Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TOP STORY >> More federal help coming

By EILEEN FELDMAN
Leader managing editor

Several area housing authorities are among the 106 in Arkansas that will receive more than $29 million in federal stimulus funds. They include:

– Jacksonville Housing Authority, $189,102.

– Lonoke County Housing Authority, $211,997.

– Housing Authority of McRae, $30,781.

– Beebe Housing Authority, $82,865.

– DesArc Housing Authority, $81,356.

– Searcy Housing Authority, $273,513.

– England Housing Authority, $235,635.

The funding can be used for energy-efficient modernization and to make large-scale improvements to public-housing developments, such as safety repairs.

Jim Durham, chairman of the Jacksonville Housing Authority Board, said Tuesday he was pleased with the funding the authority is receiving for reducing energy use.

The money will circulate in the local economy and “multiplies many times in the community,” Durham said.

The JHA will spend the money on an energy savings, such as improving bathrooms and reducing water usage in toilets in public housing, he said.

“Energy savings are the primary target of this money,” Durham said.

He said the authority will spend the money in the next two years.

Funds are available for 27 months. A few stipulations apply including 50 percent of all grant funds must be obligated within 120 days and 50 percent of all grant funds must be spent within one year.

More than $88 million has been earmarked in Arkansas for the Public Housing Capital Fund.

An additional $351.5 million is allocated for highway infrastructure investment.
There are 27 shovel-ready highway projects certified throughout the state including two local projects.

One project would rehabilitate 2.8 miles of Hwy. 70 from the Pulaski County line into Lonoke County. The cost range is estimated to be $542,873 to $904,788.

The second area highway project would extend 2.97 miles from Pleasant Plains south on Hwy. 167 from Independence into White counties. That project, also funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funds, has a cost range of $845,011 to $1,408,351.

Gov. Mike Beebe signed certifications last week confirming Arkansas’ involvement in the Recovery and Reinvestment Act and enabling the flow of funds to Arkansas projects.

For law-enforcement agencies and activities, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG) allows states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system.

There is $2 billion allocated for state and local law enforcement assistance through the JAG program.

Such programs include law enforcement programs; prosecution and court programs; prevention and education programs; corrections and community corrections programs; drug treatment and enforcement programs; planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs; crime victim and witness programs.

Pulaski County is eligible for $2,897,792, of which $250,882 could go to the county; $146,917 is available for Jacksonville and $66,835 is available for Sherwood.
White County is eligible for $92,927, of which $31,912 could go to the county and $61,015 could be available for Searcy.

Other available allocations include $13,849 for Beebe; $57,402 for Cabot; $15,053 to Lonoke; $62,219 for Lonoke County; $13,648 for Ward, and $10,838 for England.

Grants must be applied for by April 9. The grants are meant to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement (including support for hiring), to combat violence against women, to fight Internet crimes against children, to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, to assist victims of crime, and to support youth mentoring.

The procedure for allocating JAG grants is based on a formula of population and violent crime statistics, in combination with a minimum allocation to ensure that each state and territory receives an appropriate share of funding. Sixty percent of the allocation is awarded directly to a state and 40 percent is set aside for local governments.

Funding will be used by states and more than 5,000 local communities to enhance their ability to protect communities and combat crime.

A Web site has been established by the state for those who want to track the spending of federal stimulus money. The site can be found at recovery.arkansas.gov.

In addition to the site, a recovery hotline is now active.

Arkansans can call 501-683-5767, or toll-free at 1-877-682-1515, to get additional information or provide feedback.