MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Literacy, homelessness and youth programs were key suggestions for Mount Vernon residents Thursday afternoon at a public hearing on how to apply next year’s community development block grant (CDBG).
CDBG is a program run by the federal government that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of community development needs. People or households with an income of 80 percent less than the median income in the area are eligible for this money.
Community Development Administrator Lou Albano said the funds will be used to help low to moderate income families with issues that are not being addressed by other departments in the city. Albano said the city is getting good a cross-section of opinions.
Patricia Rajala, CEO of Literacy Volunteers of Westchester and Rockland Counties (LVWRC), suggested some of the CDBG money could help provide more services at the Mount Vernon Public Library. Rajala said that, since the 1980s, the makeup of literacy students has changed from mostly American-born people to those born in foreign countries. Coordinator Nancy Fitch of the Learning Center, an organization affiliated with LVWRC, said the group teaches many people from Albania, Korea and Africa who are not native English speakers.
“We teach them how to communicate and reach the fifth-grade level,” Fitch said.
Dennis Hanratty, executive director of Mount Vernon Tenants United (MVTU), said he would like some of the money go to the group’s homelessness initiative, adding that it is cheaper to keep people in their homes than it is to have them go through the shelter system.
“It’s good for the taxpayers, too, because it saves them money,” Hanratty said. “We have many tenants facing eviction. Landlords in Mount Vernon used to hate us when we enforced the building code, but now we are helping tenants access money to pay rent so they are friendlier to us now.”
Bernard Dean of the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau would like to see support for scholarship and job training programs. The city currently has the Mayor’s Scholarship, which is awarded based on income, not academics. The scholarship program teaches youths what it means to go to college and how to apply, while the job training program helps people with resumes and other services that will help them to find and maintain a job.