The City of Newburgh will be holding its first public hearing regarding the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) on July 8, 2019.
The United States Federal Government distributes money to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to find various programs designed to create projects that promote like economic development, safety, and housing. The CDBG is one of these programs. The City of Newburgh receives an annual entitlement grant from the United States.
Entitlement communities like Newburgh are measured by their population and size, which then qualify them to obtain direct grants from the federal government and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to City Planner Alexandra Church, every community that gets money from an entitlement grant must change their plans every five years “in order to stay in good standing and in order to receive that money.”
She explains that 2019 is the last year of the current five year plan. The year 2020 will be the first year of the CDBG’s next five year plan and the last year of the new plan is expected to be 2024.
The CDBG’s proposal for the next five years was unveiled by Church at the City Council’s Work Session on June 6th. It is estimated that the City of Newburgh will be granted $845,000 in funds.
This is a pie chart that shows where the money will be going in the proposal.
**Note: Community policing was given $20,000.
“As part of our five-year consolidated plan, we are required to solicit public input,” said Church. We chose it to do that in a number of ways. One of the ways is to house a series of community meetings, [which we] had [during the month of] May. We had them all over the city at different times,” she added.
As for preliminary community outreach, the Office of Planning and Development has formally taken and recorded notes from these meetings. “So we [do] have some information on the direction that people generally want the city to go.” said Church.
Church says that the public hearing “is specific under federal and state laws” to make sure that everyone has “comments at this point, [to] generally [determine] on how they’d like to see the development block grant used for the next five years. We welcome and invite them to voice [their opinions], if they haven’t already, during the July 8 public hearing.”
Over the last few weeks, the Mid Hudson Times conducted an anonymous survey for City of Newburgh residents, in order to gauge how they truly felt about the money that was allocated for each project in the CDBG’s proposal.
While more than half of the participants polled had not attended any of the May public meetings, around 70% of people responded with “no” when asked if they agreed with the CDBG’s proposal “as is.”
Residents were split evenly on whether they agreed with the $220,000 allocated for the In-Rem Property Project, which provides upkeep of Newburgh’s vacant and abandoned properties. The money in the proposed budget would go toward salaries for three full-time employees, supplies, and training for the employees. Multiple participants in the survey questioned the In-Rem Property Project’s effectiveness, as it has been a project that the CDBG funded in past proposals.
“I believe that money could be lessened, if not taken away entirely. I would like to see how the funds are actually being used. If you walk around the city it doesn’t appear that we are getting our [money’s] worth at all. Use those funds to have someone or people actually fix the blights,” one user wrote.
And, while around 94% of participants agreed with allowing $225,000 to go to infrastructure improvements, many users said that more money should be given to this project. One person anonymously commented: “[I] agree, but [there] needs to be more [money]. Sidewalks, curb ramps and street rehab will benefit the full range of Newburgh residents [by] increasing property values and providing accessible routes, all while portraying the city in [a] new light.”
Similarly, quite a few residents believed that the Homeowners Assistance Program, a proposed project that would grant or loan money to homeowners who needed emergency repair work on their homes, should be given more funding than just $50,000. One person even suggested that this project be given an extra $25,000 because “Newburgh is still struggling to get on its feet.” This person also suggested that it might be helpful to “build relationships with federally and state funded nonprofits who can provide housing search and financial support [and] perhaps engage Lowes or local hardware centers to provide homeowner training components.”
When asked if they believed some programs deserve more funding than what they currently had, 83% responded with “yes.”
Survey participants were also asked to rank which programs they thought deserved the most funding. Around 56% of residents ranked infrastructure improvements as what needed the most funding, which falls in like with the CDBG’s proposal. However, funding for community policing and neighborhood services came in second at over 44%. As of right now, only $20,000 (2.4% of the entire proposed budget) have been allocated for this program.