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Recovery CDBG Funding for Parks?

City officials across the country are now determining which projects to fund under the Community Development Block Grant portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). If they meet certain standards established under ARRA, park projects are eligible to receive funding but will need to be placed on a list by local officials.

According to the Architectural Record:

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced how it will divide $980 million that the economic-stimulus legislation—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—provided for Community Development Block Grants. The CDBG aid will be split among about 1,200 state, city, and county governments.

CDBGs, established in 1974, can be used for many different purposes. Over the program’s history, the most popular uses have been affordable-housing rehabilitation and upgrades to infrastructure such as streets, sewers, and community centers.

But for the stimulus CDBGs, HUD says in a technical guidance document released May 5 that it “strongly urges grantees to use funds for hard development costs associated with infrastructure activities that provide basic services to residents, or activities that promote energy efficiency and conservation through rehabilitation or retrofitting of existing buildings.”

The economic-stimulus legislation says that localities that receive the grants should place a priority on projects for which contracts can be awarded within 120 days of the grant agreement.

Cities and counties currently prepare “action plans” outlining how they will use CDBG dollars. They are being asked to file amendments with HUD to their action plans to list added Recovery Act projects by June 5. States have until June 29 to file their amended plans. The Act specifically prohibits the use of stimulus funds for casinos, aquariums, zoos, golf courses, or swimming pools.

Park agencies and advocates seeking to persuade their Mayors and city officials to include park projects on the amended action plans may find success by specifically and convincingly showing the benefits of a project. This may include job creation (and more importantly, green jobs), basic infrastructure, smart growth, economic development and the like.

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