown's organization has applied for 75 grants this year, mostly for the weekend meals program, three more than it applied for last year.

"We're getting a lot of no's," Brown said.

He added that the program already costs $3,000 above the $10,000 it received from the grant last year. He said that any drop in grant funding will likely mean a drop in the number of children the program feeds.

"We just don't have the funding," Brown said.

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