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Jonesboro's Plans on the Community Development Block Grant Explained

It's that time of year again when the City of Jonesboro is preparing to apply for the federally backed Community Development Block Grant.

Madelynn Williams, the City of Jonesboro's Community Development Block Grant Manager, joined KASU's Brandon Tabor to talk about some of the programs the city is working to get funded and impacts from last year's funding period.

Two public input meetings are scheduled for Friday, Feb. 23. The first is at 10:30 A.M. at Parker Park Community Center. The other is at 6:00 P.M. at the Magnolia Road Church. Also, local organizations have until Thursday, Feb. 29 at 4 P.M. to submit proposals to be included for funding in this year's grant program.

More details are available by contacting the Grants Department and on the city's Facebook page.


Understanding the Community Development Block Grant

Brandon Tabor: For people who, again, may not be too familiar with the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, as we'll refer to it in our discussion here, could you briefly explain what it is?

Madelynn Williams: Yeah, so it's just a program that receives funding from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And all the funding is directed towards revitalizing neighborhoods, economic development, and providing improved community services and facilities. And all of CDBG funding must benefit low to moderate income households, aid in the prevention or elimination of blight and meet an urgent need.

And all the beneficiaries must be Jonesboro residents.

Brandon Tabor: And the city also works with other nonprofit organizations as well to get the funding as well for any projects that they're doing that addresses blight and housing as well,

Madelynn Williams: And, with the public service program, unfortunately, we have a 15 percent cap. So of all the funding that we receive, only 15 percent can go to, public services.

City's Plans and Programs for the Current Year

Brandon Tabor: So we're talking about this year's, grant. What are some of the things that the city is working towards getting with this year's grant?

Madelynn Williams: That's a good question. I think as far like, the City of Jonesboro, the issue of homelessness is always something that is a priority for us. And then, just uplifting the communities that are underserved within the city. And that can be, through infrastructure or it could be through directly serving them with something like the home ownership assistance or the homeowner rehab.

Brandon Tabor: Explain a little bit about the homeownership assistance program.

Madelynn Williams: Yeah. So the City of Jonesboro can provide up to $5,000 for it to cover the down payment or closing costs for a first time home buyer who meets our income guidelines and is going to be purchasing a home within Jonesboro city limits.

And it comes in the form of a grant. So we'll not be like a second mortgage.

Brandon Tabor: give a little bit of a relief for people who are trying to get that first home.

Madelynn Williams: Yeah, it helps close that gap for them so that they are able to.

Brandon Tabor: And there are other programs as well that you have mentioned that the city is working.

Madelynn Williams: Yes, so we have the Homeowner Rehab Assistance, It currently provides up to $15,000 for repairs, reconstruction, or rehabilitation of owner occupied housing, and the funds are most commonly used to do roof replacements, HVAC replacements, and to replace, damaged windows, but we have started doing work on foundations, and we are considering increasing the limit to $20- to $25,000 so we can help more, because, there's never one or two issues with the home and the cost of the materials is going up. Everything's going up. So we need to be able to expand the help that we can provide to them.

Brandon Tabor: And a par

Proposal Submission and Public Comment Period

t of the grant ,too. The city also, accepts, proposals from other, local nonprofits who are also, trying to get funding for different programs that relate to, blight and housing. Do you know of any programs that are being proposed as part of this?

Madelynn Williams: This week we started to currently accept a request for proposal, which is where, public services, they submit, an application and it basically says who they are as an organization, who's a part of it and what they are trying to do. And then they provide details on a specific project they're trying, to do in the community. And then they have a budget that breaks down, what the CDBG funding will do.

Brandon Tabor: How do they submit a proposal?

Madelynn Williams: To find the application, you can just go to jonesboro.org. And then if you go to the grants and community development department page, you'll see CDBG and on the side, there is a tab called "request for proposal" and, you can download the application that way. Unfortunately, we can't submit the application online yet, but the city is working on joining the 21st century soon. So that will hopefully be something ready by next year.

Brandon Tabor: And what is the process again for all of this? I know it's a very involved process, for getting, all of this together and getting it sent off, to the government for them to approve it and everything. What's the process?

Madelynn Williams: Before we allocate any funding, the first thing we have to do is a 15 day public comment period, and this is so vital, because what we're asking is community members or just any residents within community to come tell us what they think their community needs. The more people that we have, especially diverse backgrounds, it really lets us know, what are some issues that maybe we're not seeing. And so we can better allocate the funding to serve the community.

Brandon Tabor: When is the last day that organizations can submit their proposal to the city?

Madelynn Williams: Yes, the last day to submit the proposal will be February 29th at 4 p. m. And you can email me the application and the attachments. You can drop them off or mail them.

Brandon Tabor: We've done this

Reflections on Progress and Impact

last year, and the city got their grant and everything. What has changed since last year when you received the funding? What kind of progress has been made?

Madelynn Williams: So, since I've joined, we have spent, I would say majority of the COVID funds. And with that we've helped homeless people throughout the city, whether it was by providing deposits for rent or helping battered women leave situations of abuse or providing them a home, or just providing services to the homeless such as food or mental health counseling. We spent over $100,000 in the homeowner rehabs. So we were able to help, primarily, elderly women that are living by themselves are able to fix up their homes as a result of that. And then, we were able to help a couple of people get some homes.

Brandon Tabor: Oh.

Madelynn Williams: Through our home ownership assistants, so we're making progress.

Brandon Tabor: Madelynn Williams, she is the Community Development Block Grant Manager for the City of Jonesboro.

Thank you so much for joining me again.

Madelynn Williams: Thanks for having me.

Brandon Tabor: The City of Jonesboro has opportunities coming up this month to comment on this year's plan. There are two public hearings scheduled for Friday, February 23rd. One is at the Parker Park Community Center at 10:30 in the morning. The other starts at 6:00 that night at the Magnolia Road Church. There's also a survey available on the city's Facebook page. Madelynn says anyone who has questions about the C. D. B. G. can call the city grants department. She also says that more details about public information meetings will be posted on the city of Jonesboro's Facebook page.

A Northeast Arkansas native from Wynne, I’ve been involved with radio for about 15 years. I got my Bachelor of Arts degree from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, where I also served as an award-winning News Director for 2 years at KSWH-LP.