Congressman Says Block Grant Program “On the Chopping Block”

Elected officials gathered Friday in West Springfield to announce the award of $31-million in federal block grants to cities and towns across Massachusetts. But one congressman says despite the these kind of grants might be targeted for elimination. 

More than a dozen Western Massachusetts communities are receiving block grants to fund a variety of projects ranging from affordable housing renovations to social programs to construction of parks. With the wading pool at Alice Corson Playground–which was built with block grants–as the backdrop, U-S Congressman Richard Neal delivered a warning. He says despite the program’s popularity with municipal leaders, the grants could become victims of continued federal budget cuts and sequestration.

“It is on the chopping block. It is being proposed not for curtailment, but for elimination. Now when you listen to the United States Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities and Towns, they’re going to say ‘Well, has everybody lost it trying to give up this sort of a program?'” Neal says. 

Neal blames Republican House members for eyeing the program for possible elimination. He says losing it would be a blow to cities and towns, who propose how the money would be spent when they apply for the funds.
 
“There are meetings that take place in city and town halls to determine what priorities are. Then local elected officials act on the priorities,” Neal says. 
 
One leader who was scheduled to attend the announcement but didn’t make it was Governor Deval Patrick. Ironically after a long battle with the State Legislature over funding of transportation projects, he was stuck in traffic on the Mass. Turnpike.