Suzanne Julian is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration. She is currently working with the STEP leadership team in Pamlico County as part of the Carolina Economic Revitalization Corps program.
As some of you may be aware, this past Tuesday Governor Perdue’s office announced the awarding of $14 million in Community Development Block Grant funding. Pamlico County is among the 26 local governments that are receiving the grants. Pamlico County will use the money to address four housing units that need to be demolished; the grant will fund the clearing and replacing of the units, as well as providing relocation assistance for the current occupants.
This latest round of funding falls under the “Economic Recovery Program” (CDBG-ER) category of CDBG grants. These grants are specifically intended to help spur development in especially poor communities by meeting local needs in the areas of housing, infrastructure, or “Special Projects” (public facilities, foreclosure prevention, etc.). Other communities benefitting from the $14 million include Alamance County, Beaufort County, Caswell County, Chatham County, Granville County, the City of Lumberton, the City of Mebane, Nash County, and the Town of Navassa.
Watching a major grant process unfold in an area like Pamlico County yields some important lessons about using state (or devolved federal) funding sources to help support a community’s development: One, plan ahead. The application deadline for this round of CDBG-ER money was August 20th—close to six months before the public announcement of the awards. This time frame isn’t unusual, so it’s important to be aware of upcoming grant opportunities and to plan for them well in advance (and not to rely on having the money disbursed immediately). Lesson two, the challenge doesn’t stop with winning a grant. Implementing a grant has its own set of difficulties. Especially in smaller communities that have more limited local-government staff support, complying with the monitoring and reporting requirements of a major grant can be a burden. CDBG grants are especially notorious for requiring significant amounts of reporting and paperwork.
Again, as is always the case with searching for appropriate funding sources, the key question is, “Is this a good fit?” Local governments and non-profits need to ask not only, “Is this funder a good fit for the project we want to fund?” but also, “Are our implementation resources a good match with what this grant will require?” And when the answer to both questions is yes—and sometimes it actually is—it’s a cause for celebration!