State kills rural housing program
County provides $5,000 for food vouchers
Bob Shiles Staff writer
LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday learned that the state is no longer providing money for the Community Development Block Grant Scattered Housing Site Program, a program that county officials say has benefited Robeson County over the years.
“The state has the philosophy that bigger is better,” Commissioner Raymond Cummings said. “They are sending the money to urban areas like Raleigh and Charlotte. They are doing the same with DOT (Department of Transportation) money and money that was in the past used to attract businesses to rural areas.”
The money for the Scattered Home Site Program, which provided for the demolition and construction of new housing units, has now been taken reallocated to be used for infrastructure, according to Adrian Lowery, the housing coordinator for the Lumber River Council of Governments, the local agency that administered the program.
“The state feels that better service can be provided if the money goes into infrastructure,” Lowery said. “But this is HUD money and HUD has restrictions for how housing money can be used. There is only so much that can go toward infrastructure.
“To me this hurts rural citizens,” he said. “… This program has been excellent for the county.”
According to Lowery, the money for the Scattered Site Housing Program is part of about $45 million a year that HUD provides the state Department of Commerce to administer programs. Scattered Housing is just one category that the money can be used for, he said.
Lowery said that every three years each of the 100 counties in the state received $400,000 from the Commerce Department to fund the Scattered Site Housing Program.
“This is not a rehab program,” Lowery said. “It is complete replacement of housing units.”
Lowery was at the commissioners meeting on Monday for a public hearing on the close out of the block grant for the 2010 fiscal year. During that fiscal year, he said, the program provided for the replacement of four housing units in Robeson County.
At the recommendation of Cummings, the commissioners voted to send letters to state officials, including the county’s state legislative delegation and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, urging that the Scattered Site Housing Program be reinstated.
The commissioners on Monday also agreed to give $5,000 to the food pantry at the Department of Social Services so that food assistance can be provided to food recipients whose benefits have been delayed because of glitches in the state’s new computer system, NC FAST.
“These people qualify for food stamps, but some have had their benefits delayed by 30 to 60 days,” said Cummings, who is chairman of the Department of Social Services board. “… We are trying to reach out and help these people in need.”
The request was made in a letter to the commissioners from Becky Morrow, the DSS director. She said in her letter that her department needs the $5,000 to continue issuing $50 and $100 vouchers to be used by food stamp recipients to purchase food.
When all of the glitches are worked out of the system, NC FAST is expected to make it more efficient for benefits to be distributed.
In other business, the commissioners:
— Appointed pharmacist Robert Revels and re-appointed veterinarian Dr. Michael Deese to serve on the county’s Board of Health. Revels replaces Tina Bullard as the board’s licensed pharmacist representative. Bullard could not be reappointed because she has served three consecutive two-year terms.
— Requested that Charles Britt, the county’s general services manager, gather information pertaining to fire insurance rates being paid by property owners on the outer limits of county fire districts.
— Approved the distribution of about $20,000 from the commissioners’ discretionary funds. There were 71 distributions, ranging from $91 to $2,500.
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