Clark County and the city of Vancouver are receiving an annual influx of funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for affordable housing, community development and homeless assistance.
On Monday, HUD announced Clark County is getting $1.55 million in Community Development Block Grants and $624,462 in HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds. The city of Vancouver is getting $1.4 million in block grants and $791,895 in HOME funds. These amounts are on par with what the county and city typically receive each year.
“CDBG funding is our most flexible federal source. We can choose to use that for infrastructure projects, like streets and parks in low- to moderate-income areas, but we mostly target that funding toward business assistance and public services,” said Samantha Whitley, Vancouver’s housing programs manager.
Public services include eviction mediation, homeless outreach services and shelters, and programming, according to Whitley.
Vancouver and Clark County are responsible for creating plans to allocate funds to local entities that apply, like Council for the Homeless and other organizations in the housing and community development fields.
Scoring committees will review the applications and make recommendations for 2023 funding distribution. The city and county will then submit allocation plans to HUD, which reviews them and issues grant agreements. Funding is typically distributed in the summer or fall.
The Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Washington has received block grant funds from Vancouver for the past several years. It uses the federal dollars to help run its youth violence prevention and intervention programs, according to Executive Director Francisco Bueno.
“(The programs) are really designed to engage kids and teens in meaningful and pro-social activities. Really building up protective factors, the relationships and safe places to ensure that kids have what they need to navigate their world,” Bueno said.
Since receiving funding, the Boys & Girls Club has been able to expand its programming to a new site and increase staffing at its Heights O.K. 2 Clubhouse, Bueno said.
Clark County and Vancouver each open their applications for block grants and HOME every October.
This past October, 11 entities applied at the county level, including the Greater Vancouver Chamber, the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber, Proud Ground, Second Step Housing, Janus Youth Programs, Lifeline Connections and Share. The cities of Ridgefield, Battle Ground, Camas and Washougal applied for infrastructure projects, according to Emily Langston, Clark County program coordinator.
The Greater Vancouver Chamber uses block grant dollars for small-business consulting, said John McDonagh, the chamber’s president and CEO.
“Businesses from across the city are able to come to the chamber, whether they just have a wild idea about some businesses that they’re interested in creating, or if they’re in startup mode, or they’re a few years in and just need help getting to the next level,” McDonagh said. “It really helps the businesses become sustainable and vital in that they’re helping to grow the economy, they’re helping get jobs. It’s really an important service, I think, that we can provide with those funds.”
Clark County and the city of Vancouver will accept public comment later this month before their allocation plans are submitted to HUD in May.
“I look forward to public review and comment,” Whitley said. “Any ways that we could improve our programs or our services, we’re always interested to hear from the community.”
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