A federal agency gave the city of Spokane Valley formal approval Monday to apply for an estimated $575,000 in federal block grants for 2006. In past years, the city vied for the funds under a Spokane County consortium that the Valley now has the option to leave.
At recent meetings, the City Council discussed whether it should apply for community development block grants on its own, with council members postponing a decision until they got word from the Department of Housing and Urban Development on the amount of money the city might receive.
A letter from HUD confirmed that Spokane Valley meets the criteria to apply for the federal grants and provided the long-awaited estimate Monday, said Valley community development director Marina Sukup.
The block grants were created 30 years ago in an effort to funnel federal money into cities and counties working to decrease poverty. This year federal grants will be spent in the Valley on projects like street improvements and low-interest loans to city residents connecting their homes to newly installed sewer lines.
Since its incorporation, the city has been part of a consortium of municipalities that receive grant money through Spokane County’s CDBG application. The application process is labor intensive – Spokane County’s is over 200 pages long – and remaining in the consortium for the next three-year cycle might be to the city’s benefit.
“Clearly the temperament that has been expressed to date by the council members is to continue with the consolidations,” said Valley City Manager Dave Mercier.
The city could accept entitlement status and still remain in the consortium, taking on some of the administrative responsibilities of the grant program under one of the options presented to the council.
The City Council will make its decision on the grants at its June 28 meeting. Spokane County then has little over a week to submit its CDBG application as is or to modify it to accommodate the city’s decision.
In the background of the grant discussions is a proposal before Congress to substantially reduce funding for next year’s block grants, consolidate the CDBG program with 17 other programs and move it to the Department of Commerce.
The proposal met strong opposition from municipal groups. Defying President Bush’s consolidation proposal, a Republican-led House appropriations subcommittee voted last week to keep the CDBG program at HUD, but with an 11 percent decrease in funding. The funding has not been addressed yet in the Senate.
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