Fate of local agencies remains unclear

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The fate of several community agencies in the city of Berkeley remains uncertain as federal funding for community development services is to be slashed and the Berkeley City Council deliberates on the most cost-effective allocation of the remaining money.

At the council's three-hour public hearing Tuesday night, many community agencies - ranging from those providing disability services to vocational skills - pleaded for continued funding, citing the projected decrease in federal funding as a threat to services and overall organizational vitality. The council is set to approve allocation of funds for community agencies at its next meeting on May 3.

Though over 60 community agencies applied for continued funding - whose total requests amount to about $10 million - only about $8.3 million is available for distribution in fiscal year 2012, according to director of the city's Housing and Community Services Department Jane Micallef.

Funding allocation is based on agency performance and the value of "safety net services" to the community, according to Micallef, who added that resources are limited due to inflexible grant requirements and an increased number of applications.

To offset the effects of the substantial cuts, City Manager Phil Kamlarz has proposed denying funding for new projects, maintaining the current level of funding for a third of agencies and reducing the current level of funding for another third.

"It's very difficult to come up with recommendations that fit within the available resources and add to it the complexity of the ever-changing forecast about how much money was going to be available in federal funds," Micallef said at the meeting.

In fiscal year 2012, the city is projected to face a 16.8 percent reduction in entitlement amounts to the Community Development Block Grant, a federal block aimed at improving public and community facilities and public services, and a 12 percent decrease in funding to HOME, the largest federal block grant exclusive to affordable housing. However, the city is expected to receive increased funding to the federal Emergency Solutions Grant, which serves the immediate housing needs of the homeless.

As a result, many community agencies in the city, already vying for external funding sources, will likely experience direct impacts from the cuts.

Inter-City Services, a Berkeley nonprofit that provides vocational and training services, receives nearly $133,000 in community development funds annually. However, the agency, like many others, is expected to experience substantial reductions in funding from the city.

"Inter-City Services is a vital safety net in our community," said Mansour Id-Deen, executive director for the organization, at the meeting. "The recommended cut is an economic denial of services for residents of South Berkeley and West Berkeley."


Yousur Alhlou covers city government.

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