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N.H. community development grants on hold without long-term federal budget

  • Scenes from the Concord YMCA Child Development Center at the historic fire house in downtown Concord on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Monday, April 10, 2017

The YMCA in Concord won a $500,000 federal grant to spruce up the historic firehouse that hosts its child care facility, but four other organizations that would have been granted similar funding might not be so lucky.

The Community Development Finance Authority, a state agency that administers the federal dollars, said it has to hold off on handing out $2 million in community development block grants because of Congress’ failure to pass a long-term budget bill.

Money for four projects – including affordable housing in Exeter and a child advocacy center renovation in Laconia – is suspended until a solution in Washington in reached.

“It’s upsetting,” said Taylor Caswell, executive director of the CDFA. “These are crucial projects in a lot of communities.”

Since the CDFA has some cash on hand, it will be able to go through with the grant for the YMCA, assuming it is approved by the governor and Executive Council.

The YMCA hopes to adapt its steam heating system ahead of Concord Steam’s planned closure, to repair a broken elevator and to install a new playground – along with a variety of other enhancements.

“We feel very fortunate,” CEO Jim Doremus said of the nonprofit’s pending funding.

Typically the federal government tells the state in January how much money it can award in Community Development Block Grants, Caswell said. The state generally gets about $8 million each year.

But this year’s funding is in limbo after Congress passed a stopgap spending plan that expires April 28, Caswell said. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has yet to release funding figures.

“We can’t provide funding awards to projects if we don’t even have an idea from HUD exactly how much we are going to have,” Caswell said. “Until we get that, we can’t really go making promises based on good faith.”

The awards on hold include $455,000 for Belknap County to renovate a 4,000-square-foot building in Laconia to support child victims of physical and sexual abuse and kids who have witnessed violent crime.

New Hampshire’s Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan criticized the outcome, with Hassan calling out Republicans in control of Congress for playing “partisan games” with the budget.

President Donald Trump’s own spending blueprint would eliminate the $3 billion in funding for the 42-year-old Community Development Block Grant program. The CDFA has awarded more than $126 million in grants to projects statewide since 2003, according to the organization. The money supports economic development projects and affordable housing development.

(Nick Reid contributed to this report. Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com)