Community development to get hit by retroactive reductions

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer

Community Development Commission (CDC) staff delivered gloomy reports about the future of the agency’s federal funding at the group’s last two meetings.

The bad news began to pile up when Executive Director David Keller told the commission the House of Representatives finally submitted its bill for reductions, five months into the federal fiscal year.

“That’s probably the deepest we’ve ever been into a fiscal year in which the government does not have a budget so it’s unbelievably unsettling to everyone and very difficult to plan.”

The director indicated this year’s budget was so late that work on the 2012 budget was already beginning.

Keller said the agency already withstood a loss of funding in weatherization and energy assistance programs as the stimulus package faded into the distance, from the CDC’s perspective.

He explained the group was expecting further cuts in all programs for 2011 and 2012.

Keller told the commission the energy assistance program, which can pay one month’s heating or energy bill for a family per year on an emergency basis, was moving into “what we see as an era of really reduced resources.”

Indian Valley Commissioner Robert Meacher said he disagreed with the feds cutting this program at a time when Congress vowed to target waste and inefficiency.

“I don’t think there’s folks out there getting an unjust enrichment from this program,” he lamented. “It’s just one of those things where the most in need are always the ones that get cut first.”

“I agree with Bob,” Chester Commissioner Sherrie Thrall chimed in. “This is coming at a time when most all of our constituents who are on the program can least afford to get it slashed.”

“Well, we’re already getting calls on the decrease in in-home supportive services,” Meacher added. “So this is just the same group of people probably.”

“That’s right,” Keller responded. “It’s going to hit in a lot of different ways and areas because so many of the agencies that we work with are under the gun in terms of cuts.”

CDC Finance Director Tom Yagerhofer reported the program served between 500 and 600 families in 2010 and likely only had funding for half as many in 2011.

Keller told the commission funding for the Section 8 rental housing assistance program for low-income families would likely be frozen to preserve the people already in the program.

He added that a reserve account in another public housing program was “vulnerable to recapture” by the feds.

The director indicated community action agency funds were also on the chopping block, with a 50 percent cut anticipated in 2012 and 2011 funding still up in the air.

He said the 33 community-based organizations that received funding in Lassen, Plumas and Sierra counties this year were already warned not to spend any of the funds until more information was available.

Finally, Keller explained the community development block grant system, primarily used locally for subsidizing water and sewer projects and funding groups like Plumas Rural Services and the Plumas Crisis Intervention and Resource Center, was one of the main programs in the crosshairs.

Keller said the program was slated for a 50 percent reduction, while the House of Representatives was aiming to eliminate it completely.

The director explained the program was recently misused in some larger areas, which might damage the small counties and cities that actually need the funding.

Yagerhofer said 4th Congressional District Rep. Tom McClintock, who represents Plumas, recently introduced a bill to eliminate the block grants completely.

“I don’t think he realizes the distinction totally between large entitlement communities and small rural competitive communities, like the ones that make up a good part of his district,” the financial director added.

“I think he realizes it, he’s just for ‘cut everything,’” Quincy Commissioner Lori Simpson responded.

Keller told the board the CDC continued to receive funding based on the 2010 levels in most situations and asked the commission to appoint a subcommittee to begin planning how the group should address the anticipated changes to a fiscal year already in progress.

Thrall and Meacher agreed to join the ad hoc committee, as Keller indicated their districts would likely face the largest impact from the cuts due to the significance of local public housing projects.

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