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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Betty Christian (left) speaks Wednesday with Kelly Colebar, Fayetteville Community Resources Division community resources administrator, during a reception at the Fayetteville Senior Activity and Wellness Center. The division hosted the reception to display the different programs the Community Development Block Grant helps. The reception also coincides with National Community Development Week.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Thousands of lower-income and elderly residents in the city and region couldn't get their homes fixed, travel to doctor appointments, feed their pets or receive Christmas presents without Community Development Block Grant money.

The federal program established in 1974 gives money to more than 1,000 cities as a way to prevent slums, provide services, spur economic development and assist residents who need help the most. The city's Community Resources Division hosted a reception Wednesday at the Fayetteville Senior Center to showcase the numerous programs and nonprofit groups the program benefits. The city distributes the federal money it receives.

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Photographs on easels depicted tattered homes repaired through the Housing Rehabilitation Program. A Senior Giving Tree had bunches of wrapped presents beneath it. The Public Facilities Improvement Program helped build a playground at Ellen Smith Head Start, also a federally funded childhood development program. The city's community services mascot, Ranger the dog, proudly held bags of food collected through Ranger's Pantry Pet Food Bank.

Thousands of area residents get help either directly through the programs or indirectly through nonprofit groups. For example, LifeSource International, which helps feed families and provide them with clothing, counseling and other needs, has received more than $120,000 in the past five years from Community Development Block Grant money.

It's a program with an uncertain future. President Donald Trump has proposed cutting more than $6 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including doing away with CDBG funding altogether by 2018. The administration asserts state and local governments are better suited to serve their communities' needs, according to the Washington Post.

Residents need to call their representatives, who ultimately will decide federal budget spending priorities, Community Resources Director Yolanda Fields said.

"There are a lot of people that need help. Unfortunately, that's a fact of life," she said. "It may be a one time occurrence or not, but we can't just stand by and let people be hungry or not have transportation or have their houses fall down around them."

Cornell McClellan, 62, said she was half-asleep in the middle of the night last fall when she banged her right foot into a wall, breaking it. Her children were away and she doesn't own a car. However, she knew about the taxi and transit pass program.

The program enabled McClellan to get to a doctor and keep her independence intact, she said.

"I always know that I'm not stuck anywhere, and that's a fear if you're a senior," McClellan said.

A representative of 3rd District Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, who sits on the House Committee on Appropriations, said the congressman has always supported the Community Development Block Grant program but the budget numbers will continue to be a part of the conversation.

The city would have to come up with at least $600,000 annually to continue its programs covered under CDBG money. Mayor Lioneld Jordan said the value goes beyond the dollar amount by providing assistance to people in times of need.

"I may be a small-time mayor, but I'm certainly fortunate to live in a city with a great, big heart," he said. "I know the people of this city support that CDBG funding and that's why we'll fight so hard to protect it."

NW News on 04/20/2017

Print Headline: City officials tout community development programs

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