MY VIEW by John C. Cappello
“Whatsoever you have done unto the least of my sisters and brothers you have done it onto me.” In the Hudson Valley we are blessed to have a number of nonprofit organizations working to help feed, clothe, shelter and provide a hand up to our sisters, brothers and children in need.
I am proud to be a board member for RECAP, one of those many such worthwhile organizations. I have witnessed first hand the dedication and passion that the staff of RECAP and many Hudson Valley organizations exhibit in helping those in need.
Unfortunately, the valuable work these organizations conduct is in jeopardy of being severely diminished or disappearing altogether if the budget, proposed, by the new administration, is adopted by Congress.
I focus below only on the proposed drastic deep cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget, although there are a number more cuts proposed relating to National Endowment for the Arts, EPA, etc., that can and should be the focus of other articles.
The proposed HUD cuts will significantly impact many Hudson Valley residents, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The core programs under attack include, but are certainly not limited to, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME.
According to information compiled by Pattern by Progress over the last five federal fiscal years 2012-2016, HUD grants to the Hudson Valley more than $111,000,000 which does not include additional HUD funds awarded through New York State. The City of Middletown, Newburgh, Kingston and Poughkeepsie have received a total of $15.4 million with an additional $21.8 million going to Orange and Dutchess County. New York State also stands to lose 20,293 housing vouchers and $430 million in public housing funds.
Contrary to what many believe these dollars are not just handouts, they are investments in our community.
In fact, the general economic multiplier used by community development professionals is estimated at $1.80 in return for every $1.00 invested. For example, a $20,000,000 housing project in the Hudson Valley would have a local impact of an estimated $36,000,000 on the local economy. This funding provides hundreds of permanent jobs in the nonprofit community development agencies and for-profit developers. Furthermore, these federal funds create and retain jobs in the field in construction, maintenance and building supply.
Most importantly, these dollars assist those in the most vulnerable populations of our community including seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and homeless individuals and families. CDBG funds, in addition to housing, provided assistance and leverage for local municipal and private resources for community centers, parks, job training programs, downtown revitalization, economic development, and infrastructure like water, sewer and sidewalks.
In December I had the great pleasure of attending the holiday party for the residents of the recently opened RECAP Mill Project in the City of Middletown. I cannot adequately express the gratitude of the residents, many whom have the first stable living area in several years. Children in this development now have a safe place to call home and a quiet space of their own to study, learn and dream of a better future. These folks and especially the children will likely pay the community back tenfold for this small hand up.
In the City of Kingston the Lace Mill Project conducted by our friends at RUPCO using HUD and HOMES funds completed the 55 unit affordable housing projects for artists which includes public space for celebrating the arts. This project was recently cited in Hudson Valley Magazine as helping to revitalize the City of Kingston.
In addition, this hand up to revitalize our communities demonstrates that we as a nation care deeply about our fellow human beings. Over the course of the next several weeks RECAP will be providing on its website and social media sites video testimonials from the many people who are helped by these programs in jeopardy. I encourage other Hudson Valley non-profits to do the same. I am sure if you hear their stories you will understand that these are not people seeking handouts but people deeply grateful for the opportunities they have been provided and more than willing to work to become happy, healthy and productive members of our community.
I urge you and any of your out-of-state friends, family and acquaintances to contact their federal representatives to let them know that if we are to be great as a nation we must not lose our compassion. By providing a hand up to those in need we all become richer.
This is the full article. A rendition of this article was published in the Times Herald Record on 3/28/17.
John C. Cappello is a partner practicing Land Use/Environmental and Municipal Law. He can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.