Haverhill Officials Lament a Drop in Federal Community Development Block Grant Help

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan. (WHAV News file photograph by Jay Saulnier.)

Haverhill is again divvying up its Community Development Block Grant among city and nonprofit programs, but a slight population drop means a little less of the federal money.

Community Development Director William Pillsbury Jr. told the City Council Tuesday said the 50-year-old program is trending downward.

“Sometimes, as populations fluctuate and our population did fluctuate downwards a little bit, we lost about $17,000 this year off the grant. Not a large amount but, you know, I remember several years we were over a million dollars and we’re down now in the 937 range,” he said.

Unlike smaller cities, Haverhill is an “entitlement” community, meaning it receives Community Development Block Grant directly from Washington each year. Pillsbury explained much of it supports community development activities, particularly for low to moderate income residents.

“The CDBG is involved in trying to deal with neighborhood stabilization from the point of view of having housing rehabilitation funds, fixing up owner-occupied housing, working on code enforcement, fixing up the public improvements of sidewalks and streets and trees in the area. We have to spend the money on low and moderate income people and that’s what we do,” he said.

Pillsbury said even though the population dropped somewhat this year, the reality is the need did not, particularly in the areas of fuel and food costs.

Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan, who, in the past, has expressed his dissatisfaction with the diminishing financial support communities are receiving from the state and federal government, voiced his feelings on the matter.

“I’m very happy that we continue to receive these funds, but very disappointed that the amount continues to go down at the federal level every year. It’s just part of a disturbing trend,” he said.

As a result, councilors voted to not only authorize Mayor James J. Fiorentini to submit the grant spending plans, but also agreed to Sullivan’s proposal to send a letter to both the city’s state and federal representatives asking them to increase allocations for these projects.

Both votes passed by an 8-0 margin with Councilor Michael S. McGonagle absent.

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