Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bellevue survey to determine grants

Income levels provide basis for federal funding

Express Staff Writer

A current survey of Bellevue residents’ incomes will help determine whether the city is eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants.

The anonymous survey, distributed in water and sewer bills to property owners and tenants this month, asks for household income levels based on area median incomes in Blaine County. 

“This survey is anonymous and necessary for the city,” wrote Bellevue Mayor Chris Koch in a letter attached to the survey.

The survey is due back to City Hall by Friday, Sept. 28. If 51 percent or more of Bellevue residents are found to be “low- to moderate-income earners,” the city will be eligible to apply for an Idaho Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Bellevue received $200,000 in block grant funding for a water main upgrade program based on a similar survey in 2006. At that time, 58.11 percent of Bellevue residents were ranked as “low- to moderate-income earners.”

In order to qualify for this category, a single individual in Bellevue would have to earn $43,000 or less each year. A family of four would qualify if household income is between $55,900 and $62,100 each year.

The $200,000 grant funding awarded to Bellevue in 2011 was combined with $500,000 in matching city funds to replace numerous old water lines in the city with larger gauge pipes, a change that is expected to increase water pressure for firefighting purposes.

Jeff McCurdy, a community planner for the nonprofit Region lV Development Association, is administering the survey. He said cities will be awarded funds from the block grant program in May, based on need and the city’s matching financial contribution for projects.

There is no matching fund requirement for the grants, which are designed to address health and safety issues such as inadequate water lines. But the communities with both the greatest need and the greatest financial participation will get them,” McCurdy said. 

The Region IV Development Association keeps up to 10 percent of grant funding it wins from federal agencies for administrative purposes, including overseeing compliance with federal regulations, McCurdy said. He said block grant funding, which has been provided by the federal government since the 1970s, has been reduced by 20 percent in the past two years.

McCurdy said only 49.89 percent of Bellevue residents scored as low- to moderate-income earners in the 2000 census report. He said the 2010 census did not contain income data, which led to the need for current survey.

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