City Receives About $876,000 in Declining Federal Grant

Massachusetts Third District Congresswoman Niki Tsongas.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

The city of Haverhill is in line to receive $875,511 this year in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding “to support housing rehabilitation, public service projects and local infrastructure.”

Grant funds have been declining since 2001, according to the federal Government Accounting Office.

Under federal rules, spending of the city’s allocation from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is entirely at the discretion of Mayor James J. Fiorentini. A Community Affairs Advisory Board makes recommendations to the mayor. In a statement Monday, Massachusetts Third District Congresswoman Niki Tsongas said the annual CDBG grants are “some of the most valuable tools cities have to promote economic development, modernize infrastructure, and respond flexibly to local challenges.”

“CDBG is one of the federal government’s most cost effective programs, enabling communities in my district, in Massachusetts and across America to leverage their resources to quickly respond to emerging needs. They’re an excellent investment in our communities and provide benefits well into the future,” Tsongas said.

The federal program dates back to the administration of President Gerald Ford and, for Haverhill, replaced money set aside for urban renewal demolition programs. Haverhill is an “entitlement community” under the law that went into effect in 1975. Up to 20 percent of the money may be used for “administrative costs”—typically paying for all or a part of some City Hall jobs.

City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.

City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.

Last December, as WHAV reported, Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan led a call for restoration of funding from CDBG monies for shelter services, including homeless intervention, to Emmaus, Inc. During a council meeting then, Sullivan said he learned the stipend had been “cut substantially” down to $7,000 last year. In the past, according to Sullivan, the city gave Emmaus as much as about $60,000 a year in CDBG monies to “help offset expenses for the men’s shelter known as Mitch’s Place.”

“At a time when homelessness is on the rise, it doesn’t make sense to be slashing our annual contribution to Emmaus,” Sullivan said at the time. “Think about what our city would be like if not for Emmaus’s great work over the past 30 years.”

As WHAV also reported in March, 2015, Fiorentini used some of last year’s CDBG grant in an effort to help 10 families become first-time homebuyers. It was twice the number of families helped in 2014, as he reported at the time in a state of the city address.

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