McKeesport state senator laments proposed grant funding cuts
Lawmakers are raising alarms about proposed cuts in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program.
“Funding from the program has been essential to areas across Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years,” state Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, said. “To take it away now would be devastating.”
For the federal fiscal year 2014, which begins on Oct. 1, President Barack Obama proposed $2.79 billion for community development grants. The House proposed to cut $1.67 billion.
If either are approved by Congress, available funds again would be depleted for the program, which a decade ago funneled more than $4.3 billion to local communities based on poverty levels, population trends and housing needs.
“Hundreds of communities in Pennsylvania receive funds from this program,” said Brewster, state Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee minority chairman and former mayor of McKeesport.
“The grant returns taxpayer money to local economies,” Brewster said. “Without it, many municipalities wouldn't be able to make ends meet.”
Three billion dollars were allotted for the grants this federal fiscal year, up from $2.95 billion in 2012, according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.
A bid by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Philadelphia, to reverse what the National League of Cities called an “especially harmful cut” was defeated in the House.
Fattah could not persuade a majority on the House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, of which U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, is chairman.
In remarks quoted by American City & County, Latham said tough choices had to be made to preserve funds for MAP-21, or “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” for transportation funding, air traffic controllers and housing renewals.
“Unfortunately, to meet these priorities under our allocation, we had to provide lower numbers for other parts of the bill,” Latham said.
For this year, Casey said, Allegheny County received $12.56 million in CDBG funds, $2.45 million in home consortium funds and $1.29 million in an emergency shelter grant.
The county Department of Economic Development funnels that money to municipalities through councils of government such as Twin Rivers, Steel Valley, South Hills Area and Turtle Creek Valley.
HUD issues separate block grants for Pittsburgh ($13 million), McKeesport ($969,509) and Penn Hills ($684,378).
Pittsburgh received $1.95 million in home consortium funds, $1.3 million in an emergency shelter grant and $731,171 for housing opportunities for persons with AIDS.
Philadelphia also received a grant in the latter catagory, as did some Pennsylvania municipalities that otherwise would not qualify for the block grant funding.
Casey said Westmoreland County received $3.46 million in block grants, $899,276 in home consortium grants and $359,817 in emergency shelter grants.
“These funds are not gifts to the municipalities,” Brewster said. “The citizens are getting a portion of their taxes back in the form of these grants.”
McKeesport's grant is $1,514,000, less than two-thirds of what it was in 2003. It dropped to $1,486,000 in 2004 and $1,402,000 in 2005.
In February 2005, when President George W. Bush reportedly proposed cutting block-grant funding in half, then-Mayor Brewster told city council, “that would be catastrophic.”
Brewster used that term on Friday to describe the possible impact of 2013 cuts.
In December 2005, Brewster led city and McKeesport Housing Authority officials to Washington for meetings with aides to then-HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson in a bid to prevent block-grant cuts.
In July 2011, McKeesport's grant was threatened when HUD said the city failed “to affirmatively further fair housing within its jurisdiction.”
The dispute was resolved in December 2011 when then-Mayor Regis McLaughlin signed a three-year “voluntary compliance agreement” with HUD.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Wintry weather in forecast for Mon-Yough area
- Race for Pennsylvania’s 39th Legislative District one to watch
- Twin Rivers COG takes another step toward finalizing merger with Steel Valley
- McKeesport basketball tournament to assist homeless veterans
- Steel Valley school director says teachers lack volunteer spirit
- County council committee recommends drill lease
- Port Authority plans to replace deteriorated McKeesport hub
- Elizabeth police step up traffic enforcement, crack down on speeders
- Facelift planned for Dead Man’s Hollow
- Gergely up against GOP’s Peoples in Pennsylvania House’s 35th District
- Campbell foundation funds computer upgrades