In this August 2018 file photo, Tami Foley, interim property director of Mid Central Community Action, points out the substantial rehabilitation work being done on a home at 901 W. Jefferson St., Bloomington. The former neighborhood nuisance property was purchased and renovated for sale by MCCA, using state grant money and a Community Development Block Grant through the City of Bloomington.

BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington and Normal officials are looking for community feedback on how to spend nearly $5 million in federal grant money due to the city and town over the next five years.

Residents are invited to fill out a brief survey, either online at mcplan.org or at one of 14 Twin City locations, to have their say in how Community Development Block Grant money will be allocated.

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 McLean County Regional Planning Commission.

"The CDBG program provides annual grants ... 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 planning commission. "In actuality, the majority of CDBG funding must be used to benefit low- and moderate-income persons."

Gibson said how the money can be spent is limited because it's a federal program, meaning some suggestions may not be possible, but "the feedback will be noted and incorporated into other planning projects."

The city 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, said Grants Coordinator Jennifer Toney.

That includes providing no-interest loans to homeowners who need them to fix up their owner-occupied properties, she said.

"If the projects we've been funding are not meeting the community's needs, we need to shift our focus and funding priorities," said Toney of the survey. "The results of this survey will be analyzed along with results from public meetings, focus groups, one-on-one stakeholder interviews (and more)."

The town 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.

That includes down-payment assistance for homeowners; purchase and demolition of blighted properties; sidewalk and sewer projects; Community Health Care Clinic improvements; and Connect Transit bus shelters, he said.

"Each municipality's plan will still reflect respective goals and needs, but both will identify regional, collaborative opportunities for benefiting low- to moderate-income residents where/when possible," said Long.

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


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