Portland lays groundwork for federal grant allocations

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PORTLAND — As the City Council considers feedback on proposed allocations of federal community development funds, the city is also promoting the use of those funds to make previous improvements in Portland.

The council heard public comment last week on a plan for using nearly $4 million in requested fiscal-year-2014 funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funding would come from three HUD initiatives: the Community Development Block Grant program, HOME Investment Partnerships and the Emergency Solutions Grant program.

A second public hearing on how the city will divide the federal grants will be held Monday, April 8, at 7 p.m. in City Hall. Afterward, the council will vote on whether to appropriate the funds as planned.

The hearings are part of an annual process of priority-setting for the city’s community development programs. Previous HUD funding has supported the creation of affordable housing, services for homeless individuals and improvements in city parks and schools, among other activities, according to a City Hall press release.

The process is facilitated by a task force formed by the council in 2012 to help re-evaluate priorities for CDBG funds. The task force agreed that proposed uses of the funds should focus on the creation of sustainable jobs and helping Portland residents stay employed.

To celebrate National Community Development Week and raise awareness of how HUD funding has supported development in Portland, the city will conduct a tour of sites along Congress Street that have benefited from the federal help.

The tour is scheduled to leave from City Hall on Friday at 9 a.m., and will include facade improvements by local businesses. The tour will also showcase the Maine Irish Heritage Center, a community space at 34 Gray St.

In addition, the city is collecting donations of clothing and non-perishable food to support Preble Street and Portland’s homeless shelters. Donations may be dropped off this week in Room 312 of City Hall.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.