Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COALITION REBUTS BUSH ADMINISTRATION PROPOSAL TO GUT HUD PROGRAMS

Response to administration’s Strengthening America’s Communities Initiative advisory committee meeting in Fresno, Calif., on April 15

WASHINGTON, DC (April 14, 2005) Fifteen organizations representing local officials and community developers from around the nation have joined together to oppose the Bush administration’s proposed elimination of 18 existing federal community and economic development programs and the subsequent creation of a much smaller program housed in the Department of Commerce.

The administration’s so-called Strengthening America’s Communities Initiative, set to host the first meeting of its hand-picked presidential advisory committee in Fresno, Calif., on Friday, April 15, would cut federal assistance to low-income urban, suburban, and rural communities by $2 billion annually and indirectly reduce even more private sector investment in thousands of neighborhoods and communities across the country.

While the administration justifies eliminating the programs by claiming they fail to measure up to federal performance evaluations, only nine of the 18 programs slated for the chopping block have actually been evaluated. And two of them – the Economic Development Administration and the National Community Development Initiative – received the second highest ratings possible.

Following are quotes from coalition members, objecting to the proposed cuts:

“If the president’s goal is to provide states and communities with tools to achieve long-term economic growth and stability, he must fund and support programs that have effectively provided help and hope to low-income families and communities for years, if not decades, not destroy them,” said Bart Harvey, president of the Enterprise Foundation.

“President Bush’s Strengthen America’s Communities Initiative (SACI) is intended to divert the public’s attention from the huge funding cuts that he wants to make to housing and community development programs that help low-income people,” said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Fortunately, most people, including members of Congress, are not that easily fooled. SACI has landed with a resounding thud.”

“There are no data to justify the radical, sweeping scope of President Bush’s budget proposal to scrap the existing federal community economic development system and replace it with an unfunded shell of an effort,” said Mark Pinsky, president and CEO of National Community Capital Association. “This seems to be part of a deliberate ‘war of crumbs’ strategy under which a variety of interests and groups would be set at each other’s throats to battle over an increasingly small amount of funds. And this battle will take place in the dark, since none of the groups that will be affected are even invited to the table to discuss how the new initiative will be formed.”

“The National Association of Counties (NACo) remains opposed to any proposal to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program,” said Angelo D. Kyle, NAC0’s president. “CDBG is a long-running, successful federal program that assists local governments in providing critical public services to communities at the local level. NACo will continue to urge Congress to preserve CDBG at HUD and reject SACI.”

“SACI is the wrong idea for economic and community development in most of rural America,” said Jon Bailey, director, research and analysis program, Center for Rural Affairs. “Unemployment and job loss are not the real issues in most rural communities – low incomes, low paying jobs and aging infrastructure are. There is a role for federal investment in our rural communities, but any federal investment must recognize the real issues facing rural people in rural places.”

Following are the coalition members, who all are available to comment on this issue.

Center for Rural Affairs
Jon Bailey
jonb@cfra.org
402-687-2100

Council of State Community Development Agencies
Diane Taylor
diane@coscda.org
202-293-5830

National Community Capital Association (NCCA)
Mark Pinsky
markp@communitycapital.org
215-320-4304

Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Buzz Roberts
broberts@lisc.org
202-739-9264

National Low Income Housing Coalition
Katie Fischer
Katie@nlihc.org
202-662-1530 ext. 222

National Association of Regional Councils (NARC)
Beverly Nykwest
nykwest@narc.org
202-986-1032 ext. 220

Housing Assistance Council (HAC)
Leslie Strauss
leslie@ruralhome.org
202-842-8600

The Enterprise Foundation
Sandi Baer
sbaer@enterprisefoundation.org
410-772-5285

National Association of Counties (NACo)
Jeremy Ratner
jratner@naco.org
202-942-4220

National Association of Development Associations (NADO)
Matthew Chase
mchase@nado.org
202-624-7806

National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies (NALFA)
John Murphy
John_murphy@nalfa.org
202-367-1197

Council of Development Finance Agencies
Toby Rittner
trittner@cdfa.net

National Conference of Black Mayors
Colin Wellenkamp
cwellenkamp@washingtonlinkagegroup.com
202-383-9143

Coalition of Community Development Financial Institutions
Jennifer Vasiloff
vasiloff@cdfi.org
703-294-6970

National Community Development Association
Chandra Western
Chandra@ncdaonline.org
202-887-5521

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