03.16.15

SCHUMER, STANDING WITH MAYORS & OTHER OFFICIALS FROM TOWNS OF ONONDAGA, ELBRIDGE, LAFAYETTE, SKANEATELES, VAN BUREN & VILLAGES OF JORDAN, BALDWINSVILLE & MARCELLUS, BLASTS HUD FOR PULLING OUT RUG FROM COMMUNITIES THAT WERE RELYING ON FED FUNDS FOR CRITICIAL INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS – ONONDAGA COUNTY COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN WRONGFULLY DENIED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS THEY WERE PROMISED

Fed Dept. of Housing & Urban Development Had Approved Hundreds of Thousands in Fed CDBG Funds To Infrastructure Projects In Towns & Villages Across Onondaga County, But Recently Rescinded Those Funds After New Census Data Lumped Communities Eligible To Receive Funds Together With Towns That Were Ineligible For Funding – HUD Then Backed Out Of Promise, Leaving Communities With Nowhere to Turn

 

Schumer Says HUD Should Not Change The Rules Mid-Game; Pushes HUD to Provide Funding Onondaga Communities Were Relying On – Town Of Onondaga Was Set To Make Critical Sewer Repairs That Would Prevent Raw Sewage From Seeping Onto Homeowners’ Front Lawns; HUD Reversal Has Left Projects Like Onondaga’s & Many Others in Limbo

 

Schumer: Onondaga County Communities Should Not Suffer Because HUD Moved The Goalposts

 

Today, in the Town of Onondaga, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer blasted a recent decision by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to rescind federal funds that had been promised for local infrastructure projects in the Towns of Onondaga, Elbridge, LaFayette, the Town of Skaneateles, Van Buren, and the Villages of Jordan, Baldwinsville, and Marcellus. Schumer explained that HUD had approved federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to go to these communities in September of last year – and, as a result, these communities began spending money on design and planning of various projects – but HUD pulled the funding in November after it decided to use new census data to determine how to allocate CDBG dollars. The new data HUD was using considered these communities, which had been eligible for funding, now wholly part of communities that were ineligible for funding due to their high income levels. This change has resulted in towns having to put critical projects on hold that were set to receive these federal funds. For example, the Town of Onondaga was set to spend its CDBG allocation on a project to make critical repairs to its sewer and septic system in an area where sewage has been seeping onto homeowners’ front lawns. As a result of HUD’s decision, this project is on hold. Schumer said that HUD unfairly moved the goalposts on these towns and villages and that HUD should honor its initial commitment to provide funding for these local projects.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s decision to move the goalposts right in the middle of the game affects a large number of towns and villages in Onondaga County, and it is one of those things that makes people scratch their heads and say, ‘What the heck is going on in Washington?’” said Schumer. “We need to make sure that we are constantly taking a look at federal programs and finding ways to make them more efficient and cost-effective, but HUD’s decision to rescind funding two months after it had agreed to it is unfair and must be reversed. I am calling on HUD to honor their initial decision to award these towns and villages federal funding. It’s a few hundred thousand dollars – a drop in the bucket to HUD that means everything for a Village like Jordan or a Town like Onondaga.”

Schumer explained that in September of 2014 Onondaga County was informed by HUD that its action plan for how to spend roughly $500,000 in federal CDBG funds was approved. As part of its action plan, Onondaga County identified upwards of 20 local projects throughout the county to fund with these CDBG funds, including critical local infrastructure projects in the Towns of Onondaga, Elbridge, LaFayette, the Town of Skaneateles, Van Buren, and the Villages of Jordan, Baldwinsville, and Marcellus. However, in November 2014, just two months after the action plan was approved, HUD did an about-face and deemed many projects ineligible to receive funding after deciding to change the way it determined how to allocate CDBG dollars. Schumer said this change in HUD policy left many towns and villages ineligible to receive CDBG funds, putting local projects in jeopardy that had been set to get off the ground.

