UPPER MARLBORO – The county council’s annual budget hearing on the community development block grant (CDBG) annual action plan took on added significance this year, adding faces and stories to proposed federal cuts. In his budget blueprint, President Donald Trump proposed eliminating the federal CBDG program, which provides money to jurisdictions to help address housing, […]
UPPER MARLBORO – The county council’s annual budget hearing on the community development block grant (CDBG) annual action plan took on added significance this year, adding faces and stories to proposed federal cuts.
In his budget blueprint, President Donald Trump proposed eliminating the federal CBDG program, which provides money to jurisdictions to help address housing, job creation and public safety/infrastructure needs. Prince George’s County is one of the jurisdictions that typically receives some of those funds; this year would be the 43rd year of the county’s CDBG program. But county officials and staff are concerned the funds will not be provided this year.
“The department is very concerned regarding the entitlement programs, as you might expect,” Estella Alexander, deputy director of the community development division, told the county council April 18. “The county typically receives about $4.4 million in Community Development Block Grants, approximately $1.5 million under the HOME Investment Partnership Program, approximately $387,000 under the Emergency Solutions Grant program, and we receive HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS) funds for persons in the county that need that benefit.”
She said although Trump has proposed eliminating funding for those programs, the county is working with its congressional delegation to get the money restored in the budget that passes.
“We hope to bear impact such that the county and the residents of Prince George’s County can receive the benefits that they deserve,” Alexander said.
The council also heard from representatives of various non-profit organizations that were slated to receive CDBG funds in fiscal year 2018. The hearing was the first of five public hearings to be held as part of the county’s budget approval process.
One organization in the action plan is Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services (LARS), which was proposed for $50,000 of CDBG funds to help families who are facing eviction make payments and assist with security deposit and first months’ rent for low-income families. Richard Coles, the director of client services there, said LARS has helped more than 794 families and individuals between 2011 and 2016.
Antoine Hunt is one of those individuals. He said LARS provided rental assistance earlier this year and prevented him from being evicted. That help enabled him to get back on his feet after being between jobs, Hunt said.
“I was about to be homeless and they came through for me and gave me $500 to help pay my rent. And from that point, from then to now, I have been financially sound. I have been able to maintain my residence because of the assistance LARS gave me in February,” he said. “LARS helped me when no one else could.”
United Communities Against Poverty, Inc. also helps address housing needs by providing housing education and counseling services, foreclosure mediation services and financial education services. They were proposed to receive $45,000 for that effort, plus $20,000 for emergency food assistance for low-income families and seniors. Rasheeda Jamison-Harriot, president and chief executive officer, said over 3,000 county residents were helped in 2016.
Cheryl Owens, a member of the board of directors of Ivy Community Charities, said the $200,000 in the proposal for her organization would fund Phase 5 of renovations to the Ivy Community Center in Suitland to “further expand our physical presence.” The center houses tutoring, mentoring and leadership programs for 150 families, as well as a shoe bank that provides new shoes and socks to more than 150 students, twice a year.
First Generation College Bound is another organization that uses CDBG funds to help students in the county. Raymond Harrod, program manager, said 1,265 students in the program are currently in college, while another 596 have already successfully graduated. First Generation College Bound helps students become college-ready through academic help as well as assistance in finding and applying for financial aid. Harrod said last year, 143 seniors in the program went on to college with more than $1.2 million in aid, none of it from First Generation College Bound scholarships.
Last year, CDBG funds were used to provide a full-time case manager with a social work background, Harrod said.
“That’s really helped us to promote social change, development, cohesion and empowerment among the families that we serve,” he said.
This year’s plan proposes $50,000 for the organization for the College Access program, as well as a homework help club in Laurel.
“We have 27 students there in grades one through 12 and we provide tutorial services. Certified teachers come out and help them with their homework, take them on engaging field trips,” Harrod said. “This year, we actually have three students who are graduating from that community, and we are proud to say that three of them are on track to attending college. One of them will be attending Howard Community College, the second will be going to Wesley College and the third one is actually enlisting in the military.”
Students and graduates of the program also spoke about what First Generation College Bound’s assistance meant to them, as did their families, such as Mary Umoh, the grandmother of a program participant. She said students may not consider college for financial reasons, and First Generation College Bound helps take that out of the equation.
“Each child knows the mother’s purse and they know the father’s wallet. This First Generation College Bound that you do for these children, we really, really appreciate this. Please continue,” she said.