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Public Statements

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DIAZ-BALART. Mr. Chairman, I recognize that this amendment is subject to a point of order, but I'd like to discuss what this amendment is attempting to address.

As we all know, the Community Development Block Grant program, which is known as the CDBG grant program, is one of the most widely utilized sources of assistance by local governments. These block grants are intended to address housing, community development and economic development needs as determined by local officials.

This amendment, Mr. Chairman, is very straightforward. It simply gives greater flexibility to the local communities and the cities and the counties, et cetera, for part of their CDBG funding. It increases the cap of what is known as public services expenditures from the current 15 percent up to 25 percent.

Now, public services, in reference to this legislation, deals with issues like child care, senior services, disabled services, educational programs, medical services, transportation services, domestic violence, crime prevention, food banks, and others.

The current 15 percent public service cap was enacted into statute over 30 years ago; and it, frankly, just doesn't reflect the reality of today. We all acknowledge, obviously, the tremendous fiscal challenges that we are facing here in Congress, that our country is facing; but we also acknowledge, Mr. Chairman, the challenges that our local communities are facing.

CDBG public services funds have really played a key role in providing crucial aid to our most at-risk, our most vulnerable populations, especially during difficult times like these. The restrictive and, frankly, outdated cap has denied many communities, Mr. Chairman, the option of providing their residents with the most basic services within the framework of the existing CDBG program. So this amendment provides flexibility to local leaders to meet certain unique challenges.

Now, I want to make something very clear: this amendment does not increase or decrease CDBG funds, does not change the formula, and does not require those communities that are entitled to use more of their funds on public services. It simply grants those cities and counties greater flexibility in their usage of certain CDBG funds. Let me mention that my colleague, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, has a standalone piece of legislation that I'm honored to be a cosponsor of.

It's imperative that the authorizing committee, the Financial Services Committee, work to update the CDBG program--for a lot of reasons. I also need to mention that Chairman Latham is well aware of these concerns. I want to thank him and his staff for really trying to accommodate us on this issue, but unfortunately we were not able to do it at this time for a number of different reasons. I'd like to continue to work with Chairman Latham and the Financial Services chairman, Chairman Bachus, on finding real solutions that will give local communities flexibility to meet their unique challenges and to make sure that those funds are well utilized.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. DIAZ-BALART. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I, again, want to thank you and your staff, who have been great on this issue, understanding the problem.

At this time I would ask unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman, to withdraw my amendment.


Mr. DIAZ-BALART. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order against the amendment because it proposes to change existing law and constitutes legislation in an appropriations bill and, therefore, violates clause 2 of rule XXI.


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