Budget cuts and bills threatens CRA

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Mayor Kriseman said poverty will rise in St. Pete if cuts are enacted.

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Standing in front of Deloris and Joseph Elias’ home on 14th Avenue South, Mayor Rick Kriseman held a press conference last Thursday urging residents to call and write Senate President Joe Negron to make him aware of their opposition to two bills that would hinder progress on the war against poverty in south St. Petersburg.

“Like cities across Florida, our city is under siege by bad proposed budgets and bad bills coming from both our nation’s capital and our state’s capital,” said the mayor, who is running for reelection.

Singling out House Bill 13 and Senate Bill 1770, Kriseman said if these bills were to become law, any progress made would be reversed.

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Both the mayor and Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman took aim at the Trump administration for its efforts in shutting down the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and its proposed cuts to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget. The city receives more than $3 million in CDBG funds and millions in HUD housing assistance.

“I think that it’s important that everyone understands what this means to our city,” said Wheeler-Bowman.

She said CDBG funding has helped improved daycare facilities, helped with the redevelopment of historic Jordan Park Elementary School that now houses Head Start and has even replaced a roof on a facility that cares for the elderly.

Wheeler-Bowman said the number of improvements this grant afforded is too numerous to name, but “the loss of these programs will be devastating and not just to us but to the efforts of struggling communities and neighborhoods throughout the country.”

The city receives home investment partnership funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and with that funding, they are able to provide the rehabilitation of single-family owner-occupied homes such as the Elias home.

“They fixed up our house from top to bottom,” said Joseph, who once built houses. He said it would have cost him more than $20,000 to do the work himself.

The elderly couple received a home repair loan that fixed their roof, renovated the kitchen, painted, added fixtures in the bathroom and much more.

“We needed a lot of stuff that needed to be done that we couldn’t afford to do,” said Deloris, who is paying $60 a month for all the repairs.

Kriseman blasted the Florida Legislature, who is looking to change the tax increment financing (TIF) process.

Legislation sponsored by Republican Senator Tom Lee of Thonotosassa and Republican State Representative Jake Raeburn of Valrico (HB 13/SB 1770) will limit the power of local CRAs.

This piece of legislation came about after the mismanagement of funds in Miami-Dade CRA last year. Kriseman said the entire state should not be penalized for the actions of one community, and urged everyone to contact Negron at flsenate.gov or call 850-487-5025 to register their opposition to the bill.

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