Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. Senator is criticizing a House budget plan that would cut Community Development Block Grants nearly in half.
While the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee put forward $3.15 billion in grants, the House proposal is $1.67 billion.
In a letter to the committee, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said, “The CDBG program is a smart investment that directly helps cities and municipalities catalyze economic development and create jobs. As this bill comes to the floor I will continue to advocate for a strong funding level for the CDBG program.”
Casey said by reducing grants, Washington is taking power away from the states, counties, cities and townships.
“Economic development experts at the local level know how to create jobs in these communities,” Casey said, "and they should have the resources and the flexibility to decide how they spend their federal dollars. And unfortunately, this proposal by the house really short changes them on a couple of levels.”
Community Development Block Grants originated under the Nixon administration as a way of bypassing state governments to give funding directly to urban centers. The program distributes 70 percent of total funds to entitlement communities — central cities in metropolitan areas and urban counties — while the remaining 30 percent is given to small, non-entitlement areas.
Last year, Pittsburgh received more than $13 million in grants, while Allegheny County received about $12.5 million to be distributed to the other 129 municipalities.
The program gives communities the opportunity to decide which projects deserve the most financial attention and what problems need to be addressed on a local level. In recent years, Pittsburgh used much of its allotted funding to invest in home ownership and affordable housing, while cities in Lehigh Valley have used their allocations to encourage private sector investment, according to Casey.
In 2012, Philadelphia received the largest grant with $38.3 million, while Millcreek Township in Erie County was given the smallest amount — $195,478.
Casey said if the grants are cut in half, the smallest municipalities are going to be impacted the most.
“These aren’t big box car numbers here,” Casey said. “These communities aren’t getting rivers of money coming through their town. They’re getting very limited dollars to begin with. To slash it even more … I just don’t get it.”