Supervisors responded Tuesday to news that San Benito County is ineligible for half a million dollars in federal funding for crucial community services in 2013. The Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) represent millions of dollars in federal revenue for cities and counties nationwide. It is one of the longest-running programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and targets local community development activities such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, and infrastructure development. San Benito County has received more than $7 million in CDGB funding since 2002.
“This was very disappointing news,” said Supervisor Anthony Botelho. “The county is doing everything it possibly can to address this, including working with the City of Hollister to make sure they can apply for the funds.”
CDBG, like other block grant programs, differ from categorical grants, made for specific purposes, in that they are subject to less federal oversight and are largely used at the discretion of the state and local governments. In San Benito County, the money has been used to fund Emmaus House, the Homeless Coalition, and job training programs through Community Services Workforce Development Employment Services (CSWD). CSWD staff explained frustration over the process.
“It’s out of our control,” said Enrique Arreola, Deputy Director of the county’s Community Services & Workforce Development. “The new rule’s timeline is making it more difficult to apply year after year. I think this funding is only going to be available every other year. We will apply next year.”
Supervisors learned of the county’s ineligibility when staff at the Health and Human Agency Services were notified that a new rule mandating that county’s spend more than 50% of the previous year’s funding in order to re-apply in 2013. “If a jurisdiction has not yet expended 50% percent of all the funds awarded through all of its open contracts awarded under the 2012 Notice of Funding Availability and later, the jurisdiction is not eligible to apply for more funds,”
Interim Director of the Health and Human Agency Services Maria Corona told the board at Tuesday’s meeting. To see her report, click here.
According to Botelho, the rules changed last year and the county was unaware of the new requirement.
“If we had known, we would have spent all the funds,” Botelho said. “These rules should not be changed mid-stream. We’re a small county so we’re somewhat victimized by this. It’s a huge hit.”
The county planned to apply for $500,000 in CDBG funding in 2013. Last year, $400,000 was awarded to the county and was allocated for the Homeless Coalition, the Food Bank, Friends of the Library and CSWD. Because of the guidelines, Botelho said there is not much the county can do to fix the problem at this point, except work to ensure the City of Hollister can receive funds and to re-apply next year. “The goal is to support these non-profit services and make sure they get the funding they need,” Botelho said.