Parish could lose millions in federal dollars with Washington budget cuts

Over $700K of grant money made Killona sewer work possible

As construction begins on the Killona sewer extension project, St. Charles Parish Councilman Terrell Wilson sees work that will bring additional sewer capacity to the area.

Wilson also sees the promise of economic growth, particularly residential expansion, with the added sewer capacity that would come with this upgrade. At just over $1 million, the sewer extension funding mostly came from CDBG or a Community Development Block Grant, which are federal dollars routed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) for a multitude of projects that benefit low- to moderate-income residents.

Beginning in 1974, the CDBG program is one of the longest continuously run programs at HUD.

The program has been targeted by the Trump administration as part of its budget to be eliminated or cut by as much as 50 percent, maintaining it isn’t effective and not reaching enough low-income residents.

In Killona’s project, CDBG makes up $731,255 of the project’s slightly more than $1 million price tag. It also includes a $68,745 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the parish’s Grants Officer Carla Chiasson said 80 percent of the cost is being covered by grants and mostly CDBG.

According to Chiasson, “The CDBG program is among the few sources of federal funds that remain available to rural governments for community development. Projects must primarily benefit low- and moderate-income persons.”

Since 1986, the parish has received $5.8 million in these funds, which facilitated numerous projects that has included rebuilding residential streets and improving water systems, and sewage collection and treatment systems.

“We rely on the program to fund important infrastructure projects that otherwise may be postponed until the parish can budget enough funding for the entire project,” she said.

“There have been discussions on the federal level of cutting HUD’s funding for the CDBG program. Because of this, we are making efforts to show our need for the program, proclaiming and resolving to support CDBG, and contacting Louisiana’s Congressional delegation to ask that they support funding the program.”

More than 9,550 people in the community have benefited from these projects with most of them being low- to moderate-income people.

Parish President Larry Cochran and the Parish Council proclaimed April 17 – 22 as National Community Development Week to emphasize the importance of the CDBG funds. The Louisiana Division of Administration’s Office of Community Development administers HUD funding.

Chaisson said the parish doesn’t always receive CDBG funding, which is very competitive and cutting it would make it even harder to get.

“They get way more applications than they fund, so cutting the program by half would cut the number of applications funded,” she said.

While at least 70 percent of this funding is dedicated to low- to moderate-income people, the remaining funds can be used for other projects. Some of it has gone to projects like the parish community center because the qualifying population is among the people who use the facility.

Chaisson said the parish’s last CDBG funded project is the Killona sewer main extension, which will install a new sewer force main to alleviate sewer problems in the community. But the project, as the funding that made it possible ,means way more to Wilson who stayed focused on what it could mean for a community in need of growth.

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