WASHINGTON -- US Representative Barney Frank and Newton Mayor Setti Warren are sounding alarm bells about possible cuts to federal community development block grant programs as Republican budget hawks begin looking for ways to trim federal spending.
The block grant program provided $4.4 billion to cities and towns across the nation last year for various programs targeted at low-income communities, including purchases of foreclosed homes, foreclosure counseling, job training and day care. Massachusetts communities received $36 million of that.
Frank and Warren, at a press conference on Capitol Hill today, said losing the funding would further cripple cities and towns that already are facing fiscal crises as they try to recover from the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
"This is what we are worried about," said Frank, who was flanked by congressmen and mayors from Rhode Island, New York, California, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
Republicans, who have promised to cut $100 billion from the federal budget, so far have not publicly targeted the block grant program for reduction, but Frank said expects they will because GOP leaders have tried to cut the program before.
A spokesman for House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan did not immediately return messages left seeking comment.
In Massachusetts last year, the program gave $21 million to Boston, $4.9 million to Worcester and $4.4 million to Springfield. The funds are earmarked for community development, and can be used in a variety of ways, including small business assistance and job retention programs.
"It's a critical resource," said Warren, whose city of Newton received a little more than $2 million last year. "This gives mayors the ability to focus funds where they are most needed."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.