San Benito mulls funding social services

SAN BENITO — The city is having second thoughts about funding for nonprofit agencies.

After weeks of debate, city commissioners are reopening an application process to allow these local social service organizations to request federal funding.

Earlier this week, commissioners agreed to consider giving federal Community Development Block Grant money to the nonprofits.

The city has $16,850 in CDBG money remaining from the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Now, that money might be going to nonprofit organizations.

“We were surprised and we’re glad the commission reconsidered,” Liz Chavez, president of the San Benito Boys and Girls Club, said.

Last year, the city earmarked $6,000 to the club, which serves about 4,500 children a year on its annual $157,000 budget.

“Naturally, we’re grateful for any chance to go after any possible funding,” Chavez said.

Of the available $16,850, $9,850 was originally earmarked for administrative operations while $7,000 had been tapped for the START Center, which closed without spending the money.

At City Hall, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa originally proposed earmarking that money for park improvements.

Second thoughts

But on Tuesday, De La Rosa suggested commissioners consider using the money to fund nonprofit agencies after two organizations argued the city was earmarking money for park improvements while completely cutting off the agencies’ funding.

“Obviously, we’re very pleased to have the opportunity to go through the process and apply for funds,” Dora Martinez, executive director of Court Appointed Child Advocates of Cameron & Willacy Counties, said.

“Any opportunity that we have for any funds we certainly don’t want to miss,” she said. “We’re hopeful we will receive some funding.”

Earlier this year, the agency that helps foster children had requested $6,000 from the city — the same amount it was allocated last year.

During the current fiscal year, the agency has been using the $6,000 to help pay a San Benito worker and help 36 San Benito children, Martinez has said.

If the city cuts its funding, the agency operating on a $428,000 annual budget would have to find more money to offset the loss, Martinez said.

Noting CDBG dollars are allocated based on a city’s size, Martinez said Harlingen has proposed allocating the agency $16,000 while Brownsville recommended earmarking $50,000.

Funding for the new fiscal year

Historically, the city has earmarked much of its annual CDBG allocation to help fund local social service agencies.

However, this year the city did not propose funding the nonprofits.

“The lack of support for social services is what surprised us,” Chavez said. “Other cities support the nonprofits a lot.”

Instead, the city proposed using the money to fund eligible city services such as park and street improvements in low-income areas.

Overall, the CDBG program is expected to provide the city with a total of $406,237 during the upcoming fiscal year, which is $50,000 more than this year.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the city’s proposed allocation includes spending $215,571 on street projects, $60,000 on the water and sewer system, $10,000 on park improvements, $39,000 to help pay off the Resaca Trail land purchase and $70,000 to help fund the city’s administration.

What they asked for

Boys and Girls Club $30,000

Amigos Del Valle – $15,000

Court Appointed Child Advocates – $15,000

Maggie’s House – $8,500

San Benito Housing Authority – $8,500