100517 CDBG

Community Programs Manager Rosie Narez addresses the Santa Maria City Council on Tuesday. 

The Santa Maria City Council condensed its community block grant priorities for fiscal year 2018-19 on Tuesday night, culling expanded economic opportunities and neighborhood revitalization from the list.

The council’s vote reduces the list of priorities it uses to allocate federal grant funds from five to three.

Priorities that remain are preventing homelessness and at-risk youth needs, expanding educational and youth development opportunities, and providing affordable housing.

“The priorities are one of the tools used by the Block Grant Advisory Committee and the city council in determining what activities and projects should receive funding to maximize the impact the city’s Community Development Block Grant funds will have on city residents,” said Community Programs Manager Rosie Narez.

Though economic development projects were removed from the priority list, Narez said the neighborhood revitalization priority was consolidated with the providing affordable housing priority.

“Last year we gave over half of our capital funds to neighborhood revitalization,” she said Tuesday.

Last year’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) awards totaled about $200,000 for public service programs and about $1 million for capital projects.

The grant funds are provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

City officials review the priorities annually and decided to make changes after hearing from HUD officials.

“Funding economic development through CDBG can be tricky. It does put the city in a precarious situation if we are not careful about how that money is used,” Narez said.

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She further explained that those with economic development projects can still apply for funds, but since it isn’t a current priority funding will depend on the availability of grant money.

“It doesn’t mean that economic development can’t be considered. It doesn’t mean that anyone wanting to apply under economic development can’t apply, it just means that they are just not on the priority list for 2018-19. We can revisit it,” Narez said, adding that the city conducts a community needs workshop. "We take into consideration the input we receive throughout the year from the city, the city council and community members," she said.

No one from the public spoke about the change in CDBG priorities Tuesday night, but Marsha Bailey, founder of Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) and a previous CDBG grant recipient, submitted written comment to the council about the importance of supporting economic development activities.

“We cannot forget the important role that economic development plays in helping to alleviate poverty for residents and their families,” Bailey said in her letter.

CDBG funds have helped to support WEV’s Spanish Self-Employment Training program in previous funding cycles.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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