Rachel Evenson prepares meals at Preble Street’s Food Security Hub in South Portland on Friday, Dec. 29. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Portland is on track to put $1.5 million in community development grant money toward public works and recreation projects, homelessness and asylum seeker services next year.

A volunteer committee last week recommended that 13 projects be funded through the federal Community Development Block Grant, which gives the city around $1.5 million each year to spend on infrastructure, housing and social services.

This year’s recommended projects include about $767,000 to make Deering Oaks Park more accessible for those with disabilities and update the Reiche School playground. Another $135,00 could be sent to the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center to help support programs.

A combined $616,504 could go toward eight social service projects, including homeless and asylum-seeker programs at Milestone, Preble Street and Hope Acts.

The committee’s recommendations will now be reviewed by City Manager Danielle West and then the City Council. West is expected to present her recommendations to the council on March 7 with a council vote and public comment in April.

The block grant helps offset expenses in the city budget.


“It’s really a great program. I’m really proud of the work that we do with it and the impact that it has on our community,” said Mary Davis, the city’s housing and community development director.

CDBG funding has previously gone to Preble Street to help fund its Florence House shelter, Wayside Food for its community food program, the city’s public works department to fund sidewalk improvements in Sagamore Village, and the parks department for tree planting in Bayside.

The city is facing an exceptionally difficult budget season this year and city staff estimate they will need to cut about $14 million in spending to keep tax increases acceptably low. Though Portland often spends some of the annual CDBG grants on its projects, a city task force decided years ago that it would split the money with private organizations. Federal rules also state that only 33% can be spent on social services. This year’s recommendations do skew more toward city projects.

Davis said the city could theoretically use the funding to cover more of its own budget costs, but it would need public input first.

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