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Grant program's bank account soon to run dry

Delaware Public Media

State officials will not take new applications until further notice for a grant program aiming to reduce crime and revitalize towns and cities.

Legislators founded the Neighborhood Building Blocks Fund last year using $1,000,000 from a nationwide mortgage crisis settlement with JPMorgan Chase. About $174,000 is left in reserve.

29 outstanding applications totaling about $4.9 million will compete for that remaining cash according to . Some money has already been used for increased police foot patrols in Wilmington, among other projects.

Greg Patterson, Attorney General Matt Denn’s (D) chief of staff, says his office will prioritize applications under their purview over the coming weeks.

“There are applications for recidivism programs, there are programs for licensing and job training programs, there’s kind of a wide range of applications and there are lots of things that can affect crime in both the short and the long term,” Patterson said.

Other applications under review fall under the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination – many of which reimbursed smaller towns and cities who competed in the Downtown Development District grant initiative. Some are looking for help redeveloping their comprehensive plans.

Denn and his staff lobbied lawmakers on the budget writing Joint Finance Committee for months to build on last year's initial funding to no avail.

The plan from his office would've used $36 million in one-time settlement money in a broad range of programs including funding more teachers at high-need schools and installing video cameras in Wilmington in an effort to reduce crime.

Instead, JFC used part of that money to balance the fiscal year 2016 spending plan and to placate Republican budget demands in exchange for their help in passing it. About $29 million remains, with lawmakers anticipating another stagnant revenue year and the drumbeat of ever increasing operating costs.

The Neighborhood Building Blocks Board plans to allocate the remaining money later this year.

Board chair and Delaware Economic Development Director Bernice Whaley says she hopes to reopen the fund, saying, "There's a great need for it."

"We are hopeful, optimistic – naive perhaps – that at some point, there will be more money coming into the fund," Patterson said. "We intend to press legislators to put more into this fund."

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