WESTFIELD – Community Development Director Peter J. Miller led two public hearings on Jan. 27 on the 2021 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program administered through the city’s Community Development department.
Miller gave an overview of the Housing and Urban Development CDBG program, which started in 1974 to expand housing, public services and economic development for low to moderate income households and neighborhoods. Westfield as an entitlement community is funded annually, with an expected 2021 grant of $376,000.
Historically, the grant funds public services, such as the Westfield Food Pantry, Council on Aging Companionship Program, Camp for Kids, Boys & Girls Club summer camp program and others. Public services are capped at 15 percent of the grant, although that cap was waived in 2020 due to COVID-19, and Miller is hoping it will be waived again in 2021.
Also funded are economic development through small business assistance; public facilities, such as handicap bathrooms in the Westfield Athenaeum; housing rehabilitation grants for low to moderate income families, and sidewalk and road projects in low-income neighborhoods primarily in downtown Westfield. 20 percent of the grant also pays for administration by the city.
Last year, in addition to the annual grant, Westfield received two rounds of emergency CARES Act funding through the CDBG programming — $216,000 in the first round and $330,000 in the second round – totalling almost twice the regular annual allocation.
Miller said the city focused the emergency funds on two areas, investing $270,000 in emergency business assistance for small businesses experiencing losses due to COVID-19 shutdowns. He said to date they have given out 26 grants to city businesses, and expect to do another 8 to 10 going forward.
Additional funds were also provided to the Westfield Food Pantry for additional meals, and to the Boys & GIrls Club for supplies for the remote learning site program for Westfield students.
The emergency grant also enabled the city to start a new emergency rental assistance program through the Valley Opportunity Council for families who lost income due to COVID-19 and are more than 30 days overdue on rent. The goal is to help 80 families with the grant.
For the 2021 CDBG program cycle, Miller said the city’s goal is to spend the annual grant on the programs that benefit low-to-moderate income families.
Agencies and organizations seeking CDBG funding in 2021 may call or email the Office of Community Development to request instructions and an application at [email protected] or phone at 413-572-6246. Applications are also available at cityofwestfield.org under Community Development/Community Development Block Grants.
Miller said applicants need to provide smart goals that are specific, detailing who is going to be involved, what need is being addressed, and how it will be accomplished. He said applications should include target dates, and how many people and which population will be served.
“We are under pretty significant stress from HUD to update databases every quarter as to how many people are being served, because HUD is under pressure from Congress to justify CDBG,” Miller said.
Applications are due by March 12 at 4 p.m. Miller said as long as they have an electronic copy by the deadline, the application will be considered. However, he said the office would still like two paper applications for review.
“We are available upon request to discuss any applications,” Miller said.