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Block grant allocations cut 15%

Dozens of community groups that provide services to tens of thousands of youth, senior citizens and low-income residents have seen this year's federal block grant allocations slashed by 15 percent.

The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency took the action Monday in response to a June decision by federal officials to cut block grants by 16.5 percent. City officials said they were able to keep the cuts to 15 percent for human services groups because they reduced funding in other categories by more than 18 percent.

The Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center receives one of the largest block grant allocations from the city. Executive Director Marlies A. Wesolowski praised city officials for trying to blunt the impact of the cuts to the extent they could. But she said her agency will lose nearly $25,000 in block grants in the same year that it lost significant county aid.

"It's not pretty, but we're doing the best we can," Wesolowski said.

Due to fiscal pressures, the center has consolidated two summer youth programs at one site. The programs are being offered at the T.J. Dulski Community Center on Lewis Street.

Wesolowski said her agency also has had to reduce its payroll and take other cost-saving steps to help stay afloat in a year when it lost about half of its government funding.

"It's the reality that we live in today," she said.

The city has allocated block grants to 37 human services groups in the current year. City officials were bracing themselves for reductions in federal aid. But when the block grant budget was being crafted last winter, city leaders had expected the reductions to be under 8 percent.

Wesolowski said what makes the cuts even more painful is the fact that they're occurring three months after the start of the May 1 fiscal year.

The 16.5 percent reduction amounts to nearly a $2.9 million cut in block grants. The federal government also cut aid to housing programs.

A member of the Urban Renewal Agency said city officials are painfully aware of the fact that federal aid will be reduced even further in future years.

"I think things are going to get worse before they get better," said Common Council Community Development Committee Chairman Michael J. LoCurto.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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