Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget would cut $6 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, eliminating one of the department’s longest running programs, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which funds programs for low-income people and non-profit groups.
The programs elimination would have direct effects on Hoboken’s Housing Authority and non-profit communities, many of which receive funding from that source. CDBG provides annual grants to agencies and organizations in various cities across the country address a wide range of unique community development needs.
Begun in 1974, the CDBG program is one of the longest continuously-run programs at The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Hoboken became entitled to certain kinds of grants for local groups in 2015, according to the city’s principal planner, Chris Brown.
“Before that, we received funds from the Hudson County Consortium, who received funding from HUD,” said Brown. “Now we have more of a direct line to HUD, which gives us a little more control over where the funding goes.”
Brown said this also allowed the city to get more funding.
“In the past, the city would get $400,000 or $500,000,” said Brown. “Now we get about a million.”
According to city spokesman Juan Melli, the city “worked hard on the census count and completed the process to become an Entitlement Community, allowing us to directly receive more funds. By managing the funding on our own, we have increased the amount of funds we receive by $600,000 per year, and as a result, for the last two years, the city has distributed approximately $1 million annually in CDBG funds.”
Earlier this month the city hosted a community meeting to discuss the program and announce the programs March 31, application deadline for funds.
Organizations in peril
The funding has supported more than 15 local organizations in the past.
In 2016 the grants funded several local organizations and nonprofit programs, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Garden State Episcopal, CDC Hoboken Community Center, Hoboken Day Care 100, Hoboken Housing Authority, Hoboken Family Planning, Hoboken Shelter, HOPES CAP (Jubilee Center), All Saints Community Service & Development Corp, The Waterfront Project, Inc. True Mentors, and Urban Renewal Corp.
“The city distributes as much funding as possible to help organizations in our community like the Hoboken Shelter and Hoboken Housing Authority, which recently received funds to renovate elevators,” said Melli.
“The city receives a portion of the funding to administer the distribution of CDBG funds and has also used some funds for capital improvements to the Multi Service Center/senior center,” he added.
“We are trying to stay positive and as hopeful as we can. We all need these funds.” --Jaclyn Cherubini, Hoboken Homeless Shelter
“CDBG funds support our neediest residents, including the homeless, low-income families, hungry children, and seniors,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “The Trump administration’s proposed cuts are unconscionable and would be devastating to the organizations that do so much good in Hoboken and across the country.”
“The Community Development Block Grants help us keep our doors open and our lights on,” said Executive Director of the Hoboken Shelter Jaclyn Cherubini. “We desperately need funding.”
Cherubini said she has spoken with other local organizers of the proposed funding cuts.
“We are all in the process of submitting our proposals for the Community Development Block Grants,” said Cherubini. “We are trying to stay positive and as hopeful as we can. We all need these funds.”
Cherubini said the Hoboken Shelter is funded by private, corporate, and public funds such as donations and grants and hosts several fundraisers throughout the year, which she hopes will draw a bigger crowd if the grants are defunded.
The shelter has been successful over the years in getting homeless people into housing, and feeding the homeless and elderly each night. The shelter has strict rules that guests must follow in order to stay.
Executive Director of the Hoboken Housing Authority Marc Recko said, “We are pretty devastated by the news and we are hopeful that its (elimination) won’t happen.” The HHA runs the 21 senior and low-income federal housing projects mostly on Hoboken’s west side.
“It’s a crucial program. The CDBG program has been invaluable to us,” said Recko. “We took the news extremely hard.”
Recko said in the past the CDBG have helped fund much needed elevator renovations and this year they are applying for added security measures.
“We are still preparing this year’s application for submission for new safety and security improvements,” said Recko. The improvements would include additional security cameras, camera upgrades, and program upgrades, as well as some funding for new building doors.
The HHA suffered from the murder of one of its residents in January.
Many residents of the Hoboken Housing Authority said they needed new doors, as many remain open throughout the day and pose a security risk.
Recko said that the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) faces additional cuts, not just in grant funding, under the current proposed federal budget as HUD has an overall $6 billion cut to its overall budget.
“We don’t know yet what those additional cuts would mean for us,” said Recko who added over the past five years the HHA has had its operating budget cut by 15 percent and its capital funds, used for new roofs and property repairs, cut by 30 percent.
“It’s getting to be dangerous territory when the country leaves its commitment to help those most vulnerable such as the elderly and moderate to low income people and families,” said Recko.
“I know that Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, and Congressman Sires will fight for our most vulnerable citizens, and I hope Congress will do the right thing and ignore this absurd proposal,” said Zimmer.
As of last week Melli said they heard from two grant recipients concerned about the proposed cuts.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.