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Groups push for community grant funds
Application deadline for community development money is April 12
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Several Hall County nonprofits hope they can continue to push forward during the tough economic times.

Gainesville's housing department has opened up the application period for Community Development Block Grant funds, which help some of the city's prominent organizations make it through the next year.

"We can set aside about 15 percent of our grant funds to help special needs, such as homelessness, domestic violence, senior services, employment training and other public services that are a high priority for the community," said Chris Davis, Gainesville housing manager.

In 2010, the city received $436,290 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and part of it went to local groups to help youth mentoring, after-school enrichment, homeless services, crime prevention and fair housing programs.

About $60,000 helped the Boys & Girls Clubs, Gainesville Action Ministries, Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, Newtown Florist Club, Our Neighbor and Veteran's Community Outreach.

"The primary goal is to assist low- and moderate-income persons within the city, which includes removal of slum and blight and enhancing neighborhoods," Davis said. "How can we help folks through nonprofit agencies, assist them by bringing their house up to code and improve the areas where they live?"

Davis is trying to watch where Congress will draw the line as he plans a budget for the upcoming year.

"I've heard they're going to cut anywhere from 7 percent to 60 percent, and it's hard to say where that's going to fall," he said. "It's hard to believe that they would drastically cut such significant programs, but times are tough. For us, it's hard to plan a budget on numbers you don't have."

The deadline for applications is April 12, and grant funds are awarded by October.

About $155,000 will fund housing rehabilitation in the community, which helps low- and moderate-income houses with energy efficiency projects, handicapped accessibility, weatherization changes and lead-based paint testing.

"I'm planning a meeting for the Fair Street area in the next few weeks to talk about the budget and some proposed activities," Davis said. "It would be great to focus some funds on an area that tends to have a high level of need."

On Thursday, Davis told Gainesville City Council members four local agencies are applying for state funds to support emergency shelter options, transitional housing and homeless prevention.

Georgia is expected to receive $4.3 million for the Emergency Solutions Grant, though Congress hasn't yet allocated the funds. Georgia's Department of Community Affairs will split about $2 million among 153 of Georgia's 159 counties, and $2.2 million will go to the State Housing Trust Fund to help programs statewide.

"The major concern right now is that Congress is looking at almost 50 percent reductions for emergency food and shelter operations and low-income energy assistance," said Shawn Howell of Ninth District Opportunity. Gateway House, The Salvation Army and Georgia Legal Services Program are also applying for part of the grant funds.

"We're concerned that the money just won't be there and with the economy the way it is, that would be devastating," Howell said. "There's some improvement nationally, but it's just not hitting this region. If programs such as heating assistance continue to be trimmed down, people aren't going to be able to pay their bills and are going to get disconnected."

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