Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

CDBG Helos Wausau, Wis., Create Jobs

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

CDBG Helos Wausau, Wis., Create Jobs

Article excerpt

The City of Wausau, Wis., the largest metro area in the state north of Madison, has a population of 38,000 but serves a total of 85,000. Approximately half the residents in Wausau meet the definition of low to moderate income and much of the community's job base is centered on local industries, including the city hospital.

Local elected officials in Wausau know first-hand the benefits that the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program brings to the city. In a letter, Wausau Mayor James Tipple told NLC President James E. Mitchell Jr., that "Wausau is a small entitlement city that has been a good steward of the tax payer's dollars. We loan out CDBG funds, have leveraged every dollar we received and have made a difference."

Ann Werth is a long-time resident and Wausau's director of community development. She agrees with the mayor's sentiments, and adds that in a tough economy, the city's fiscal budget will be directly impacted by cuts to the federal program.

"I can't begin to tell you how important block grant programs are to cities like ours," Werth said. "CDBG helps solve local problems. We have leveraged millions of dollars in private funds to assist our work."

The city has used CDBG grants to finance construction of new commercial and residential buildings in once-blighted areas. These projects have helped local businesses grow, as well as provide space for direct service organizations such the Boys and Girls Club, a community health clinic and an expanding local area food bank.

The city has also put CDBG grants to work in repairing streets that run through lower income census tracts throughout the city. Unfortunately, any reduction in funding to the CDBG program would create higher assessments on city residents in neighborhoods where revitalization is beginning to take root.

"I understand cuts have to be made, but when you look at a 63 percent cut to your budget you don't have a program. …

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