Seniors and youth hit hardest by federal funding cuts

admin | 3/1/2012, 4:30 a.m.

Miami, N. Miami and Hialeah take biggest reductions in CDBG grants

From Miami City Hall to the mayors offices in North Miami, Hialeah and Miami Beach the message issued last week was the same President Barack Obama must restore sorely-needed federal funding to their communities for the sake of thousands of senior citizens and youth throughout Miami-Dade County. The County and four cities make up one-sixth of the 30 cities and counties that took the greatest cuts nationwide, according to HUD, the federal department that distributes Community Development Block Grants [CDBG]. Based on a new formula, a greater emphasis is now placed on the number of housing units available for an areas population. Figures from the 2010 U.S. Census suggest that an adequate number of residences were built to decrease the amount of overcrowded units in Miami-Dade County. But local leaders say they disagree with how the new formula was tabulated. Even more, they are concerned with how these new funding cuts will impact their ability to provide services for social services including: meals for senior citizens and after-school programs for children. We knew that we were facing a 10 percent reduction, but 34 percent is unprecedented, said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, 62. The new formula that HUD is using just doesnt add up. We may have more housing in the City of Miami, but the last time I checked, there were few people in Little Havana or Liberty City that could afford to purchase a condo. We have until April 1st to implement the cuts and we hope the president will undo what HUD has done. Otherwise, well be forced to take money from our general funds account. As it stands we are facing a 50 percent reduction in services we cant leave people out in the cold. North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre, 42, says he made cuts last year and so with the recent 33 percent reduction in funding, he feels like he is in a lose-lose situation. In two years we will have incurred a 60 percent [estimate] cut in funds, he said. Like Miami, weve had to draw money from the general budget but we cant make up the difference that way. We are obligated to help those who cannot help themselves and somehow we will. Government is supposed to be there to assist those who need help the most. Local leaders take concerns to the President City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones headed to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to addresses the way the formula was tabulated in Miami [versus places like New York City whose funding has increased tremendously]. I will be meeting with the HUD under-secretary and Congresswoman Wilson and will emphasize the importance of the President signing an executive order, she said. The cuts will hurt many programs and people. We need the President to understand just how much this will impact communities in Miami and throughout Miami-Dade County. George Mensa, 54, community development director for the City of Miami, says he plans to be in the Capitol as well. While there he will meet with officials from the U.S. Census Bureau. We are challenging the data that they collected but we realize that this isnt something that can be solved quickly, he said. In the meantime, we hope the President will help us so that we can at least receive allocations that are equal to last years level. Our longterm goal is to have federal officials resolve the integrity of the data. By D. Kevin McNeir kmcneir@miamitimesonline.com