Changes to Great Falls CDBG process, public needs hearing on commission agenda

The city’s beleaguered Community Development Block Grant program is back on the City Commission agenda Tuesday night with a needs hearing and consideration of the new grant policies.

The city has been revamping the process to limit the conflict of interest issues that were highlighted in the process last year and led to a review by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

City staff proposing major changes to CDBG process; HUD looking at additional potential conflicts

In March, the city submitted their grant policies and citizen participation plan to HUD and on April 4, received a response from Don Morris, senior community planning and development representative at HUD, indicating their were no issues and the documents met HUD requirements.

City sent response letter to HUD on conflict of interest issues, awaiting response

The CDBG and HOME programs are federal programs administered by HUD to help fund local community development programs including affordable housing, anti-poverty measures, new and expanded public service programs and community infrastructure projects. The programs are meant to assist low and moderate income populations.

Commission approves CDBG funds for Great Falls park, sidewalks, housing authority

Staff is proposing major changes to the city’s CDBG program including:

  • Greater emphasis on obtaining community input for proposed funding goals through comprehensive surveying and outreach;
  • City Commission adoption of program funding goals and allocation percentages rather than consideration and acceptance of individual projects;
  • City staff evaluation of funding applications and elimination of the Community Development Council;
  • Year-round review of funding applications to replace the compressed timeline previously used for evaluating project applications;
  • City staff administration of economic development and housing loan requests to replace the Great Falls Development Authority and NeighborWorks Great Falls administration of such programs. Loan applications would still be reviewed by 3rd party loan boards;
  • Elimination of Public Facility funding requests from non-profits in favor of City applications of such requests;
  • City administration of the Revolving Loan Fund Program to replace NWGF.

The proposed changes were presented to the City Commission during work sessions on Nov. 21, 2017 and April 3.

Staff making recommendations for revised Great Falls CDBG process; grant funding

Commissioners could change the policies or citizen participation plan, but if the policy document is changed, it would need to be submitted to HUD for final approval, delaying the Annual Action Plan schedule and possibly preventing the city from making the June 30 deadline.

The city has to meet all HUD requirements to receive CDBG funding. Last year, the city received $702,709 in CDBG and $191,100 in HOME funds.

Mayor issues apology on CDBG process; staff addresses recent HUD letter

On Tuesday, the commission is expected to conduct a public hearing to gather input on how the city’s CDBG and HOME allocations should be used.

Survey is first step in city’s revamped CDBG process

The comments from the hearing, along with the city’s survey responses and outreach process will shape the commission’s funding allocation decision, which is currently scheduled for the May 1 meeting.