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BLOOMINGTON — Twin City residents will help decide this month how nearly $5 million in federal money is spent on affordable housing and other services in the next five years.

Bloomington and Normal will each hold a public meeting on plans for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money — annual federal funding "to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons," said Lauren Gibson, community planner with the McLean County Regional Planning Commission.

The meetings are 5:30 to 7 p.m. July 25 in the cafe at Normal Public Library, 206 W. College Ave., and 5:30 to 7 p.m. July 29 in the community room at Bloomington Public Library, 205 E. Olive St.

Though Bloomington and Normal historically have gotten the money, the 2020-24 period is the first time they're working together on how to spend it, in partnership with the planning commission.

The meetings are the second step in the planning process after residents were invited this spring to fill out a brief survey on how to spend the money. The meetings will help officials choose among suggestions from those surveys, said Vasu Gadhiraju, executive director of the planning commission.

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"The need is far greater than available resources, so we want to take this opportunity to further prioritize what we heard through (1,200) citizen surveys," she said. "We hope people will attend, learn about CDBG more and help us prioritize that funding."

Officials also surveyed organizations that provide services related to CDBG's goals, said Gadhiraju. That information, in addition to public surveys and meetings, will be combined into a report to be presented to both city councils this fall. Officials plan to submit a plan to federal officials in early 2020.

Bloomington currently spends 52 percent of its CDBG money on housing rehabilitation and service delivery; 20 percent on demolition; 13 percent on public services; 9 percent on infrastructure and public facilities; and 6 percent on administration.

Normal has spent CDBG money on "youth education activities, homeless outreach, improved affordability of housing, infrastructure improvements in low- to moderate-income areas of the community, public facilities and improvements, and clearance activities," said Associate Planner Taylor Long.

"We hope these meetings bring in quite a number of people and unique perspectives," said Long. "It's once every five years that this kind of large-scale community development-specific public outreach is conducted, and the importance of this process really cannot be overstated."

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Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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