City, county to receive more CDBG money

Another $40 million will be coming to the City of Minot and Ward County from the federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program, and this time, homeowners could be in line for reimbursement for flood repairs.

Speaking for the state’s congressional delegation, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced the grant at a news conference in Minot Wednesday.

The city will receive $35 million directly. The State of North Dakota will receive $6.6 million, of which about $5.2 million is expected to go to Ward County.

“This is money that certainly we need,” Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said. “We have a lot of unmet needs.”

“Any financial help we can get is greatly appreciated,” added Jack Nybakken, county commission chairman.

The city and county expect to make use of some of the grant to acquire property in the path of a proposed flood protection project. But they also are interested in the possibility that some money could be used to assist flooded property owners.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the CDBG-DR program, has indicated that it may be possible to reimburse people who have made repairs to their flood-damaged homes, Hoeven said. There would be environmental and other issues that would have to be worked through, but it could happen, he said.

Dan Gomez, acting regional administrator for HUD in Denver, said grant recipients are able to use the money as they see fit as long as the spending meets the national objectives of the program, which include eliminating blight and benefiting low- to moderate-income residents. He said the city could set up a program to aid low- to moderate-income homeowners whose other federal assistance or insurance didn’t cover their repair costs.

Gomez said it is good news that Minot and Ward County were able to get the extra grant money because of the degree of devastation they experienced in the 2011 flood.

“It is absolutely wonderful from the standpoint that we have an additional allocation to meet some of those unmet needs that were identified in the action plan from the first allocation,” he said.

Before allocating any money, the city must develop an action plan as it did with its first $67.5 million CDBG-DR grant. City finance director Cindy Hemphill said a plan likely will be ready for public comment and a public meeting by early summer.

The city allocated its previous CDBG-DR money to various projects, including sewer and landfill improvements, a downtown parking structure, a housing rehabilitation and reconstruction program for low- to moderate-income homeowners, acquisition of flooded properties, infrastructure to support affordable housing and a housing study.

CDBG-DR money is more flexible than other sources of federal funding, and Hoeven noted that the new grant will be available for uses that weren’t able to get funding in the past.

The city and county will be allowed to use the funding for home acquisition outside the flood plain, which formerly was not allowed. The city and county will be permitted to build levees and flood protection structures on land bought out with the funding, which also was not previously permitted.

Ward County allocated half the $9.4 million from its previous CDBG-DR money to home acquisitions last year. Half was allocated assist communities with flood recovery projects.

The new grant brings total federal assistance to Minot and Ward County through grants, loans and direct assistance to nearly $633 million. That includes $117.3 million in CDBG-DR money, $89.8 million in individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $224 million in Small Business Administration loans and $74.2 million in public infrastructure repairs.

Hoeven and former senator Kent Conrad had introduced an amendment to Hurricane Sandy disaster legislation that provided $500 million in additional CDBG-DR funding. The senators worked to make the aid available on a competitive basis to communities that experienced severe disasters in 2011 or 2012.