Millions of federal dollars spent nationwide on youth mentoring, after-school programs, meals for senior citizens, and housing and street projects in low- to middle-income neighborhoods could be slashed under President Barack Obama's proposed 2012 budget -- or eliminated entirely.
Obama's budget proposes cutting annual Community Development Block Grants by 7.5 percent, or $300 million, meaning that fewer of those federal dollars would go to cities -- including Fort Worth and Arlington -- that depend on them.
Some members of Congress are proposing cutting all funding for the program.
"This is a scary deal," said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck, who is also president of the Texas Municipal League. "It would decimate us and other cities. We depend on that money for projects ... trying to make life better for certain people."
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Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said: "This is a critical funding stream to help us provide for valuable projects for the city and the county and there is no replacement for those dollars. It would be an injustice to the citizens we serve to not provide these dollars."
The federal program began in the mid-1970s as a way to help communities with economic development, affordable housing, infrastructure improvements and more. Through the years, it has been used to help youths and senior citizens, build roads, and spruce up Arlington's Parkway Central Park and Fort Worth neighborhoods such as Stop Six Sunrise Edition, South Hemphill Heights and Fairmount.
Euless, for instance, receives about $300,000 a year on average that can be used for water and wastewater line rehabilitation or a capital infrastructure project. If the funding is cut, "this would probably mean we would either have to apply the reduced funding to a smaller project or cover the additional cost on our own," said Betsy Deck, a city spokeswoman.
In Arlington, the grants help fund programs such as youth mentoring, meals for senior citizens, after-school programs, eviction prevention and child care. The funds, and sister program HOPE, also help with public facility improvements, infrastructure and housing rehabilitation, Cluck wrote recently in a Star-Telegram op-ed article.
Jobs have been created in the city, and housing has been improved or modified for residents with disabilities. In the past five years, grants for public service have helped more than 12,000 mostly low-income people with tutoring, dental services, literacy, and job-skills training and services for neglected and abused children, officials say.
In Fort Worth, grant money -- more than $7 million last year -- has been used to tear down an abandoned nursing home, build streets, provide after-school and senior citizen care and fund the Cowtown Brush Up program that spruces up homes of elderly, disabled and low-income residents.
Cutting the grants by 7.5 percent probably would not lead to any municipal job losses in Fort Worth, officials said. But eliminating the program's funding could cost the city up to 40 jobs and hurt services to about 20,000 residents per year, said Jay Chapa, Fort Worth's housing and economic development director.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610