Acronyms can make just about anything sound boring, including CDBG. But this boring acronym makes a big difference in the lives of individuals around our region. CDBG stands for Community Development Block Grant. It’s a federal program that distributes money to cities to spend on challenges facing low-income populations. The great thing is that cities have some leeway in deciding how to use the money. Most often, you see it used to develop parks or sidewalks in poor neighborhoods, to help pay for needed housing improvements like ramps or handrails, and to make sure the elderly and disabled have transportation to their medical appointments, the grocery store, etc.
On Tuesday, Rogers City Council will review its plan for how it plans to spend $421,000 in CDBG funds this year. Here’s how the money will help Rogers residents this year.
By far the largest chunk of the budget, this almost quarter-million dollar investment will help low-income families live in safer homes. The projects 12 projects scheduled this year might include fixing roofs, plumbing or electrical; adding ramps or handrails or otherwise making the home accessible to a disabled or elderly owner; or weatherizing the home for lower energy bills.
This $25,000 is a real game-changer. It provides low-income, disabled or elderly residents with transportation to go to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, church, post office, etc. City staff said that several of the regular program users are on chemotherapy or dialysis and have no other transportation options to receive their life-saving treatment.
Depending on need, the program uses Ozark Regional Transit, NWA Taxi and Ambassador Transportation. The passes can’t be used to visit liquor stores, smoke shops or bars.
The city helps support the Benton County Girls & Boys Club, which provides after school and summer care for low-income children. We all know how expensive childcare can be. Having this resource allows parents to work or further their education without breaking the bank. The kids receive benefits, too, like access to food all summer, year-round academic tutoring and field trips to places they’d never be able to visit otherwise.
CASA is a child advocacy service that speaks up for abused and neglected children. This year’s funds will provide advocacy for 25 children to ensure the kids are in a safe environment and receiving medical and psychological care. There are also services aimed toward helping parents stop the cycle of abuse.
Souls Harbor provides food, clothing, shelter, education and job opportunities to homeless men. The city plans to help the shelter upgrade its HVAC unit, windows and insulation; add a meeting area for case workers and residents and a classroom space.
The city will help the Sunshine School and Development Center provide at least eight scholarships for low- and reduced-tuition for its preschool enrichment program.
This covers the cost of a city staff member to administer the CDBG program, office supplies and advertising about the program. The city estimates it touches about 3,000 residents each year through CDBG funds.