How should Buffalo spend its Community Block Grant money?

Mar 15, 2019

Buffalo City Hall is out there seeking public input on how to spend the federal Community Development Block Grant money it is expecting from Washington, D.C. Officials were at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center on Broadway Thursday night for a community roundtable.

President Trump wants to kill the block grant program, but there have been past efforts to do that and they haven't succeeded. At the same time, dollars coming in have been slowly shrinking and that shrinkage appears to be continuing.

This year, the city is spending nearly $15 million for the array of programs they cover. While no one is quite sure, the city is budgeting around $1 million less for the upcoming year.

Rashika Hall, who runs HUD grants programs for the city, said the city needs more.
 

Credit MIke Desmond / WBFO News

"It's not enough, $13 million that's stretched as much as it is is not enough," Hall said, "and when you talk about our most vulnerable communities, those communities are 51 percent or more low- to moderate-income. That's a lot of the City of Buffalo and it's so much to do."

Matt Urban Center Executive Director Marlies Wesolowski said the federal programs keep her center operating.

"Money that comes in from the federal government to support the work we do through the City of Buffalo and it's much-needed," she said, "and especially in this particular neighborhood, given the median family income for a family that we serve is about $14,500 and I also serve people with no income at all."

That is the income group the program has long been aimed at, for programs like home renovations, affordable housing construction, alleviating homelessness, demolitions and community center improvements.

Councilmember David Franczyk said the block grant program is crucial in his Fillmore District.

"You would have a lot more blight and deterioration if these programs weren't available in the hands of capable individuals to start alleviating poverty and blight and building projects here, fixing buildings like this which is 115 years old, which probably would have fallen apart because the original organization that started it was starting to fade away," he said.

The roundtable let people think about a variety of ways they think the cash should be spent.