Manatee County government has failed to carry out many of the official policy goals set in a strategic plan to aid low- and moderate-income families. That disreputable record came to light in Herald reporter Claire Aronson’s chronicle of the county’s disappointing lack of successfully addressing many of the strategies outlined in its 2012-2017 Five-Year Consolidated Plan — on affordable housing, public safety, social services, economic opportunities, transportation and other issues.
The federal government requires such plans as a condition for receiving Community Development Block Grants and other funding. Manatee County failed to meet 16 of the 35 strategies it outlined in its Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report, which updates achievements on goals in its five-year plan, another mandate from the federal government.
Is the county solely responsible for this? Yes and no. Could the county be more aggressive in the approach to achieve these community-improvement goals? The new county government department — on redevelopment and economic opportunities — promises to be a major factor.
Nonprofits unresponsive to county appeals to apply for funding are part of the problem, as is the limited amount of funds. The county holds grant workshops to recruit nonprofits and community meetings to promote the program. Yet some of the grant money in certain civic-improvement categories goes unwanted by the community, according to the county.
Instead of overextending the ambitions of the program, the county speaks about prioritizing projects in the next five-year plan, scaling back on the number of objectives and focus on “achievable and attainable” success on the top three goals.
Besides the CDBG funding — $1.6 million in 2015-2016 — the county receives almost $600,000 in other grants. Still, even with limited funding, service providers around Manatee County participate in the grant program, and the county exceeded 15 of the Five-Year Consolidated Plan strategies.
The most pressing need in Manatee County has been a major topic of discussion among community leaders and this newspaper — the scarcity of affordable housing. That and economical child care are huge obstacles to low- and moderate-income families struggling to avoid homelessness and hunger.
The big success for this county program so far under this five-year plan? A small but still important movement to help the disadvantaged is rehabilitating their homes, making them liveable. Manatee County’s modest goal proposed to fix up only 23 residences, but the program more than doubled that — 54 homes received upgrades that. Congratulations there. Now keep making progress in this area.
While the county writes the next contract for 2018-2023, one of the major goals — we’re confident of this — should be affordable housing in Manatee County. This county needs millions in the rehabilitation of housing in distressed neighborhoods.
Manatee County is definitely not ignoring low- and moderate-income families and is pursuing policies to help the less fortunate among us. We’d like to see more efforts in the next five years.