Shrinking grant money strains Glendale's nonprofits

As federal funds for social services in Glendale continue to decrease, one City Council member said he wants the city to reconfigure how it distributes the shrinking pot of money during a council meeting this week.

Councilman Zareh Sinanyan, who formerly was on a lower-level committee that recommended funding allocations for an annual grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said he'd like the city to stop sucking up money from the social services grant to cover code enforcement costs for south Glendale.

He'd prefer the money instead go to capital improvement projects for nonprofits.

“These funds are dwindling at an alarming rate and these applicants are finding it harder and harder at effectuating meaningful programs,” Sinanyan said.

Glendale is set to get $1.8 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for fiscal year 2014-15 — down from $2 million last year and $2.5 million the year prior — and there's little wiggle room for how the city can spend that money.

City administration costs drain 20% of the CDBG grant and 15% can be earmarked for social services, with the remainder covering capital and neighborhood improvements in low-income areas.

The latter categories can be split between community and city programs. For example, social services funding has supported Ascencia, Glendale's largest homeless services nonprofit, as well as the police mentoring program Students Training As Role Models.

The capital-improvement funds have benefited city parks as well as improvements at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, the Armenian Relief Society and Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter.

Traditionally, the city has tapped a portion of the neighborhood-improvement category — about $376,000 is planned for the upcoming year — for code enforcement in south Glendale. Code enforcement in north Glendale is paid for through the General Fund, which covers police, parks and other general services.

Sinanyan said freeing up the $376,000 could make more funding available for nonprofits aiming to do capital improvements.

Requests for grants from nonprofits often outpaces available funds. In the past, the city has had to cut back on funding for homeless, after-school and other social services. This year will likely be no different.

But City Manager Scott Ochoa said that as the city continues to struggle financially, even as it gets back on its feet, it would be difficult to find a funding source to replace the code enforcement money taken from CDBG.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman agreed. “I think that right now we're just not in that place [to pay for code enforcement in south Glendale from the General Fund]. Hopefully in the future, we will be,” she said.

Freidman added that for her, CDBG funding was meant to improve the community, so the city and nonprofits should work together to do that.

“In my view, the nonprofits really are our partners,” she said. “The question is how do we best spend the money to best serve the community.”

Friedman said she'd prefer the CDBG money go to whomever serves the community the best, whether that be the city or nonprofits.

While there wasn't vocal support for Sinanyan's proposal from others on the dais, he asked his colleagues to keep it in mind as the monetary situation at City Hall improves.

Five years ago, Glendale received roughly $4 million in CDBG funding, said Community Services & Parks Director Jess Duran.

“It's hurting so much. We have less and less wiggle room,” said Mayor Dave Weaver. “It's as if the federal government is eliminating the program a little bit over time.”

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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