With Weak Economy Negatively Affecting Cities’ Abilities To Pay For Much Needed Social Services, Ros-Lehtinen Speaks On The House Floor In Support Of Diaz-Balart Amendment That Allows Cities To Use A Greater Share of Their CDBG Funds To Pay For Services
Washington, DC --- Today, Wednesday June 27th, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) spoke on the Floor of the House in support of an amendment introduced by her friend and colleague, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), that would allow cities to use a greater percentage of their funds from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to pay for social services for those less fortunate in our communities.
The Diaz-Balart amendment follows the guidelines of legislation that Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart and other members of the South Florida Delegation, presented to allow cities greater flexibility to allocate CDBG funds. The amendment, and the legislation, both seek a changing of the overall formula for the CDBG program to allow up to 25% of funds to go towards social services, NOT increased funding.
Below is text of Ileana’s remarks on the Floor of the U.S. House:
“I thank the gentlemen. I rise to support the Diaz-Balart amendment and to draw attention to a crisis that will soon hit the city of Miami and many other cities throughout South Florida, our state of Florida, and indeed throughout the nation. We are all aware of the difficult funding decisions that will need to be made by many departments and programs.
Programs like the community development block grants may see overall reductions because of the sad realities of the current budget constraints and in the interests of fiscal responsibility. However, because of an arbitrary community development block grant expenditure cap, countless vulnerable citizens in the city of Miami and throughout the United States will lose their only means of sustenance.
This amendment is not about increased funding, Mr. Chairman, nor is it about changing the overall formula of the community development block grant. It is simply about providing greater flexibility to cities on how they allocate their CDBG funds. Currently only 15% of community development block grant funds can go toward public services.
Now, what are public services? Well, they include food for senior citizens, the disabled, the homeless, the abused or neglected children. They also may be used for child care, for health services, for job training services.
The city of Miami, which I am proud to represent, currently provides these vital services, especially meals through the current community development block grant public services. But, because of the overall decrease in CDBG allocations many disadvantaged men, women and children will be without the vital support that they deserve and need.
This amendment is simply a painless solution to this development allowing cities the flexibility they need in how they expand their CDBG funds. It would allow up to 25% of CDBG funds to go to public services; a position that has been endorsed by the US Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.
The current 15% public service expenditure cap was enacted with the original statute over 30 years ago. It does not reflect the evolution of this program nor the necessity to provide flexibility to local leaders on how funds should be expended during this time of belt-tightening. The current restrictive and outdated limit has denied many communities the option of providing their residents with the most basic and necessary services within the framework established by the program.
CDBG public services have played a key role in providing crucial aid to our most at-risk and vulnerable constituents, especially during this enduring recession. Cities across our country have had to do more with less and this amendment will help them accomplish just that. I wish to thank Chairman Latham and his staff in working with Congressman Diaz-Balart and me on trying to give this flexibility through the proper channel to our local leaders. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of our time.”