Phoenix lags in federal aid to help poor families - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Phoenix lags in federal aid to help poor families

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Posted: Monday, August 28, 2006 11:58 am | Updated: 3:21 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Phoenix lags millions of dollars behind smaller communities in federal funding that primarily assists the neediest families.

Phoenix, now the nation’s fifth-largest city, is far behind in serving the needs of its residents because federal formulas often use dated population counts and tend to favor older cities.

Much of this federal funding is used for revitalizing blighted neighborhoods, providing a pre-kindergarten education to children of lowincome families, helping destitute residents pay utility bills or rent and keeping up the city’s public-housing apartment complexes.

Some elected officials are pushing harder for Phoenix residents to get their fair share. ‘‘The people of our community deserve the same level of services as people in other parts of the country,’’ said Councilman Greg Stanton.

Phoenix received a onetime bump in funding for energy assistance this year and will be able to help twice as many households than it normally can.

But since that money was borrowed from future dollars, it’s unclear how much money will be available in the coming years.

Four programs that help low-income families are Community Development Block Grants, Head Start, public housing and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The disparity in funding for those programs in Phoenix compared with smaller cities is striking.

Consider Phoenix’s share of federal housing dollars, which includes publichousing units and vouchers that help families pay their rent.

Phoenix, which recently overtook Philadelphia in population to become the fifth-largest city, has a combined 7,562 rent vouchers and public-housing apartment units.

Philadelphia has nearly five times more, with 34,471. Even much-smaller East Coast cities, such as Baltimore, Boston and Atlanta, easily surpass Phoenix. Baltimore has 29,263 rentassistance vouchers and public-housing units.

A home cooling system is a necessity in Phoenix, but the cold-weather states have the clear advantage when it comes to energy assistance.

Minnesota rakes in about $110 per person who qualifies for help. North Dakota pockets about $125 for each person.

By comparison, Arizona gets $6.77 per person.

That portion hampers the efforts of Valley cities, including Phoenix itself, to help eligible families pay their energy bills, especially during the stifling summers.

In Phoenix, there are 203,800 households that need help but only enough money to help 6,768 of them.

The same inequity exists in Head Start, an earlyeducation program that helps children in low-income homes better prepare for school.

Phoenix is able to serve only 6,360 children, or 30 percent of those who qualify. In Boston, there are enough Head Start slots to accommodate more than half of the children who qualify.

Phoenix also sees a fraction of what other cities receive in Community Development Block Grants, grants designed to help revitalize depressed neighborhoods.

Phoenix snags about $17 million for those grants, but there are a dozen smaller cities that pull in more money. Philadelphia gets more than three times what Phoenix gets. Detroit, nearly twice as much.

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