Wednesday, June 8, 2011

CDBG Bills Put on Hold

Pittsburgh Council has voted to hold legislation that would change the way the city distributes federal Community Development Block Grants.

Councilman Ricky Burgess says the current law divides Pittsburgh’s CDBG funding evenly among the nine Council Districts. Burgess says his bills would instead give the money to Council Districts based on how many CDBG-eligible blocks the District has.

A block would be CDBG-eligible if 80% or more of its households earned less than about $29,000 per year.

The legislation would also raise the minimum grant level to $5,000 and require that the money be spent within three years, or it would be withdrawn. Burgess says he’d also like to require six summer meetings where community groups citywide could explain their development plans to Council.

But Councilwoman Darlene Harris says she doesn’t support the bills. She says $5,000 is too high a minimum for the grants, because it would be a “major undertaking” to try to give that much money to every community group who receives funding now.

Councilmen Doug Shields and Bruce Kraus say they feel they are being characterized as unfeeling for poorer communities by Burgess’ legislation. Shields says none of the CDBG funding is being given to groups who aren’t eligible for it.

The legislation has been held for a week; in the meantime, Councilwoman Theresa Smith says Council has a meeting with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on the topic.

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