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Cook County Draft Annual Action Plan
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that it will allocate approximately $140 million to the northeastern Illinois region in 2013, primarily through its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, and the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program. Counties and municipalities that receive these funds are required to produce a Consolidated Plan, which typically guides investments over a five-year period, as well as an Annual Action Plan, which specifies what projects/programs will receive federal funds that year.
On May 30, 2013, Cook County published its draft 2013 Annual Action Plan for public comment. The draft plan allocates almost $18 million provided by CDBG, ESG, and HOME funds for a variety of housing, homeless services, public services, infrastructure, and economic development projects and programs. It also summarizes how federal and non-federal resources will be used to address priorities identified in the County's most recent 2010-14 Consolidated Plan and serves as an application to HUD for continued entitlement funding from the CDBG, ESG, and HOME programs. Funding is allocated between four types of strategies: affordable housing, homeless, supportive housing, and community development. The draft plan includes a description of how the County will enhance coordination, gather public input, and administer the many components of the programs.
The draft plan also includes information on how funds will be used, including a list of projects that have been identified to receive funding. In the draft, HOME funds are to address the Consolidated Plan's affordable housing strategy, while a combination of CDBG and ESG funds are to address the homeless and supportive housing strategies. CDBG funding is also to be used for neighborhood planning (such as providing funding for the West Cook County Housing Collaborative) and capital improvement projects (e.g., streets, sewers, and public facilities). While the CDBG program allows for the funding of economic development efforts, Cook County has historically not included such programs in its Annual Action Plan. This year, the draft plan proposes setting aside $450,000 for potential infrastructure improvements that support business attraction efforts.
The draft plan outlines limited geographic targeting of the funds, breaking the County into three subregions (south, west, and north). Based on suggested projects and programs, 53 percent of CDBG and ESG funding would be used in southern Cook County, and an additional 35 percent would be used in western Cook County. No specific projects or programs are listed for the HOME program, because the County accepts applications for funding on a rolling basis.
Future Planning Efforts
The Annual Action Plan is part of a larger, multi-year Consolidated Plan, which analyzes the county's housing, infrastructure, community service, and economic development needs and the investments required to address them. Because its current Consolidated Plan ends in 2014, Cook County's draft 2013 Annual Action Plan also references topics it hopes to address through its new Consolidated Plan, such as exploring opportunities for geographic targeting of dollars, increasing the leveraging of funds, and building relationships with other recipients of federal funding, including Cook County municipalities that receive HUD funding.
Cook County has created its Consolidated Plan primarily to fulfill a federal requirement, but the County recognizes the strategic opportunity of developing its next Consolidated Plan. To move in this direction, the County requested planning assistance through CMAP's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program. Over the next two years, CMAP will be helping the County to develop its next Consolidated Plan as a more strategic document. For example, the Consolidated Plan could be expanded to also serve as the County's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), a document that qualifies the County for funding through the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA).
GO TO 2040's recommendation to pursue coordinated investments discusses the value of this strategic approach. While the types of projects and programs funded through federal programs often overlap (e.g., CDBG and EDA funds can be used for the same types of infrastructure and services), the long-range planning for how to use those funds often remains separated at the local, state, and federal levels. Creating a single plan for related funding sources will create cohesiveness and help the County be more efficient and coordinated in using a spectrum of federal funds to address local issues. These plans should also build on and link to other recent planning efforts, specifically the Cook County Economic Growth Action Agenda, Partnering for Prosperity. Such an approach will help maximize and target resources, an important priority in GO TO 2040.