Casey, PA League of Cities Call to Protect Funding for Community and Economic Development

PA could lose nearly $150 million this year

WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today joined John A. Garner, Jr., Executive Director of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, to call to protect the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.  Funding from the CDBG program is used for many things in Pennsylvania, including promoting economic development, community revitalization and job creation.  Senator Casey and Garner expressed their concerns in a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of each the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies.

“We write today to express our grave concerns about proposals to reduce funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in both fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012,” Senator Casey and John Garner wrote in the letter.  “This program has been instrumental in helping local communities in Pennsylvania promote economic development and job creation.  The proposed funding reductions would unnecessarily curtail these efforts at a time when such economic activity is most needed.”

The letter continued, “Cuts to this program right now could have a devastating effect in cities throughout Pennsylvania and across the country.  In Pennsylvania, 47 communities received funding directly from the federal government and countless others receive funding through the CDBG allocation made available to the state government.  Small and large communities that receive CDBG funding throughout the state would be disproportionally impacted by the cuts as this funding constitutes a significant portion of their economic and community development budgets.”   

The House-passed funding bill for the remainder of the fiscal year would cut funding for CDBG by 60%, which could mean that Pennsylvania communities could lose $149.4m this year if proposed cuts were to occur.  Additional cuts have been proposed for the program in fiscal 2012.

In Pennsylvania, York and Lancaster are using a portion of their CDBG funding to reduce blight and revitalize their historic downtowns. In the Lehigh Valley, the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton use these funds to encourage private sector investment in many of the projects ongoing in these communities.  Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Williamsport and Hazleton use this funding to revitalize their urban cores and make much needed road improvements.  In other parts of the state, communities like Altoona, Johnstown, State College, Erie, Sharon and others, have used these funds to bolster existing housing stock, reconstruct streets and improve water infrastructure.  Among other activities, Philadelphia is using a portion of its CDBG funding to stem the foreclosure crisis while Pittsburgh uses some of its allocation to transform neighborhoods by promoting homeownership and affordable housing. 

Full text of Senator Casey’s letter is below.

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

We write today to express our grave concerns about proposals to reduce funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in both fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012.  This program has been instrumental in helping local communities in Pennsylvania promote economic development and job creation.  The proposed funding reductions would unnecessarily curtail these efforts at a time when such economic activity is most needed.   

Cuts to this program right now could have a devastating effect in cities throughout Pennsylvania and across the country.  In Pennsylvania, 47 communities received funding directly from the federal government and countless others receive funding through the CDBG allocation made available to the state government.  Small and large communities that receive CDBG funding throughout the state would be disproportionally impacted by the cuts as this funding constitutes a significant portion of their economic and community development budgets.   

The flexibility this program provides allows communities to tailor the program to meet unique local needs.  In Pennsylvania, York and Lancaster are using a portion of their CDBG funding to reduce blight and revitalize their historic downtowns.  In the Lehigh Valley, the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton use these funds to encourage private sector investment in many of the projects ongoing in these communities.  Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Williamsport, Hazleton and Reading use this funding to revitalize their urban cores and make much needed road improvements.  In other parts of the state, communities like Altoona, Johnstown, State College, Erie, Sharon, and others, have used these funds to bolster existing housing stock, reconstruct streets, and improve water infrastructure.  Among other activities, Philadelphia is using a portion of its CDBG funding to stem the foreclosure crisis while Pittsburgh uses some of its allocation to transform neighborhoods by promoting homeownership and affordable housing. 

These are just a few of the many examples of how this funding is having a tangible impact in small, medium and large municipalities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The proposed cuts would significantly curtail, or end outright, local development efforts at a time when the economic recovery continues to be fragile.  These cuts would also reduce the ability of these communities to use CDBG funding as leverage to spur public and private investments.
 
We have worked closely with locally elected officials to support this program.  We have also seen first-hand how this funding has helped move economic development initiatives forward.  Cities and municipalities have generally used this funding in an effective and efficient manner, and continued investment in local communities provided via CDBG funding is necessary to help these municipalities realize their economic potential.
 
We understand and support efforts to reduce the federal deficit and rein in the federal debt.  We also believe that abrupt reductions to key federal programs could unnecessarily halt the ongoing economic recovery.  Local economic development plans and job creation strategies supported through the CBDG program will falter should these cuts become law.  That in turn could reduce the likelihood that businesses will invest and increase the likelihood that the unemployment rate will rise in these communities.  We can avoid this outcome by rejecting unreasonable cuts to the CDBG program.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. 

Sincerely,
          

Robert P. Casey, Jr.                                      
United States Senator

John A. Garner, Jr.   
Executive Director
Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities

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