Despite being more than a month past the start of the city’s fiscal year, Gainesville has yet to receive any payout from its annual grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Those funds, approximately $2 million, were scheduled to be released on Oct. 1.
Each year, the city receives grants as part of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership (HOME) programs, which are set aside to help support affordable housing development and non-profits. Last year, those funds, totaling approximately $1.9 million, were awarded to the city in August.
In February, the city received a letter from HUD that it was set to receive nearly $2 million in CDBG and HOME grants this year, but as of the start of the city’s fiscal year on Oct. 1, the city is still waiting for the funds.
While the city is required to submit an annual action plan to the Jacksonville field office for the grant money, because these grants are for a five-year duration, it is also required to submit a consolidated action plan at the start of each five-year block. That is where the current holdup is, as the city is waiting for the final contract from HUD.
Vian Cockerham-Guinyard, the Housing and Community Development supervisor for the City of Gainesville, said the city submitted the consolidated action plan proposal to Jacksonville back in August, but it has yet to be approved, as HUD has asked for some adjustments.
“They asked us to fine tune some documents,” she said. “We actually submitted this in August, so they have 45 days to review. Once they review, if there are any questions or anything they want a little more clarification on, they’ll send it back to us for update, and so, they sent that back to us. We submitted it back to them on Oct. 4, so the 45 days starts again.”
As of Nov. 14, the city has confirmed they still have yet to receive the grants.
In a statement provided to WUFT News, the city said it was “still awaiting HUD grant agreements (CDBG and HOME) to begin the required reviews and signature process,” and that a representative from Community Planning & Development is “checking on the status of the grant agreements to determine when we might expect to receive them.”
In October, Cockerham-Guinyard told the Citizen Advisory Committee for Community Development that the hold up in funding should not be a significant issue.
“We under CBG allocated $20,000 to [Habitat for Humanity],” she said, “so even though we are into the new fiscal year, once we get the contracts up, even though they may say it was quote signed on Dec. 15, they get to go back to Oct. 1 to begin their expense compilation. So, they don’t lose any time.”
She also noted that the city still has reserves left from previous years’ grants.
However, according to Lauri Schiffbauer, executive director of St. Francis House, the extended delay in funding is proving to be a challenge for the organization.
“Of course this is a financial challenge for us as we budgeted for the year including those funds being available Oct. 1.”
According to the city’s plans, St. Francis House was expected to receive over $60,000, helping to fund the emergency and cold night shelters, as well as Arbor House.
Despite the challenges, Schiffbauer stressed that she does not blame the city for the delay.
“It would be irresponsible for the city to issue CDBG contracts recipients without the city having its contract in place,” she said.
Due to its population and poverty index, which is determined by the US census, Gainesville does not have to compete for federal dollars under the CBDG and HOME programs. However, the city needs to provide HUD plans for how the money will be used, as well as submit receipts annually proving the money has been spent.
The nearly $2 million in HUD grants is set to mostly be split between public services, affordable housing programs and city housing programs.
Among the other public service organizations set to receive a grant are the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council, the Black on Black Crime Task Force, and the Star Center Children’s Theatre. Each is set to receive $10,000 under the proposed annual action plan within the next year.
The federal government requires that 70% of the money from these grants must be used to assist people with low-moderate income within the city limits.
According to Cockerham-Guinyard, most of the work is done through city contracts and is reimbursed by the city later.
“Everyone’s got to put their money up front in order to get that ultimate reimbursement,” she said.
The Citizen Advisory Committee for Community Development members remained hopeful that the grants would be approved before their next meeting on Dec. 19.