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Cheyenne City Council postpones final decision on declining federal entitlement status

 Amy Spieker, executive director of the Laramie County Community Partnership, speaks to councilmembers during their Jan. 9 meeting / Youtube Screenshot

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Councilmembers voted Monday night to postpone the adoption of a resolution that would reject Cheyenne’s Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, Entitlement Status, despite recommendation from their Finance Committee to move forward with it.

Action will be taken during the council’s Jan. 23 meeting instead.

Created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, the CDBG program provides entitlement status cities like Cheyenne with yearly grants to support housing and community wellness projects.

The program’s restrictive criteria for determining what proposals are eligible for CDBG funding, and the possibility of having to reimburse HUD for any rejected projects, led city staff to propose rejecting the status after 2024. After that, staff would no longer need to manage local CDBG project applications and funds.

Cheyenne has been an entitlement city since 1975, and has been the only one in Wyoming since 2017.

However, the request conflicts with the opinions of local nonprofits, which insist the rejection will have a negative impact on the community.

“There’s a lot of Cheyenne households who are counting on CDBG funds for basic human needs,” Taylor Albert, former executive director of Needs Inc., said during the meeting.

Needs Inc. uses CDBG dollars to help it run the largest food pantry in the county, which supports 94 households a day, according to Albert.

“I urge you to seriously consider your decision on CDBG funding, as it greatly impacts our ability for our friends and neighbors to thrive, and even to survive in our community,” she said.

Brenda Birkle, executive director of My Front Door, added that her organization depends on the funds to teach financial literacy and homeownership skills to local families.

“I would encourage you to consider the dollars and consider the investment [of having CDBG] not just for today, but what that means generationally for ending [the cycle] of poverty,” Birkle said during the meeting.

If the status is revoked, organizations needing assistance would have to apply through the Wyoming Community Development Authority, or WCDA, which administers money on behalf of HUD and has different CDBG project qualification requirements than the city.

That alternative worries other nonprofits.

“When I looked at the website … it says the WCDA is the state’s leading resource for housing finance, and it looked completely focused on housing,” Erin LaBlanc, the director of senior programs at the Laramie County Senior Center, said to councilmembers. “I did not see anything inviting for a nonprofit like the center to apply for a grant.”

LaBlanc said CDBG funds are used to upkeep the center, which includes installing new windows and updating its HVAC systems.

Amy Spieker, executive director of the Laramie County Community Partnership, said her organization uses CDBG funds for affordable housing projects.

Spieker worries that if LCCP applies through the WCDA, it will face fierce competition from applicants in different parts of the state, lowering its chances of receiving funds.

“I want to think about how we [the city] might be able to use CDBG in a new reimagined way [instead], and continue to think about how it can be a cornerstone for the city’s affordable housing efforts,” Spieker said.

Councilmember Scott Roybal, along with several others, did not want to adopt the resolution without receiving more information about the WCDA’s treatment of CDBG projects.

“I really don’t feel comfortable voting on this tonight without seeing some of the additional stuff we talked about,” Roybal said. “We can postpone for two weeks so we can gather more information.”

The discussion in full can be viewed in the video below: