Mayors oppose proposed cuts to community grant program

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's plan to make deep cuts in a popular community development program was harshly criticized by mayors, who said such a move would undermine efforts to provide affordable housing, create jobs and keep other urban renewal efforts afloat.
Mayors and county officials urged Congress on Tuesday to reject Bush's proposal, part of the administration's 2006 budget plan.
"This will have a devastating economic impact on communities across this country," said Don Plusquellic, mayor of Akron and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said Bush is seeking to weaken the finances of American cities at a time when mayors are already dealing with budget crunches from mounting homeland security costs.
"These cuts are sad, irresponsible and dishonest," O'Malley said. "With a budget-cut ax, he is attacking American cities, he is attacking the metropolitan core."
The Community Development Block Grant program, started in 1974, provides money to more than 1,000 municipalities.
Generally, counties with at least 200,000 residents and cities with at least 50,000 residents automatically receive a grant each year. The government must sign off on a municipality's plan to ensure money is being used to help low-income residents.
States also get money to disburse to smaller communities, which must apply each year.
The program has been a perennial target of Republican presidents since the Reagan administration, though Congress nearly always restores whatever money the White House wants to cut. A harsh fight over Bush's plan is expected.t

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