Residents in Oneco, Samoset get top billing in county’s funding plans. But federal funding could be in jeopardy.

With a lot of older homes in Manatee County in need of rehabilitation, that comes up as one of the county’s No. 1 needs when meeting with low- and moderate-income residents.

To address the needs these residents voice, Manatee County officials are recommending spending nearly $600,000 in federal funds this next fiscal year to improve some of these homes, particularly in the Oneco and Samoset neighborhoods.

“That’s something very different that we are doing this year that we haven’t done in the past,” said Geri Lopez, the county’s redevelopment and economic opportunity director. “A lot of older homes are in desperate needs of rehabilitation. We really upped the amount and our focus.”

The increased focus on home rehabilitation — $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant and $276,142 in HOME Investment Partnership funds — is among the projects recommended for funding in the county’s 2017-18 Action Plan, which is available for public review until July 25 when it goes before the county commission for approval.

“The need is great,” Lopez said. “There were a good amount of priority needs that were identified.”

But there’s no guarantee the funding will be available next year. President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposes the elimination of both the Community Development Brock Grants and HOME Investment Partnerships.

“We’re aware of the proposed deep cuts to the program, and we’re closely monitoring funding in this area as federal budgets take shape,” county information outreach manager Nicholas Azzara said in an email Sunday to the Herald. “There’s definitely a concern around the county that the program will be reduced or eliminated, especially by those who have worked closely with CDBG funds and see how those funds benefit some of the most vulnerable people in Manatee County.”

In 2017-18, Manatee County estimates it will receive more than $1.6 million in Community Development Block Grant funds, $473,491 in HOME Investment Partnership funds, $146,534 in Emergency Solutions Grant funds as well as $114,857 in CDBG carry-over funding from prior years.

“There is just no possible way with the funding that we have to address all of those needs,” Lopez said.

The draft 2017-22 Five-Year Consolidated Plan is also available for review at mymanatee.org as well as several county libraries. It is defined as “a strategic plan that identifies priority needs of the community and governs the use of federal housing and community development funds” received through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Housing, public/social services, community development/public improvements and economic development are the four priorities Manatee County has identified in this five-year plan. One of the changes this year versus previous plans is the county will be focusing on the two Racially/Ethnically-Concentrated Areas of Poverty — Oneco and Samoset, Lopez said.

“Per all the data that we gathered and that we received, there is just a clear need in these areas, and HUD wanted us to focus in these areas,” she said. “We are trying to do more of a concentrated effort in those areas.”

County officials are confident that this focus, coupled with fewer priorities, will help the county meet the needs of the low- and moderate-income residents. In the 2012-17 Five-Year Consolidated Plan, several of the strategies established to address needs for affordable housing, reducing homelessness, support programs and more went unmet.

“Given our concentration and our focus for addressing those areas, we feel confident that we will be able to meet our goals, all dependent on continued level of funding from the federal program,” Lopez said. “We are deeply concerned about the proposed cuts as these programs serve the most vulnerable areas and residents of our community.”

In the coming year’s action plan, the Manatee County Housing Authority is recommended to receive $352,000 for construction of a resident’s center at 1122 56th Ave. Terrace E., Bradenton, which will be a resource building for community outreach.

“Currently, it’s hard to find a meeting place or a place where agencies can come in to serve the community at hand,” said Denise Thomas, the county’s housing and community development coordinator.

Funding assists Manatee County agencies

For Gulfcoast Legal Services, the $40,000 they are slated to receive will allow them to continue to “provide legal services to low- and moderate-income individuals for housing related issues” in Bradenton, according to county documents.

“It just allows us to continue to do work,” said Robin Stover, who will be one of the attorneys providing services to the clients in Bradenton.

“The need in Bradenton is constant and large,” she said. “Many times tenants who have low-income housing or subsidized housing have questions and other matters that they need assistance with. Of course, we want to be available to assist those constrained-income individuals. That is a population that is going to need legal assistance with housing issues.”

Through the CDBG funds, the United Way of Manatee County will be able to rehabilitate community rooms located in apartments, including Robin’s Apartments for the Reading Rooms Program, which gives children access to books right where they live.

“The importance is almost all the families are working and over the summertime, the children for the most part are not attending summer camp and are not able to have transportation to go anywhere,” said Cindy Cavallaro Day, a consultant with United Way. “To eliminate the barrier of transportation, we have the programs located at home. The children are able to come to the program that we are offering.”

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson

Recommended CDBG projects in the 2017-18 Manatee County Action Plan

  • $352,000 for Manatee County Housing Authority to construct a resident’s center
  • $40,000 for the United Way of Manatee County to rehabilitate two community rooms for the Reading Rooms Program
  • $186,290 for the county to construct an infill sidewalk along 15th Street East from 14th Avenue East to 17th Avenue East in Bradenton
  • $92,892 for the county to resurface some roads in the Orange Ridge Subdivision in Bradenton
  • $77,311 for the county to resurface some roads in the Overstreet Park/Tangerine Terrace subdivisions in Bradenton
  • $121,118 for the county to resurface some roads in the Sunny Lakes Subdivision in Bradenton
  • $25,000 in additional funding for Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee to install an emergency generator at its adult day care facility
  • $300,000 for the county to rehabilitate income-qualified homeowner occupied residences
  • $40,000 for Gulfcoast Legal Services to provide legal services to low- and moderate-income individuals for housing related issues
  • $50,000 for Community Coalition on Homelessness/Turning Points to pay for dentures, orthotics and supplies to make such devices for homeless clients
  • $74,149 for Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee to pay for meals for the elderly
  • $40,000 for Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County to provide GED classes and a 45-hour child care training class to income qualified child care workers
  • $40,000 for AMFM Enterprise for elderly in-home companion and homemaker services

Source: Manatee County government