Dec. 16, 2003 – Changes to the federal Community Development Block Grant program signed into law by President Bush on Tuesday will benefit the Virgin Islands, Delegate Donna M. Christensen said in a release.
The new provisions, contained in the so-called American Dream Down Payment Act, make the insular territories part of the national formula for CDBG funding. Until now, they have been funded through discretionary designation.
The formalizing of territorial inclusion in the program "guarantees our participation based on population, instead of leaving us at the discretion of what's left over when the states and entitlement communities have been satisfied," Christensen said.
And more important, she said, it opens the door for the Virgin Islands to participate in the Section 108 program, which allows the government to leverage up to five times the amount of its yearly allocation for up to 20 years in order to fund bigger projects.
The Virgin Islands now receives about $2 million a year in CDBG funding "for which there is much competition," Christensen noted. "Access to the Section 108 program will allow the government to use the $2 million as leverage for up to $10 million more to fund public facilities improvements such as water and wastewater systems, streets and community centers, housing rehabilitation and landmark structures."
The new law also provides funding for federal Housing and Urban Development Department programs including assistance for down payments and closing costs for first-time, low-income homebuyers.
Christensen said Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of Guam led the territorial delegates' efforts to secure the CDBG changes.
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