For many people below the poverty line, certain expenses thought of as small for most can be a huge chunk of change. Twenty-two percent of Lee County residents live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Data.
The City of Auburn’s Community Development Division held two public hearings for the Community Development Block Grant, a program providing funds for services for low-to-moderate-income individuals, on Monday.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocates funding to Auburn annually for the CDBG.
“CDBG funds only benefit programs and activities that go to benefit that individual that is low to moderate income,” said Todd White, director of community development for the City of Auburn, at the meeting Monday night.
Examples of these services include emergency housing repair offered through the Presbyterian Community Ministry, youth programs available with the Boys and Girls Club and the Food Bank’s Brown Bag program.
“Say, if you need a door replaced, and it is a housing rehab or housing repair,” White said. “You would go to Presbyterian Community Ministry, and you would walk in there and apply, and they would repair your door for like $500, and then we reimburse them.”
The first public hearing was held at the Frank Brown Recreation Center and the second at the Auburn Center for Developing Industries.
Charlotte Mattox, the family self-sufficiency and social services coordinator with the Auburn Housing Authority, spoke at the meeting Monday night about the impact CDBG funding has for the housing authority’s residents. She referenced one resident who could only get to work because of the transportation that the housing authority offers.
“She is not physically able to get a driver’s license, but she is physically able to hold down a job,” Mattox said. “So if we didn’t have that transportation, she couldn’t have a job. It makes a big difference.”
Mattox said they also provide enrichment after-school programs, laptop fees for middle school children and fees for graduating high school seniors.
“All that adds up, and someone that has a job, sometimes it’s hard to afford it,” she said. “Imagine somebody that doesn’t have a job. … So this gives the kids an opportunity that they have when they normally wouldn’t.”
White said that many low-to-moderate-income individuals are cost burdened or severely cost burdened, meaning they spend 30 to 40 percent, respectively, of their gross annual income on housing-related expenses.
“What we’re trying to provide them, or what HUD would like for us to provide, is some quality of life or some measurable quality of life, not just giveaways, but opportunities that they have some measurable quality of life,” White said.
The hearings allow the public to learn about the program and offer citizens the opportunity to see if their organization qualifies for funding under the grant.
“This public hearing and the one I had this morning are specifically so that people like Charlotte or individuals that have never gotten this funding before, people that don’t know anything about it, can come in and say, ‘I have this program,’” said White. "They have an opportunity to publicly describe it, talk about it, get my feedback.”
Typically, few people come to the public hearings, White said, as the type of assistance they need can be handled over the phone, through email or on their application.
White said that the CDBG strives to create incentives for new and startup programs such as nonprofits.
The city is currently reviewing CDBG applications and will decide where to allocate funds and come up with a budget between now and April 1.