OpEd: Welcome the U.S. Census- It Means Money to the Mountain

By Angel Cottrell

I am urging all Mountain Community residents to participate fully in the 2010 U.S. Census. Today, our communities do not receive any of their fair share of the grant funds provided by federal government sources.

Why is this happening?

According to data collected from the last U.S. Census in year 2000, only 38 percent of mountain residents were classified as “LMI.” What is LMI? That is the short way of saying “Low to Moderate Income Individuals,” a guideline set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Why does this matter?

HUD funds jobs programs, small business assistance, weatherization projects and aid to veterans facing foreclosure, among other grants.

HUD rates the eligibility of communities for such funding based on the percentage of LMI individuals who live there.

If at least 51 percent of the residents qualify as LMI, that community is eligible for federal grants.

Sadly, for ten years our Mountain Communities have not qualified, likely because incomplete data was collected here in the last census.

Here is an example of a missed opportunity: Cities and counties receive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from HUD to help pay for projects such as economic development, affordable housing and pubic service by nonprofit agencies such as the Family Resource Center.

Here’s another missed opportunity: The new Small Business Development Center satellite office slated for Fazier Park didn’t qualify for CDBG funding, though HUD funds awarded to Kern County should have been available to provide a cash match for the center to operate.

Unfortunately, we cannot apply because our community is not rated as needy enough!

Participate—You Count!

If all Mountain Community residents participate in the census this year, this is likely to change. If you are still hesitant about taking the time to report your census data when the questionnaire comes in the mail, or when a census worker comes to your door, please check out the current LMI guidelines for Kern County residents:

# in Household         Annual Household Income Less Than

1                               $31,250
2                               $35,700
3                               $40,200
4                               $44.650

If your individual or household income is within these limits, please fill out your census paperwork. By acting now, we can ensure that our communities are eligible to receive the support needed to survive and thrive in these challenging times.

Angel Cottrell is a mountain resident. She works with WEV (Women’s Economic Ventures and Small Business Loan Fund). She will be opening the nonprofit Mountain Communities Small Business Development Center satellite office in Frazier Park. It will offer free services to all mountain business owners.

This is part of the February 26, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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