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Southern Nevada Community Services Could Halt Without Federal Funding

homeless_woman.jpg

Associated Press

In this 2002 file photo, a homeless woman sits beside a shopping cart full of belongings.

Each year, Nevada receives about $20 million in community development block grants from the federal government.

Communities use those grants to shelter the homeless, build affordable housing and community centers, comply with Americans with Disabilities Act and more.

But those funds could be in danger, as President Trump seeks to reduce the federal budget in fiscal year 2018.

Several municipalities in Southern Nevada receive CDBG funding, including Clark County, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.

Clark County gets about $6.8 million in federal block grants. It gets the money in five-year segments rather than annually, according to Mike Pawlak, the director of social services for the county.

Some of the projects that would stop if the funding is eliminated include an expansion at the Winchester Community Center, park expansions and upgrades at several places around the valley and a hold on plans to expand a senior center. 

“If that goes away in the ’18 budget, that’s going to be very impactful on our community,” Pawlak said.

Lorena Candelario is the real property and housing services manager for the City of North Las Vegas. She said her city uses block grant money to pay for sidewalk improvements required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also use federal funding for water and sewer line projects. 

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Candelario also said a cut in funding would hit North Las Vegas a lot harder because the city has been struggling with budget concerns since the Great Recession.

“It would definitely not be a good thing for North Las Vegas because we’re lacking in resources," she said.

Plus, she said not providing services now really actually costs society in the long run.

Kathi Thomas-Gibson, community resources manager for the City of Las Vegas, agrees.

“If you don’t have safe places for kids to go after school if you don’t have access so that people in wheelchairs can navigate the city… then it ends up impacting everyone,” she said.

Plus, the funds help enhance the quality of life for specific groups of people like seniors who get food from Meals on Wheels, or blind people who get services that allow them to live independently. Thomas-Gibson said without those funds many of those people might end up in some kind of institution, which will cost more money. 

“We know that the absence of these funds diminishes the quality of life,” she said.

Besides the direct impact the funding has on programs, Thomas-Gibson said the projects the money funds can act as a primer on a pump for economic activity in an area. For instance, better sidewalks with more accessibility will lead to private investment on a street. She also said parks and recreation centers will lead to economic development in the neighborhoods that surround them. 

She said the money leverages other resources and it is "filling that gap where other dollars don't go."

Some people argue the federal government shouldn't be sending funding to communities that it is the state's responsibility. Thomas-Gibson believes it is not an "either-or" approach, but instead an all-encompassing approach. 

"It's a partnership," she said. "It needs to remain a partnership at the local level with the federal government because these are broad ranging issues that are bigger than any one locale but they need to be shaped to the needs of that locale."

Guests

Mike Pawlak, director of social services, Clark County; Lorena Candelario, real property and housing services manager, City of North Las Vegas; Kathi Thomas-Gibson, community resources manager, City of Las Vegas

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