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Iowa City receives more federal funding

BY BRITTANY TILL | AUGUST 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Local leaders said Tuesday they’re getting increased federal support for special projects.

Officials met at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County’s new facility — one of the projects funded by the uptick in federal support — on Tuesday. Local organizations will get $5 million from U.S. Housing and Urban Development programs this year — an increase over the $1.7 million the area usually garners.

“We get the funds to do wonderful things through the Community Development Block Grant, which is a principal program to provide improvements,” Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek said.

In addition to the new Big Brothers Big Sisters facility, the Iowa City City Council and the city’s Community Development Division chose more than 20 other local projects to get support from the federal dollars. For instance, Art of South East Iowa, Emma Goldman, and the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic will all get money from the grants.

John Schneider, the Johnson County Extension Council chairman, said area grade schools will also benefit from the funds.

One of three community-development awards went to the UniverCity Neighborhood Partnership Program, a program sponsored by the city and the University of Iowa. Phase one of this program is aimed at neighborhoods near the UI campus, where properties are in need of repair. The committee selected 26 rental homes to renovate and have thus far renovated nine homes with seven under current renovation. Renovation costs will be forgiven after five years.

“Most projects are rehabilitating buildings, which means creating jobs. Economists call this the multiplying effect,” Hayek said. “It has been very gratifying to sit back and see what has gotten accomplished with the money.”

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, attended Tuesday’s event and applauded the projects.

“I’m proud to be associated with the federal government funding that made this possible,” Loebsack said. “Maybe in the next year from now, when I’m up for re-election, you’ll all forget I’m an Iowa State University alum.”

Loebsack said that the future grant money would be spent by locals, who must make the decision, because they know what their community needs.

“My job is just to allocate money, not spend it,” Loebsack said. “Although, the block grant is on the chopping block, and there will be cuts along with everything.”


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