PORTLAND – An advisory committee decided to reconsider its proposal for distributing community development grants after city councilors said Monday that they want to spread the money among a larger number of nonprofit agencies.

The City Council voted 6-2 to ask the Community Development Block Grant Allocation Committee to reconsider its recommendation to give the top-scoring grant applications 100 percent of the money requested.

The all-or-nothing philosophy meant that seven core social service programs – including those operated by the city’s police and health and human services departments – would receive significant increases for next fiscal year, while 17 nonprofit social service agencies would get nothing.

“We have a lot of wants and a lot of needs, and not a lot to spread around,” said Councilor Dory Waxman, one of the councilors who asked for the reconsideration.

The council’s decision followed a crowded public hearing on the proposed Community Development Block Grant list. Representatives of more than 20 social service agencies appealed for shares of the money, with many pleading with the council to overrule its advisory committee’s recommendations.

“We feel devastated about not receiving any money for the coming year,” said Jo Coyne, a West End resident who applied for a $41,020 grant along with Mercy Hospital to expand programs at the Reiche Community Center. “I just hope that you might reconsider the full-funding strategy.”

Other agencies seeking money ranged from those providing emergency meals and medical care to after-school programs and youth camps.

“There are many needs,” said Rachel Horton White of the Parkside Neighborhood Center. “We’re seeing people that are desperate.”

The center collaborated with other agencies on an $85,000 grant request to expand services for youths and families. It would not have received funding under the committee’s recommendation.

Portland expects about $2.6 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The annual federal grant is typically spent on public improvements such as new sidewalks, and on grants to social service agencies and neighborhood associations.

Members of the allocation committee used a relatively new scoring system to rank the applications this year, in an effort to make the process more fair and objective. It also recommended 100 percent allocations to the top-ranked applications rather than making judgments about how much individual groups deserved.

All the city councilors said they want to allocate something less than 100 percent to the top social service applicants so more agencies can get support. Two councilors, however, voted against sending the proposal back to the committee and said the City Council should decide how to reallocate the money when it makes the final funding decisions in two weeks.

“I think the buck stops with us,” said Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. While the proposal is “a little too black-and-white for me,” he said, the council should make the subjective decisions about moving the money around.

It was not clear when the allocation committee would take up the council’s request. Councilors are scheduled to vote on the allocation list March 22.

 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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