Cherokee County Commissioners last week approved plans needed to pave the way for the county to receive more federal grant money.

Board members approved a proposed five-year plan, as well as a one-year action plan, created by the Cherokee County Community Development Block Grant Office. These plans, which have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are important in helping secure grant money for service organizations in the county.

Cherokee County first received grant money from HUD in 2009, according to the county’s CDBG program office manager, Laura Calfee.

The program is designed to help people classified by HUD as being in the low-to-moderate income range by offering money for housing, providing a sustainable living environment and expanding economic opportunities.

“Nonprofit agencies that provide human services and participating cities within the jurisdiction may apply for grant funds to either provide services or to construct/expand/rehabilitate public facilities of human service providers,” Calfee said. “Public infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks, also qualify in low-to-moderate income areas.”

Calfee said that, as an entitlement grantee, the county receives an annual allocation from HUD, although the specific amount received is based on the plans submitted to the department. Once HUD approves the submitted applications, the money it provides goes to the county, which then reimburses the agencies who requested block grant money as they complete the projects listed on their applications to the county.

In the five-year strategic plan, Calfee said the housing stock and market conditions for the area are carefully analyzed, while surveys, stakeholder meetings and public meetings help determine what some of the various needs in the community are. This information is then coupled with additional data provided by federal agencies like HUD and the Census Bureau so the county CDBG office can prioritize the overall needs of the county and develop long-term strategies to meet those needs.

Meanwhile, the action plan provides not only HUD, but also the general public information about how the county will go about meeting the needs identified in the five-year plan based on the money received through the grant program. A new action plan is prepared every year and explains in detail how the overall goals will be met.

In the submission approved by the board of commissioners Tuesday night, the organizations included in the funding proposal were:

♦ Malon D. Mimms Club of the Boys & Girls Club;

♦ Cherokee Child Advocacy Council/Anna Crawford Children’s Center;

♦ MUST Ministries;

♦ Bethesda Community Clinic;

♦ G. Cecil Pruett Community Center;

♦ Cherokee County Historical Society;

♦ Habitat for Humanity’s North Central Georgia Chapter,Cherokee County Home Repair Program.

“(These) seven organizations will help the county address needs in the community for the program year 2019, and a few non-profit agencies are awarded funding for multiple programs/services,” Calfee said. “For example, the county partners with Habitat for Humanity to repair homes for the elderly, disabled and veterans. They also receive funding to acquire lots to build affordable homes in the community.”

Other uses included Bethesda Community Clinic hiring another staff member and the Boys & Girls Club continuing to provide transportation from area schools to the Mimms Club facility, according to Calfee.

Calfee said the deadline for the county to submit its application to HUD is June 14. Once all the applications are received, she said it takes the department approximately 60 days to made the decision on how much is given to each applicant, followed by an additional 30 days for the money to be received. The deadline for cities and non-profits to submit their requests to the county is June 21.

No matter how much or how little each agency has requested to receive through the CDBG, Calfee said the money the county has received through HUD over the past decade has proven to be extremely beneficial to everyone, as local agencies and organizations that do invaluable work in the community are able to continue providing the programs and services they do while not having to worry as much about finding the funding necessary to maintain current operations.

“Supporting agencies that provide services to the vulnerable populations in the county is invaluable,” Calfee said. “Other funding options for the nonprofits are shrinking, but they are able to use CDBG funds to leverage limited funds to provide those essential services. The mission of the Cherokee County CDBG Program Office is to invest in people and services to develop a viable community so that all families and individuals may have basic needs met, may enjoy safe, decent and affordable housing, may live in a suitable environment and may be afforded the chance to expand economic opportunities. Many of the agencies we fund consider the funding a tool to give the people they serve a hand up and not a handout. When the livability of a community is improved and economic opportunities are provided to vulnerable populations, the community as a whole thrives.”

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