Local programs hurt by federal cuts

By Danielle Gaines

Neighborhood wellness programs in the city of Champaign face extinction as the federal budget continues to shrink. At the Jan. 10, 2005, City Council meeting, City Manager Steven Carter submitted a report on the budget issues facing the Community Development Block Grant, HOME grant and the American Dream Down payment Initiative.

“The council knows that the federal government has been trying to balance the budget,” Carter said. “One of the things that becomes readily apparent is that the competition for discretionary federal dollars is going to get tougher and tougher.”

Congress has cut federal funding for all three of the neighborhood wellness programs for the coming year. The Community Development Block Grant has been cut by 9 percent, the HOME grant by 5 percent and the American Dream Down payment Initiative by 50 percent. Congress has also recently announced a 1 percent uniform cut for all federal programs.

“I think it is a travesty that our federal government feels that safe neighborhoods, affordable housing and nice places to live . are really not important,” said Council Member Gina Jackson (D-1). “I am glad to see that the city of Champaign has taken a different approach.”

As a result of the cuts, the council was petitioned for a one-time payment of $93,000 to cover costs not available through federal funding. The council approved the payment, which allows the programs to continue at baseline expenditures and services.

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The staff for the grant programs will begin work to find funding in future years.

“We are trying to look at this creatively and with a fresh slate,” said Dorothy Ann David, neighborhood services director.

Council members stated that their goals reflect a concern for neighborhood wellness issues and directed the staff to find alternative funding for the programs whether through federal, private, city or other sources of funding for future years.

“I don’t remain hopeful that there will be any slowing in the decline of funds; I think there will be a rapid acceleration,” said Council Member At Large, Kathy Ennen.