Community Development Block Grant funds help to build Salt Lake City success stories; proposed federal budget cuts threatens program

In 2017, Julie was living on Salt Lake City’s streets, her struggle to survive made more complicated by her failing health.

She had trouble breathing. Her neck and arm were swollen with abscesses.

Still, she hesitated to ask for help; past experiences with hospitals and doctors had left her traumatized and mistrustful.

That’s when she crossed paths with the Mobile Outreach Service Team (MOST), program tied to the 4thStreet Clinic in downtown.

Funded in part with funds from Salt Lake City, MOST was able to get Julie to a hospital, where she had a much surgery to treat a festering lung infection and back on her feet.

Julie is one of many in Salt Lake City whose lives have been touched through programs the city receives from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)program.

First launched in 1974, the grants are designed to support urban and rural communities across the U.S. improve and provide housing, expand economic opportunities and support social service programs for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

“Without CDBG funding, Salt Lake City could not do as much to lift up and support our residents in need,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski said. “CDBG funds allow us to form the kind of public and private partnerships that expand our ability to do this critical community work.”

Between 2015 and 2018, CDBG funding — along with money from the Home Investment Partnership, the Emergency Solutions Grant, and the Housing Opportunity for Persons with AIDS program — has allowed Salt Lake City to invest $13,815,411 in the community.

That’s helped nearly 28,000 city residents and more than 850 households acquire self-sufficiency skills, access emergency shelter and support services or stabilize their living situations.

That’s how Julie got critical health care and why the kids at Boys & Girls Club in the city’s Poplar Grove neighborhood now have access to computers and technology that support their academic success.  It’s why patients recovering from addiction at First Step House have acquired peer support and counseling and how immigrant Hla Thein was able to buy a home for his family.

CDBG funds have also helped Salt Lake City small businesses get off the ground, improved the facades of aging buildings, and completed major city infrastructure projects.

Such projects might not be feasible in the future, however, if the Trump administration gets its way, Mayor Biskupski said.

The administration’s budget 2020 budget proposal the U.S. Housing and Urban Development would have as much as $9.6 billion dollars stripped from its coffers. That would dramatically cut the amount of funding available to community development programs, which the Trump administration has said have “low value.”

“Such cuts would be devastating, not just to Salt Lake City, but to communities nationwide,” Mayor Biskupski said. “So we must work with Congress to ensure funding for the CDBG programs continues. The lives of our citizens and the health of our community depends on it.”

Now that Julie’s health has stabilized she continues to stay in touch with the staff at MOST.  Julie has also used her a new found trust in health care professionals and services to help others — reaching out to MOST to ensure that others she knows with health challenges access the care they need.

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