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New rules keep agencies from applying for federal grant

Aug 25, 2013 - By Eric Blom Staff Writer

New reporting requirements for applications to a federal grant program have made more than a dozen local agencies unable to apply this fiscal year though they have received funds in the past.

"It's going to impact low-income families a lot because a lot of agencies cannot meet those reporting criteria," said Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker, who sits on the local board in charge of the Community Services Block Grants program.

The Fremont County Association of Governments is responsible for distributing the program's funds. This year, 14 of the 21 agencies that received funds through FCAG last year did not apply because they would not qualify for funding.

"What really impacted the agencies, they had to provide proof of identity, (such as) driver's licenses or government ID, proof of all household members, (including) first names and birth dates and social security numbers, proof of residence and proof of income," said FCAG executive director Pam Canham. "So much of what our agencies do is confidential, requiring them to provide social security numbers really did them in."

Less money available

Further changes to the CSBG program have made less funding available to Fremont County organizations for the upcoming federal fiscal year.

In the past, the CSBG program had two pots of money for which agencies could apply, Canham said. Under the first, roughly $269,000 was earmarked for Fremont County organizations in the last funding cycle. Local groups also could apply through a competitive process with organizations statewide for an additional $98,000 in funding.

In the upcoming year, the two sources of funding were combined, Canham said, and only $277,000 is available for Fremont County.

New requirements

New strings attached to the federal dollars caused issues for other organizations.

A new rule requires that the income of CSGB aid recipients be less than 125 percent of a poverty income guideline, Canham said. That stipulation can be a stumbling block, especially for women's shelters.

Women seeking help may have household incomes above the CSBG limit, but often their abusive partners control their finances, Canham said. In those situations, the women do not have money to help themselves and cannot qualify for assistance through CSBG-funded programs.

If a shelter has many women who do not meet the requirements, it also would qualify for less CSBG money.

WRTA

Wind River Transportation Authority also will not be able to apply for CSBG funding because of the reporting requirements. Last year it received $37,000 through the program.

WRTA bookkeeper Jake Paslar said the bus company would have to collect information about all of its riders, including social security numbers.

"It was too intrusive," he said.

As a result, the company decided not to apply for CSBG funding.

WRTA will look at making budget cuts or finding a new source of revenue, Paslar said.

School resource officer

Similarly, for the past three years a CSBG grant paid for half of the salary, or about $26,000, of a Fremont County Sheriff's Office deputy who was a school resource officer in Fremont County School District 2 in Dubois.

To qualify for funds in the upcoming fiscal year, the sheriff's deputy would have to provide personal information, such as social security numbers, about the students the deputy serves and others in their households, Sheriff Skip Hornecker said.

"I cannot meet the reporting criteria," he said. "It's not legal to attempt to gain this information through the school network."

A school resource officer is crucial for the safety of the schools and helps the sheriff's office establish a rapport with young people, Hornecker said. He will look for other grants to make up the funding shortfall.

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