By Harry C. Alford
NNPA News Wire Columnist
Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs have passed us by due to the noncompliance of Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Act by each and every HUD Administration since the beginning of the program in 1968. There is too much resistance from the “Poverty Industrial Complex.” These poverty pimps do not want people who live under the poverty level to become empowered through employment. They want them to remain poor, because that is how they make their living.
It reminds me of a famous quote of the great Booker T. Washington: “There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.” That is so true and it also applies to poverty pimps regardless of their race.
Last week I talked about housing grants, which is the bulk of HUD funding. This week I want to inform you about another “pot” of money that HUD distributes to cities, counties and governors. This funding is known as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). Every fiscal year (October 1 – September 30) the aforementioned recipients receive this money to inject community development. As long as it is supposed to go for community development who gets the funding is nondiscretionary. Many mayors will cut out a portion of the annual funding and give it to the local Chamber of Commerce. This is where our Black chambers need to go face to face with their mayor and get their portion of the annual funding. Sometimes the management of the funding goes to the city councils. County executives will manage their funding for each applicable local government.
Here’s a living example. For the state of Illinois, FY2015 the Governors received $26,188,994. He will spread this money to non-entitlement cities (usually towns and rural areas under 30,000 in population. The city of Chicago received $72,477,673. That’s a lot of free money to hand out. Peoria received $1,555,133 while Rockford raked in $2,059,278. Cook County, home of Chicago, received $9,043,048 to spread about the suburbs.
Now, all of this funding “must” comply with Section 3 also – just like public housing funds and Section 8. However, no one other than the National Black Chamber of Commerce is tracking it. It is your tax money returning home to you but are you being denied via contracting and job training. What usually happens is the mayors, county executives and governors hand it out to their pet associations and projects.
I recently spoke at the Northeast Louisiana African American Chamber of Commerce (Monroe, Louisiana). They complained that their mayor gives $100,000 annually to the mainstream chamber and zero to them. I looked it up and reported to them that the mayor and/or city council were receiving $646,778 per year. They have a right to apply for funding as the mainstream chamber was not working for the small and Black own businesses benefit. They do and deserve their fair share.
One of the worst offenders is Jacksonville, Florida ($5,573,644 this year). Following up on a formal HUD complaint in 1995, HUD demanded a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) signed by Jacksonville Housing Authority and the Section 3 construction company who filed the complaint. The VCA had roles for the housing authority and the contractor. JHA also had to pay damages to the contractor. Immediately, Jacksonville ignored the agreement and continued to violate Section 3. Today there has been no difference. I even encouraged for HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson to demand compliance. He even threatened freezing their HUD funding. Still there is no compliance. The struggle continues.
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Yvette Clarke have done advocacy in support of Section 3. Still there is no success in winning compliance. HUD now has a national Section 3 directory for Section 3 businesses throughout the nation. I have not seen any improvement in the matter.
I encourage all of our chapters and others to start increasing the advocacy for Section 3. I now encourage NNPA readers and NNPA newspapers to start investigating who is getting the CDBG funding. Often it goes to help fund new hotels and restaurants. Perfect! So where are the contracts and jobs in regards to Section 3 businesses and residents? You can find out how much money your local government is getting by going to the homepage of our website. Under latest news you will see an entry about “CDBG allocations.” We also have a library of HUD related articles we have posted over the years. The website is: http://www.nationalbcc.org. The next thing you do is ask your city council person to provide a list of where the money is going. That will be quite interesting.