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Municipalities receive $31 million development grants

Date: 8/1/2013

By Carley Dangona

WEST SPRINGFIELD – The Alice Corson Playground, rehabilitated by a previous Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), was the stage for Gov. Deval Patrick’s – who was noticeably absent – announcement that the Commonwealth is the recipient of $31 million in federal CDBG.

Patrick spoke by means of speakerphone, as he was stuck in traffic. “We are creeping along in westbound traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike,” he stated. “I wish I could be with you in person, but you know where my heart is.”

CDBG funding supports housing rehabilitation, public service projects and local infrastructure. Thirty-eight cities and towns received CDBG. West Springfield, Easthampton and Greenfield were three of 13 communities receiving $900,000. Agawam and Longmeadow received a joint grant of $754,000.

Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary for the Department of Housing & Community Development, said, “The need for these funds are determined locally. CDBG address the critical needs of communities such as the renovation of affordable housing, [the establishment and sustainment of] senior centers and for street paving.”

He noted that Western Massachusetts received the most amount of CDBG funding.

Congressman Richard Neal noted that proposed federal budget cuts threaten the CDBG program. “This is on the chopping block. It’s proposed not for curtailment, but for elimination. It’s already been cut back significantly,” he said.

He continued, “This is singularly the most popular initiative that comes from Washington for Democratic and Republican mayors, they all like CDBG.”

Neal said CDBG are important because the money helps transform housing from “substandard” conditions to acceptable living conditions and assists with the restoration of parks. He encouraged local municipalities to speak out in support of the CDBG program.

The governor said, “The CDBG supports a whole host of local projects to revitalize communities. Each and every one of them is organized and contrived in order to make quality of life and the expansion of economic opportunity better. It’s enormously important to me and to our team that we are doing this equitably across the Commonwealth and more to the point and specifically to you, not leaving Western Massachusetts out.”

According to Patrick, “The CDBG program is the Commonwealth’s largest available resource for neighborhood revitalization projects and helps meet the housing and public service needs of low- and moderate-income communities while building and repairing infrastructure vital to the health and safety of all residents.”

Patrick added, “From a pure policy point of view, this may seem like a relatively modest and not very newsworthy occasion, but those of you gathered together today in the park know that a small amount of money used wisely, which is the case with the park [Alice Corson Playground], can make a huge difference.”

State Sen. Jim Welch, state Rep. Michael Finn and Mayor Gregory Neffinger all expressed their gratitude for the CDBG.