The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is the key tool cities use to revitalize low and moderate-income neighborhoods and serve the people who live in them. Administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, CDBG was launched in 1974 and has served thousands of communities across the nation. “Entitlement” communities receive funds directly from the federal government based on a highly targeted formula. The balance of funds go to States which administer CDBG resources to smaller towns and communities on a competitive basis. CDBG allows local governments the flexibility to design their own comprehensive revitalization plans in the context of targeted objectives to serve low and moderate income people.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has proposed the elimination of CDBG in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 federal budget. In fact, in a White House press briefing in March 2017, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney told the press that “CDBG does not work.” The nation’s mayors strongly disagree and have responded with letters to Congressional leaders outlining the accomplishments of CDBG over the years. Over 350 mayors and counting have signed these letters and pledged to fight CDBG’s elimination and are cataloged starting on page 97.
CDGB is not just another federal program. It is a lifeline to poor neighborhoods that for too long have suffered disinvestment in both their physical infrastructure and their people. This publication, CDBG WORKS, is designed to illustrate the types of projects CDBG makes possible. CDBG funds housing rehab programs for in-home seniors and those with disabilities, making it possible for them to gain access and stay in their homes. It funds Boys and Girls Clubs to provide youth productive activities as an alternative to the streets. It supports community and social service organizations that provide counseling to victims of domestic violence and those who suffer from homelessness and mental health problems. The list goes on and on.
CDBG also provides long-term funding needed to revitalize communities and to help them build self-sustaining economies. CDBG funds are used for small business and economic development initiatives; neighborhood infrastructure upgrades are made to attract new investment and businesses to low income areas. The program assists in upgrading the existing housing stock of a neighborhood and provides gap financing for low and modern-income housing development. CDBG helps fund neighborhood facilities such as health centers, community centers and parks that build and sustain the social fabric of a neighborhood. All these initiatives and many more provide jobs for those who need them most.
The examples contained herein scratch only the surface of what CDBG does. They are powerful illustrations of how CDBG serves people in need, and helps build their communities in ways that offer opportunity. That is principally why CDBG has enjoyed broad based bipartisan support in Congress over the years.
Could CDBG do more? Of course. Congressional funding of the program since 1980 has not kept up with inflation. If it had, CDBG would be three times larger than its current funding level of $3 billion. The program, though underfunded, still provides concrete results and hope for poor neighborhoods and their residents.
Yes, CDBG Works, and people who benefit from it are relying on mayors, cities, community organizations, and the United States Conference of Mayors to save it.