Mixed Money Messages

Categories: Citystate
When it comes to federal money for the city, hizzoner wants more . . . and less

Mayor Bloomberg's Democratic rivals relentlessly accuse him of wimping out when it comes to challenging his Republican allies (that is, other people who are also elected on the Republican line) in Albany and Washington for the city's fair share of funding. But Monday, Bloomberg told members of a House subcommittee visiting Harlem that Congress needs to restore funding to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which funds $260 million worth of New York City housing, welfare-to-work, and small-business programs.

"When the proposed Federal budget threatened it with extinction earlier this year, I wrote to Congressional leaders expressing my strong support for preserving this program," the mayor said in remarks released by his press office. "So I applaud the action taken by the Senate and House to maintain the CDBG program. But I urge you to increase funding to at least last year's levels."

Maybe Bloomberg's earlier letter, or his comments on Monday, weren't forceful enough, by the Democrats' standards. They certainly weren't satisfied when, on the opening night of the Republican National Convention last year, Bloomberg addressed the most egregious federal slight to the city—the homeland security funding formula, which awards a good amount of money to states like Wyoming that face little terrorist threat. The mayor said then, "We all must recognize that homeland security funds should be allocated by threat and no other reason. And I will repeat this message to my fellow Republicans, Democrats and independents as many times as it takes so we can keep New York safe and secure."

Sounds pretty tough. But what softened the mayor's demand a bit was the passage that preceded it: "I want to thank President Bush for supporting New York City and changing the homeland security funding formula and for leading the global war on terrorism," the mayor said back in August. "The president deserves our support. We are here to support him. And I am here to support him."

Lines like that are why Democrats keep making the case that Bloomberg has failed to twist enough arms in the state and national capitals. But what about the use of federal money right here in the city?

Last week Bloomberg nixed three City Council bills that would increase access to food stamps by distributing applications at city offices and creating online and faxable applications. Recent studies have found that thousands of eligible New Yorkers aren't getting food stamps, representing an un-tapped source of federal aid to the city—dollars just as green as the dough that CBDG would provide.

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