Schenectady council considers changes to grant budget
SCHENECTADY There won’t be a rubber stamp this year for the Community Development Block Grant.
Schenectady City Council members are planning to propose changes to the tentative budget, which will be discussed in a public hearing Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Council members said they would come to that meeting with their own proposals, which they may also discuss.
Marion Porterfield said she’s looking for ways to help small businesses and unemployed residents.
“That’s something we need in the city,” she said. “You have to look at the needs in the city, and they’ve changed over the years.”
That might mean granting a $20,000 request from the Capital District Community Loan Fund, which wants to open a satellite office in Schenectady to help entrepreneurs get capital for their businesses. But that would mean cutting $20,000 from someone else.
Porterfield said she has come to no conclusions yet — but that she would have a plan by Monday.
“There’s many people who want to start small businesses,” she said. “Small businesses that create a couple of jobs at least, or something that’s needed in the neighborhood, I think that brings back a neighborhood.”
Council President Margaret King might suggest moving funds around to grant a $6,000 request for security deposits to prevent homelessness. That program was not funded in the proposed budget because it still had $14,000 unspent from previous years.
The Schenectady Inner City Ministry has run that program for decades, but last year, a federal grant that also funds the program was delayed. At the same time, job cuts at the county led SICM to turn administration of the program over to the Schenectady Community Action Program.
Due to the changes, the program gave out no deposits for six months, SICM Executive Director Rev. Phillip Grigsby said, leaving $14,000 unspent.
But just before the proposed CDBG budget was unveiled, he withdrew $7,000. He now has requests in the pipeline for another $3,000, and he said he will have spent all $14,000 by June 30, the end of the budget year.
He asked King to restore funding to the program “because it benefits those in need. It provides a basic human need,” he said.
It helps people who are homeless or in shelters but have enough money to pay rent; they just don’t have the additional savings for a security deposit. The program can provide them with up to $500 for a security deposit.
“They’re up against it. Getting a security deposit usually helps,” Grisgby said.
The money is considered a loan, and all repayments go back into the fund. Tenants are not allowed to use the program a second time unless they have paid off their first loan.
King said she would look into the issue.
Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said she also wants to make some “small” changes.
“There’s some massaging I’d like to suggest,” she said, but declined to explain before discussing it with the council.
Grigsby said he plans to speak at Monday’s council meeting, but he won’t just be supporting his security deposit program; he will also speak in favor of the Capital District Community Loan Fund.
“They have a very strong record of generating jobs [through] small businesses,” he said, adding that the agency doesn’t need regular funding. The request is just for startup costs.