Schumer explained that the reason why the towns and villages listed above were made ineligible is because all of a sudden HUD decided to use new census data to lump them in with adjacent towns and villages that had always been ineligible due to having income levels that were too high to receive CDBG funding, which is intended for lower income communities. Now, with the new data HUD is using to consider these communities for funding, whole towns and villages in Onondaga County that were once eligible are now deemed ineligible due to their high income levels. Specifically, HUD eliminated its “split-block groups,” which once allowed for the splitting of towns and villages and allowed them to remain separate from their higher per capita neighbors. Now, these villages and towns are being lumped in with higher-income areas and, therefore, being made ineligible to receive this funding. Another reason why these communities are losing their eligibility is due to HUD’s decision to use the Census’ new American Community Survey (ACS)-based Low and Moderate Income Summary Data (LMISD) datasets. These ACS datasets use a truncated sample size and have a larger sampling error than the Census Long Form survey that was used in the past. In the case of the Town of Onondaga, this is why it has all of a sudden been deemed ineligible for funding. 

Now, villages and towns that were once eligible to receive CDBG funds are finding they are no longer eligible for these critical funds they were relying on. What’s more, Schumer said, is that these communities began spending money on the design and planning of various projects when they found out they were initially approved by HUD in September 2014. Now, Schumer said, these funds have been pulled out from under them and they must deal with the impact of already spending money on projects that are no longer eligible as well as trying to locate additional sources of funding because this CDBG funding has been pulled.

 

For example, last year the Village of Jordan—which has a population of just over 1,000—was considered 100 percent CDBG eligible. With the new HUD policy, Jordan today is 100 percent ineligible to receive CDBG. In the village of Baldwinsville, certain areas of their village where a CDBG project needs to occur is now per capita income ineligible by two tenths of 1 percent, according to HUD. Schumer blasted HUD for this splitting of hairs that has pulled the rug out from under these communities, which were relying on these federal funds to make the critical infrastructure improvements needed in their villages and towns. Under HUD’s previous rules, all of these communities were eligible for funding. Schumer said that HUD unfairly moved the goalposts on these towns and villages and that HUD should honor its initial commitment to provide funding for these local projects.

 

CDBG funds are distributed to counties across the U.S., where they are then dispersed to villages and towns within the county to fund development projects. According to HUD, the CDBG program provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. The CDBG program funds affordable housing projects, provides services to the most vulnerable in our communities, and creates jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses. The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to 1,209 general units of local government and States. Schumer said these grants are critical to towns and villages within counties like Onondaga because they are capable of funding the kinds of business development, housing, and revitalization projects that have the potential to be a boon to the local and regional economies.

 

Schumer said a local project in the Town of Onondaga was a prime example of an effort set to be funded by CDBG dollars that was critical to residents. Specifically, the Town of Onondaga was set to receive $100,000 in federal funds to make critical repairs to its sewer and septic system to better protect homeowners’ properties and improve public health. Schumer explained that, along Whedon Road and Onondaga Blvd in the Town of Onondaga, residents have had to experience untreated sewage seeping onto their front lawns as a result of a 100-year-old, overtaxed sewer system that often reaches capacity during severe rain events and dumps this sewage into nearby properties. This CDBG funding was set to cover 20 percent of the cost of the project and help provide for the removal of the sewage that has been discharged onto residents’ front lawns and the construction of approximately 2,000 feet of new sewer pipe and eight sanitary sewer manhole structures. Schumer said the purpose of this funding was to implement a reliable sewer system for residents currently living in a lower-income area in the Town of Onondaga, but now, this project is on hold due to the abrupt change in HUD policy.

 

Another project Schumer highlighted was the critical infrastructure improvement needed in the Village of Jordan, located within the Town of Onondaga. In Jordan, the village was set to begin with Phase Two of a project to alleviate residential flooding and keep school children safe when walking on the side of the road with drainage and sidewalk improvements. Currently, there is no sidewalk for approximately 200 feet on the east side of Hamilton Street in the Village of Jordan. For this stretch of road, pedestrians, including school children, are forced to walk on the edge of the road pavement due to the open ditch running from an 18-unit apartment complex on the corner of Clinton Street where it intersects with Hamilton. This project was set to receive $50,000 in federal CDBG funds for the installation of a new catch basin at the intersection of Hamilton and Clinton Streets to connect drainage systems and alleviate flooding, as well as replace and widen the sidewalk on these two streets so children are not forced to walk on the edge of the road every day. This project is also now at risk because of this change in HUD policy that came after the funds were already approved.

