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CDBG Funding in Elkhart in jeopardy

Elkhart, IN -- Some serious grant money in Elkhart is on the line.

The city council is deciding if they want to renew a longstanding federal grant program in the city that helps people in urban communities with things like housing, education and employment. They say they are questioning if the program has had it’s intended impact on the community.

According to the Finance Committee, in the last 20 years Elkhart has received $25 million from the Community Development Block Grant program.

Chair of the Finance Committee and Councilmember David Henke says when the city first started using CDBG funds they anticipated that low income areas would shrink and the need for help would be reduced.

He says now, even more residents qualify for CDBG assistance and low income areas now account for a third of the city.

“So we did not solve the issue after all of these years. If we keep throwing the same money at the same locations and it’s not getting fixed, it’s still the most undesirable place to live with the lowest value of tax return to the city obviously that’s a broken program. This program has failed, and we keep on repeating it year after year after year,” says Henke.

Henke is hoping this could be the last year the city uses the money, provided by the federal government.

The 2017 Action Plan accounts for dozens of programs that would receive a total of $742,000.

When proposed to the council for a vote in May, it was deferred to the Finance Committee for further discussion.

They will have 60 days to decide whether to accept or reject the money.

For the last ten years, CDBG money has funded a chronic disease self-management program offered through the Minority Health Coalition. Helping hundreds of residents who are at a high risk of becoming homeless: elderly people, who are financially unstable and suffering with a chronic disease.

Executive Director Tara Morris says without the $5,000 dollars from CDBG they have asked for this year, that program wouldn’t be able to continue.

“That money has been very important in what we do when we think about chronic disease self-management. They help them to think, take care of themselves, show them how to do an action plan and make sure they stay in contact with the resources that are out there. Just take a hard look at it and open up your heart because those monies are needed,” says Morris.

But why give up free federal tax money? Councilman Henke says if Elkhart doesn’t take it the money will go to other communities.

“But, how long is it going to be before politicians finally say ‘this is a failed program; we are no longer interested in perpetuating a known failed program,’” says Henke.

Council President Brian Dickerson says the larger picture has to be considered in making the decision.

“As many people know, the federal government is running out of money. They have a strong deficit and so the question is do we want to add to that? And the answer is no,” says Dickerson.

Councilman Henke says he is still open to the idea of accepting the money this year. Discussions will continue until the council votes in August.

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