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City of Wheeling Looking Ahead to CDBG Funding Distributions

Photo by Alec Berry The seal of the city of Wheeling overlooks empty chairs in council chambers at the City-County Building.

WHEELING — Officials in the city of Wheeling are expected to begin discussions soon about the distribution of federal Community Development Block Grant funding, a process which is slightly behind schedule this year.

Earlier this month, Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron told members of city council that the annual distribution of CDBG funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had been delayed.

“We had not yet received our CDBG application this year because the federal government was running behind,” Herron said.

The city of Wheeling was recently notified, however, that its 2022 allocation of CDBG funding was expected to be $1,153,000. While that amount in CDBG money is slightly less than Wheeling’s typical annual allocation, the city’s slice of HOME Investment Partnership Program funding for this year is expected to make up the difference.

“That’s about $30,000 less than last year,” Herron said of the CDBG award for 2022. “But that amount — approximately $30,000 — was shifted to the HOME program, and this year’s allocation will be $346,000.”

The federal government’s CDBG programs are designed to improve economic, social and physical environments of eligible rural cities and counties to enhance the quality of life for low- and moderate-income residents, which in turn, is intended to strengthen the entire community. The HOME Investment Partnerships Program provides grants to states and local communities to fund a wide range of activities, including building, buying and rehabilitating affordable housing; providing homeownership assistance or providing direct rental assistance for low-income people.

“We will begin the allocation process as soon as we get written confirmation from HUD,” Herron said. “But those numbers I don’t believe will change, and we’ll have the opportunity to present some ideas to council for allocating this year’s CDBG funds.”

In the past, city leaders had discussed the possibility of distributing larger chunks of CDBG funding to targeted areas that could be more impactful to the community, as opposed to its traditional, routine distribution of smaller annual allocations to several local organizations.

The process of receiving and distributing CDBG funding typically occurs earlier in the spring, but city leaders said the schedule had been delayed on the federal level this year.

“We do anticipate receiving that within the next couple of weeks, in which case the CDBG process will start,” Herron said earlier this month. “Typically, that occurs in February and March, and then ultimately it would be before council in April. However, communities across the country have not yet received those allocations, but they will be coming soon.”

Another pool of funding is also opening up for the city of Wheeling soon. Earlier this year, the city was awarded a number of federal earmarks. Although not all projects made the final cut for funding that had been requested, plenty of projects did get funded, and the city was awarded a total of about $3.8 million through the Congressionally Directed Spending projects program.

Herron reported that the portals for application for the federal earmarks that the city had received opened up earlier this month, and officials were completing the process to receive the funds so a variety of projects could move forward.

“We are making an application for those earmarks,” Herron said. “It is not a competitive situation, but an application is required, which is different from previous years with earmarks, but nonetheless, we are working our way through that. Funds will be available sometime in July.”

The city of Wheeling is also working to develop projects to be funded with its federal pandemic relief allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. Wheeling was allocated nearly $29.5 million, which has to be reinvested back into the community through eligible projects by the end of 2024.

Pandemic relief money aside, the city remains on solid fiscal ground, as was reiterated during this month’s Finance Committee meeting.

“If you compare apples to apples, the city right now is about $1.5 million ahead of the same time it was last year,” Herron said during a review of the city’s April finance report, reflecting 10 months of revenues and expenses into the fiscal year that began in July 2021. “May is traditionally a fairly decent revenue month. Month to date in May, we’ve already collected $717,000 of B&O taxes. So we’re already ahead of the budgeted B&O tax revenue by over $200,000. The sales tax revenue, as well, is up by $190,000.”

Although numbers from the past couple of years appear to be skewed because of the windfall of pandemic relief funding received — including CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding from 2020 and the previous fiscal year’s budget, Wheeling’s cash general fund balance remains in the black by millions, officials said.

“It’s still very strong considering the capital investment that’s occurring thus far this year,” Herron said. “Overall, I think 10 months into the fiscal year, this is still a very strong financial statement.

“This year compares favorably to pre-COVID years.”

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