Portland City Council changes Community Development Block Grant guidelines

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PORTLAND — The City Council Monday night approved several changes to the way federal Community Development Block Grant funds are distributed to social service agencies and city programs.

CDBG funds are available to agencies that serve neighborhoods designated as low-income by the federal government.

The city gets about $2.1 million in CDBG funds each year. An allocations committee reviews applicants for funding and for the past two years has used a point system to determine the qualifiers.

The point system was established to make the funding process more equitable and transparent, after critics said the previous process was arbitrary and produced favoritism.

While the committee reviews all applications and makes recommendations to the City Council for funding, the council has the final decision on programs and projects that actually receive money.

This year, the council drew criticism for giving $50,000 to the nonprofit agency LearningWorks (formerly Portland West), despite the committee’s recommendation of no funding.

The council at that March meeting also said it wanted to change some of the funding guidelines put in place two years ago.

On Monday, some changes were approved.

They include reducing the minimum funding request from $20,000 to $10,000; capping allocations for social service program requests at $150,000; capping capital improvement requests at $250,000, and limiting the amount of the total funding that can be used on city applications to 85 percent for physical development improvements and 45 percent for social service program applications.

The council also ordered city staff to create an appeals process for applicants who disagree with the committee’s scoring of their application.

The city expects to open the applications process for next year’s funding next week. For more information on the changes and upcoming applications process, contact Housing and Neighborhood Services at 874-8731.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net