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City's plan for feds' millions? Help people

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Upgrades to Randolph Pool are in Covington's 2018-19 plan for federal CDBG funds.

COVINGTON, Ky. – The Annual Action Plan is well-named. 

It spells out how Covington – and, in some cases, nearby cities – plan to use up to $3.6 million from the federal government to take action that directly improves the lives of families. 

The money comes from two federal sources with long and obscure names – the HOME Investment Partnerships Program and the Community Development Block Grant program. 

But there’s nothing vague about how the money will be used: Emergency home repairs. Down payments for homebuyers. Upgrades to neighborhood pools and parks. Smoother streets. Sidewalk ramps. Police patrols in high-crime neighborhoods. Creating affordable apartments above small storefronts. Planting trees. 

“The Action Plan itself tends to not attract a lot of attention, but residents definitely notice all the good that it does,” said Jeremy Wallace, Community Development Manager for the City of Covington. “Throughout the year, we will be spending this money on core services and programs that touch people directly.” 

And because the programs are steered toward low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, that “good” is especially noticeable. 

Residents can take their first look at a draft of the plan, which is posted on the City’s website, and have 30 days to comment on it. (For instructions, see the bottom of this article). The City will also hold a public hearing on the plan at 6 p.m. June 12 during the Covington City Commission meeting at 20 W. Pike St. 

The hearing is also open to residents of Ludlow, Newport, Bellevue and Dayton, which with Covington make up the Northern Kentucky HOME Consortium. 

In the coming fiscal year, the consortium will direct the spending in those cities of about $600,000 allocated from the federal HOME program. Covington separately will receive about $1.5 million in new CDBG funds. Both programs also have money carried over from the current year and program income from loan repayments, Wallace said. 

Federal statutes governing the CDBG program lay out three goals: Provide decent housing. Provide a suitable living environment. And expand economic opportunities. The sole purpose of the HOME program is creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income households. 

In February, Covington conducted a community needs survey and held a public hearing to gather ideas and suggestions on how to use the funds to accomplish those goals. Over 240 people responded, and their input helped shape the priorities in the Annual Action Plan, Wallace said. 

Covington also reached out to myriad stakeholder groups for input, including social service agencies, housing advocates, businesses and neighborhood groups. 

The plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 reflects a slightly different strategy in Covington, he said. 

“Rather than spread CDBG investments in a wide arc across the City, we’re going to focus them in concentrated areas across multiple activities,” Wallace said. “By leveraging those activities together, we can maximize the benefit.” 

For example, public improvements and streetscape enhancements occurring in certain areas will be done in coordination with park improvements, targeted code enforcement, crime prevention efforts, property rehab programs, and economic development initiatives. 

Hopefully, he said, focusing the investments will make the improvements to an area more visible and their impact more lasting. 

The plan is full of details in some programs and general intent in others. 

For example: 

·         The Homebuyer Assistance Program hopes to help about 100 low-income families buy homes in the consortium cities. 

·         Various Homeowner Rehabilitation Programs hope to help 38 low- and moderate-income households in Covington make urgent home repairs, such as those involving furnaces, roofs and sewers. 

·         The Upper Floor Residential Rent Rehab Program hopes to build 15 affordable apartment units. 

·         The Public Improvements Program will resurface streets, build ADA-accessible sidewalk ramps and make streetscape improvements in low- to moderate-income census tracts in Covington. 

·         And the Parks Improvements Program hopes to upgrade Randolph Park and Pool, Goebel Pool, Barb Cook Park, and the Peaselburg Little People’s Playground in Covington, among other things. 

“This is a powerful document centered on a fundamental philosophy: Government should invest in improving the lives of its citizens,” Wallace said. “We look forward to implementing it.” 

*** 

(Written comments concerning the Annual Action Plan will be accepted until June 25. To see the plan, CLICK HERE. Comments may be submitted in writing to Jeremy Wallace, Community Development Manager, City of Covington, 20 West Pike Street, Covington, KY 41011, by e-mail jwallace@covingtonky.gov or by fax (859) 292-2106.  For questions about the plan, call (859) 292-2147 or TDD (800) 545-1833, ext. 931 for hearing and speech impaired. 

The draft plan also can be read in person at Covington City Hall or at the city buildings in Ludlow, Newport, Bellevue and Dayton.) 

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