Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 22, 2014

Schumer says he'll fight to keep federal dollars in Falls

Niagara Gazette — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer will do everything in his power to stop reforms that would make the city of Niagara Falls ineligible for millions of federal dollars it receives every year.

Schumer, D-N.Y., stood with city and county officials and housing advocates and vowed that he would fight planned changes in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Renewal's Community Development Block Grant program, often referred to as CDBG in governmental and housing circles, that would see the funding source dry up with a vacant North End fire hall set to be restored and turned into a job training center, funded in part with the federal dollars.

"I am here today to tell the people of the city of Niagara Falls that I will do everything I can to prevent any legislative change and see that Niagara Falls continues to get its CDBG money," Schumer said. "Plain and simple."

Schumer, who is a ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said he can use his position on that committee to influence HUD in their consideration of a rule change eliminating a grandfather clause for municipalities that fall below the 50,000 population threshold for automatic eligibility.

The banking committee is "in charge" of the Community Block Development Grant program, Schumer added.

"I have a feeling that it's going to matter that I'm a senior member of that committee," he said.

Niagara Falls' estimated population dropped to 49,700 last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.

Schumer said he can't promise the rule changes will be stopped, but did promise to make calls to HUD officials and use his influence to persuade the agency to reconsider.

"Usually when I make a fight for something like this I succeed," Schumer said.

The block grant funding is "flexible" meaning it can be allocated for whatever purpose or project a city decides on within HUD guidelines. Most state and federal funding for cities has strict rules for what it is to be used towards.

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