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Mayor might veto $200,000 block grant spending

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    Devine Johnson, 7, front left, swings with volunteer Ellen Baker during weekly children's church service at Family House in Toled in June of 2017.

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    The Family House shelter on Indiana Avenue

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    Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz

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    Exterior of Nexus Health Care on Jefferson Avenue in Toledo.

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    Family House literature sits in the back table of the room at Lourdes University's Franciscan Center.

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Four local organizations are on track to receive $50,000 each in additional Community Development Block Grant dollars, though Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz may veto the spending.

Council this week with an 8-4 vote approved Councilman Larry Sykes’ request to split $200,000 evenly among Family House, the YWCA domestic violence shelter, Nexus Health Care, and the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union. Mr. Sykes has advocated since July that the city spend some of its $3.6 million in surplus federal CDBG funds carried over from years past to help the poor.

“Poverty, homelessness, mental illness — it’s a serious factor here in our city that is a silent epidemic,” he said.

Councilmen Tom Waniewski, Matt Cherry, Rob Ludeman, and Sandy Spang voted against the proposal.

“Every one of these organizations are great organizations, but people need to understand that the city of Toledo is not a bank,” Mr. Ludeman said. “We don’t need to be solicited for money for projects when we’re trying our darndest to stay within a capital budget, and a CDBG budget, and a general fund budget.”

Mr. Kapszukiewicz in August warned council against spending any more general fund money this year, threatening to veto any expenditure that is not absolutely necessary for city government to function.

But CDBG funds are different from the general fund. They’re awarded annually by the federal government and spent only on programs, nonprofits, and social service agencies that work to combat blight and assist those in need. This year Toledo received $7.5 million.

Nevertheless, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he is considering vetoing council’s action and would decide whether to do so by the end of the day Thursday. The mayor has 10 days to either sign or veto any ordinance or resolution passed by city council before it takes effect automatically.

Mr. Sykes on Wednesday said the city needs to help the organizations working to care for the city’s most vulnerable. He said Toledo’s downtown core is flourishing with new commercial and real estate development, but the neighborhoods are being left behind.

Mr. Sykes cited a 2018 State of Poverty in Ohio report, issued by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, that found 39.6 percent of Lucas County residents in 2016 lived below the poverty line.

“I am honored and proud that my fellow council people who voted for this understand the significance of the problem that we’re dealing with in this city. They are sensitive to our citizens,” he said.

The city initially awarded $61,000 in CDBG money to Family House and $30,000 to the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union this year, but Mr. Sykes said they could use the extra boost. Nexus Health Care and the YWCA domestic violence shelter did not receive any initial CDBG funding.

Dino Peluso, board president and interim executive director for Family House, said the additional $50,000 would help the organization feed and clothe the 107 people, including 69 children, who call the shelter home. It would also allow the shelter to continue promoting job training and life skills programs.

“Fifty percent of our funding is grant funding between the state and CDBG. The rest is fund-raising,” Mr. Peluso said. “We know in the future these [CDBG] funds probably are not going to be available, so it’s important to have these funds now to bridge the gap.”

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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