Portland block grant requests again exceed funds

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PORTLAND — Supply will not meet demand again in the fiscal year 2017 Community Development Block Grant budget.

Budget details released Monday show a total of $3.5 million in funding was requested in 31 applications, while the city has about $1.8 million to spend from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The budget recommendations by City Manager Jon Jennings will be reviewed at  City Council meetings March 14 and 28. Public comment will be heard at both meetings, which will begin at 5 p.m., and the City Council is expected to vote on the CDBG budget March 28.

Jennings said he regretted having to make hard choices in how to fund social service, business development and planning and administration grants.

“All of the programs requesting funds are certainly worthy, but unfortunately there is not enough funds to support all of their efforts,” Jennings said. The anticipated funding has not increased from the current budget, according to city CDBG documents.

The application process began in October 2015, and applications were reviewed by the four-member CDBG Allocation Committee.

The largest gap between applications and funding comes in development activities funding, where requests totalled almost $2 million for almost $761,000 of available funding. 

The largest budgeted item in the category is $408,000 for the city Public Works Department to begin work on the Marginal Way streetscape plan. The original request was for $742,000, and the committee has recommended any additional funding that becomes available be allocated to the project.

Jennings has also recommended the Public Works Department receive $216,000 to continue installing curb ramps that comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The social services grants drew applications totaling $1.08 million, with an anticipated $625,400 available. Here Jennings shifted some allocation committee recommendations in order to provide $54,000 to fund the Milestone Foundation HOME Team efforts to help chronically homeless people get shelter and services.

The fund the HOME Team, Jennings recommended reducing the $90,000 grant to Catherine Morrill Day Nursery vouchers from $90,000 to $50,000. He said the amount is a slight increase over last year, and the funding shift would also allow a $15,000 allocation to the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter, which is operated by Preble Street.

The HOME team and teen shelter both scored 89.75 points in the application process, while the nursery application scored 89.25 points.

The city Department of Planning and Urban Development will receive the $405,000 set aside for planning and administration. That funding is capped at 20 percent of the total allocation, but the department had requested $456,600.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.