‘TIS BLOCK GRANT SEASON: Federal dollars for community development announced

COUNTY PRESS RELEASE–Rockland County Executive Ed Day on Wednesday announced numerous initiatives at the Office of Community Development as a result of his review of that agency and revealed this year’s Block Grant recipients.

He made the announcements at Hyenga Lake Senior Housing complex in Clarkstown, where he met with tenants and staff.

“Hyenga Lake illustrates the progress we are making under my administration to use the funds that Rockland County receives in the Office of Community Development to actually help the people of Rockland County,” the County Executive said.

For example, Community Development receives funding from HUD for a program called HOME: Tenant Based Rental Assistance. The program allows clients to pay 30 percent of their income for rent, with vouchers paid by the federal government making up the rest.

For years, this funding sat in an account at Community Development, unused for so long that the federal government was preparing to take the money back.

“This was just one of the many problems I inherited at Community Development,” Day said. “I ordered a top to bottom review of Community Development and my staff found that these funds were not being used. That has now changed.”

There are now 59 people were enrolled in the HOME: Tenant Based Rental Assistance program, an allocation of $585,960 that the federal government was about to seize.

“Those are 59 Rockland residents who now have safe and affordable housing all over Rockland County, including Hyenga Lake,” Day said.

Hyenga Lake Tenant Mike Perkins, 61, told the County Executive that he was close to being homeless when he found last fall that he was eligible for the program.

“It was like a dream come true,” he said.

Resurrection of this long-dormant program is just one sign of progress in the Office of Community Development. There are numerous others, including:

• The allocation of $1.5 million in HUD funds that were in jeopardy of being taken by the federal government due to failure to use from 2009-2015.
• Entering into an $800,000 contract to help pay for the acquisition of a 55-unit complex for low income families in Spring Valley.
• Collection of $50,000 in payments for defaulted Section 108 loans. And all but three Section 108 loans up to date. The rest are under scrutiny.
• Re-establishing the First-Time Home Buyers program and already we have helped four Rockland families achieve the American dream of home ownership.

“These are just a couple of examples of how we are making changes in the Office of Community Development to make sure that the federal funds we get are used to the benefit of all people in Rockland County,” Day said.

He announced the annual Community Development Block Grant awards, which have funded 10 project worth $1.165 million.

They include:

Comprehensive Sidewalk Program, Village of Haverstraw $96,000
Village Signage Program, Village of Haverstraw $14,400
Rita Avenue Culvert Improvements, Village of Kaser $192,000
Bowline Playground Improvements, Town of Haverstraw $120,000
Village Street Improvements, Village of Spring Valley $192,000
Emeline Park Improvements, Village of Haverstraw $72,000
Safer Streets Phase III, Village of West Haverstraw $192,000
First Avenue Sidewalks, Village of Nyack $57,600
Wayne Avenue Sidewalk Improvements, Village of Suffern $174,720
Senior Transportation Bus, Town of Stony Point $54,556

Total: $1,165,276

Under the Public Service Programs, $217,000 in funding has been allocated to 16 not-for-profits, including:

Touch Together Our Unity Can Heal, Inc. Rockland County $7,000
M.A.D.E. Transitional Services Spring Valley $10,000
Rockland Jewish Family Service Rockland County $10,000
ARC of Rockland Rockland County $7,000
Spring Valley NAACP Spring Valley $10,000
Association for the Visually Impaired Rockland County $7,000
Bridges Rockland County $22,000
Center For Safety & Change – After Care Program Rockland County $20,000
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Rockland County $20,000
Community Outreach Center – Workplace Readiness Rockland County $12,000
Meals on Wheels Programs and Services of Rockland, Inc. Rockland County $10,000
WESCOP Rockland County $20,000
African American Historical Society of Rockland County Spring Valley $20,000
Chiku Awali African Dance Arts and Culture, Inc. Spring Valley $10,000
Nyack Center Rockland County $12,000
West Street Child Care Learning Center Inc. Spring Valley $20,000

Total: $217,000

At the same time, the county has been working with auditors to untangle some very questionable past practices that went on for a long time in this department under prior administrations.

“We will be able to reveal some of those findings soon,” Day said. “I vowed I would fix this office and I am proud to say that we are well on the way toward making sure that there is accountability in the Office of Community Development.”