In Pittsburgh, approximately 50 percent of the city is eligible to receive Community Block Development Grant dollars through a program enacted in 1974 in an effort to extinguish poverty and urban blight.

The program provides grants for a wide range of projects that address the housing, economic and human service needs of low- and moderate-income residents and neighborhoods. Still, community groups and public officials worry this money is not being targeted for the neighborhoods where it is most needed.

Rev. Ricky Burgess speaks at press conference prior to the meeting in council chambers.

At a city council meeting June 16, council members discussed several pieces of legislation aimed at helping neighborhoods receive the resources necessary to improve or maintain their quality of life.

“A little bit more than half the city is CDBG eligible. So what this does is it changes the way in which CDBG dollars are allocated,” said District 9 Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess. “It will provide an increase in funding for what these communities need. It’s really an attempt to give poor and working people the dollars they deserve.”

The bills, first proposed by Burgess in April, would prevent the city from using CDBG dollars for other city needs and would create a more transparent and community driven planning process.

“This legislation already talks about how these dollars are supposed to be spent,” said Burgess. “The other bill provides a better method for how the process is discussed.”

This year the city will receive approximately $16.5 million in CDBG funds. Through the new legislation, Burgess’ district comprised of Homewood, East Hills and Garfield would see an increase in funds to $114,362.

Under the new legislation the city would have to develop a comprehensive, six-year Capital Improvement Plan to be submitted to city council with the annual operating and capital budgets each year. This would include the establishment of a multi-departmental Capital Improvement Committee to design the Capital Improvement Plan and Annual Capital Budget and special meetings with registered community groups.

“I think there needs to be some equity in the distribution of those funds. As it seems to be right now that is not the case,” said Melvin Pollard, a member of the Black Political Empowerment Project. “So with transparency and some type of formula I think it will bring about more equity.”

Several community groups, including B-PEP, attended the council meeting in support of the legislation. As frequent recipients of CDBG dollars, this legislation would ensure non-profit organizations are able to continue working in low-income neighborhoods.

“Over the years there has been a disparity in distributing funds, particularly to low- and moderate-income communities,” Pollard said. “The equity of the dollars could be used for a myriad of things. I know if properly distributed equitably to the minority communities some of those dollars could help to build small enterprise-making incubators. Some of those dollars could go to home ownership.”

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