Letter to the Editor: Dismayed Over Lack of HUD Funding

I attended Sunday’s September 17th candidate forum and was dismayed to hear Stephanie Endres’ position on the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding that the City was unable to fully utilize in 2015-2017 cycle and has elected not to apply for in the 2018-2020 cycle. I wish this question would have been posed to all of the candidates instead of just two because this is an important issue.

I believe turning back the CDBG money is an enormous disservice to our at-risk residents and I wanted to share my feedback and concerns. Is Johns Creek a primarily affluent community? Yes. Does this mean we don’t have people living on the edge? NO! Did our City Council consider that every high school in our city has a liaison serving homeless students? NO!

Did our City Council consider that North Fulton Community Charities regularly provides services to Johns Creek residents who cannot afford to make ends meet? Sort of…they did say that they would provide funding to North Fulton Community Charities out of the city’s operating budget, but I imagine it won’t be significant as compared to the amount of CDBG funding we could secure. Did our City Council consult with any of the organizations who provide these services before it made its decision to turn away this funding? NO! Do our citizens understand that this money is not only for brick-and-mortar projects, as Ms. Endres led people to believe during the forum? According to the state’s CDBG information, “The primary purpose of the CDBG program is to benefit low- to moderate income people by developing viable communities, providing decent housing, creating suitable living environments, and expanding economic opportunities.” This is much more than eliminating blight as Ms. Endres would have us believe. What our citizens are being told by our leaders is that CDBG has no use for the City of Johns Creek because we are too wealthy.

According to the state’s CDBG information, “The primary purpose of the CDBG program is to benefit low- to moderate income people by developing viable communities, providing decent housing, creating suitable living environments, and expanding economic opportunities.” This is much more than eliminating blight as Ms. Endres would have us believe. What our citizens are being told by our leaders is that CDBG has no use for the City of Johns Creek because we are too wealthy. The truth is poverty hides in the most affluent neighborhoods. You have no idea how many of your neighbors live paycheck to paycheck, and how many need occasional assistance to make ends meet. Johns Creek had the opportunity to use CDBG funds to benefit our citizens by partnering with North Fulton Community Charities to distribute them appropriately, yet our City leaders made a decision to turn away this money without seeking any input from the organizations who provide these services. I’d like to think that our City has more heart than this, that we would not turn our backs on neighbors in need. We have lost this opportunity for the next three years. I only hope that our next Mayor and Council will do the right thing by contacting North Fulton Community Charities for some hard data, and distributing enough money to NFCC to pay for the services they provide to our citizens on a daily basis.

Alli Neal

5 Responses to Letter to the Editor: Dismayed Over Lack of HUD Funding

  1. Joshua says:

    North Fulton Charities: Our Mission Statement
    To build self-sufficiency and prevent homelessness and hunger in our community by providing emergency assistance and enrichment programs.

    Self-Sufficiency is admirable.

    Growing more dependent upon block grants and tax-payers to build self-sufficiency?

    What message does that send?

    I have contributed both items and cash to North Fulton Charities. I prefer that they not use money collected from taxpayers or block grants.

    We have the opportunity to show that we can be self-reliant and self-sufficient of our own accord.

    Our communities will open our hearts and our wallets. We have proven that we will. The block grants should not be pursued.

  2. Olson Johnson says:

    Alli Neal,

    I appreciate your stance on the CDBG grant program and I agree with you that there are citizens in Johns Creek that fall through the cracks. However, I do not agree the best way to deal with those living on the edge is by the city receiving CDBG dollars. Prior to Ms. Endres being on council, the city opted for Fulton County to take over the administration of the CDBG program. It was Fulton County that stated due to census data Johns Creek did not have the appropriate number of low to moderate income individuals to qualify for the grant. This spring during a city council meeting, the council voted to return unspent CDBG money back to the federal government from 2014, 2015, and 2016, not out of a lack of caring, but simply Fulton County was unable to grant approval to programs because Johns Creek did not meet the criteria to distribute the funds. The time and resources of city staff that would have been spent to continue a program the city does not qualify for would be better served in hiring additional first responders, synchronization of traffic lights, or parks maintenance. Therefore, I think it was prudent to not seek CDBG funding in 2017.

    Please remember, the citizens of Johns Creek are still residents of Fulton County, they are eligible to receive help at any charity or service that receives CDBG grant funding from the county. This makes it easier on the charity to help citizens of Johns Creek. The charity no longer must keep records for the city’s program or go through city audits of the program. This has removed a level of bureaucracy for the charity. This change should free up funds to go where needed, which is to those that need help here in Johns Creek.

    Johns Creek is an affluent community, we do not meet the requirements for CDBG funding nor should we ever. The day the city starts meeting the requirements for CDBG funding is the day the economic situation of the city has drastically changed and I can tell you, it would not have been for the better.

  3. Stephanie Endres says:

    @Alli Neal – Thank you for your comments and I respect your position on the CDBG program. At the end of the day, Fulton County has shared with the Johns Creek city staff and the City Council that the City of Johns Creek does not meet the specific requirements to qualify for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Which means no matter how many of us would like to help individuals and families in Johns Creek with this grant, the City cannot legally accept these funds and disburse them. So there is no point allocating staff time and city resources to this grant which the city will not qualify for. If you would like to discuss in more detail, please call me at (770) 359-7934.

  4. Alli Neal says:

    I appreciate your feedback, but will respectfully disagree with your assessment that we shouldn’t use taxpayer dollars to fund self sufficiency. Isn’t it easier to put a bandaid on a scrape than to treat the festering wound later? NFCC is set up to provide support that prevents people from being a continuous drag on our economy. They are providing free job skills training, GED courses, financial management classes, and lots of additional,support to working families, to seniors in poverty and Our federal tax dollars are allocated to each state to support initiatives like these, and I’m of the opinion that we should use accept every dollar that’s made available to us and keep it in our community. As you said, we are affluent and generous people and we do give, but if the feds were funding those NFCC programs, then our personal giving could be used for even more good works in North Fulton.

  5. Zane Edge says:

    Alli, have you read the JC city’s CAPER report? Just for the record, it states the Federal goals that JC must comply with to qualify for ongoing CDBG funds. If you haven’t read it then you are simply uninformed. The CAPER mandates are diametrically opposed to why I moved to the North Fulton (now JC) suburbs. I think you will find this is true with a huge percentage of current Johns Creek residents. Maybe you should move to an interior area inside the Atlanta belt line. They need people like you there.

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