 

Schumer was joined by mayors and local officials from the Towns Of Onondaga, Elbridge, LaFayette, Skaneateles, Van Buren and the Villages of Jordan, Baldwinsville and Marcellus.

 

Schumer said that, as a result of HUD’s decision to change the way it determined CDBG funding eligibility, towns and villages like Onondaga and Jordan are being forced to put critical projects on hold that were set to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for local infrastructure-specific projects. The Village of Baldwinsville was set to receive more than $56,000 for improvements to its community park and a walkway extension to River Street. The Town of Clay was set to receive $50,000 to make needed improvements to Gaskin and North Roads. The Town of Elbridge was to receive over $26,000 to remodel the kitchen of its community center. The Town of LaFayette would have received more than $37,000 to make improvements to the Stafford Park baseball and tennis courts. The Town of Skaneateles was set to receive $45,000 for improvements to a playground and recreation park. The Town of Van Buren would have received $50,000 for Phase Two of its rehabilitation project to improve drainage on Henderson Blvd. The Village of Marcellus was set to receive $47,000 for sidewalk improvements to Scotch Hill Road. And the Village of Jordan was set to receive another $50,000 for Phase Three of its stabilization and planting project for Clinton Terrace.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development appears below:

 

Dear Secretary Julian Castro:

 

I write to encourage you to reconsider the decision to deny Community Development Block Grant funding to towns and villages in Onondaga County, New York. These communities were originally approved for funding in Onondaga County’s action plan, but the funding was denied two months later due to new HUD eligibility rules. These communities rely on CDBG dollars and they should be able to keep the funds they were originally told they would receive.

 

In September 2014, the towns of Onondaga, Elbridge, LaFayette, the Town of Skaneateles, Van Buren, and the Villages of Jordan, Baldwinsville, and Marcellus were part of Onondaga County’s approved CDBG action plan. These communities began spending money on design and planning of various projects. Two months later, in November of 2014, these communities were told they were no longer eligible to use CDBG dollars that had been approved. These Onondaga County Towns that were previously eligible for CDBG dollars, suddenly found themselves ineligible due to HUD’s new census data and the elimination of “split-block groups,” which allowed for the splitting of towns and villages to remain separate from their higher per capita neighbors. 

 

This change has resulted in towns having to put critical projects on hold that were set to receive these federal funds. For example, the Town of Onondaga was set to spend its CDBG allocation on a project to make critical repairs to its sewer and septic system in an area where sewage has been seeping onto homeowners’ front lawns. The Village of Jordan, was set to begin with Phase Two of a project to alleviate residential flooding and keep school children safe when walking on the side of the road with drainage and sidewalk improvements. The Village of Baldwinsville was set to receive more than $56,000 for improvements to its community park and a walkway extension to River Street. The Town of Clay was set to receive $50,000 to make needed improvements to Gaskin and North Roads. The Town of Elbridge was to receive over $26,000 to remodel the kitchen of its community center. The Town of LaFayette would have received more than $37,000 to make improvements to the Stafford Park baseball and tennis courts. The Town of Skaneateles was set to receive $45,000 for improvements to a playground and recreation park. The Town of Van Buren would have received $50,000 for Phase Two of its rehabilitation project to improve drainage on Henderson Blvd. The Village of Marcellus was set to receive $47,000 for sidewalk improvements to Scotch Hill Road. And the Village of Jordan was set to receive another $50,000 for Phase Three of its stabilization and planting project for Clinton Terrace. Under HUD’s new rules these projects are being held up and local officials have no idea when they will have the funding they need to get them underway.

 

I believe these projects in Onondaga County are a perfect fit for CDBG dollars and that the eligibility requirements should not be changed after an award has been made.  HUD should honor its commitment and provide funding for those worthy projects.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

                                                                                         

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

 

 

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