Suffolk fishing for stimulus funds

Published 10:37 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The amount of stimulus funds Suffolk is expecting is growing, but city officials still don’t know exactly how much money they’ll get, or exactly what they’ll be allowed to do with it.

“Stay tuned” was the message from Mayor Linda T. Johnson at the end of a Wednesday work session dedicated to discussion of Suffolk’s options for funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The stimulus bill, signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, includes $787 billion in spending increases and tax reductions Obama hopes will spur economic growth. The majority of the funding flows through already existing programs. Virginia will receive about $4.8 billion over the next two years from the legislation.

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Much of the funding is coming through federal agency formula grants. These are grants where the allocation is based on statistics from the locality, such as population, crime or poverty. Other money is through discretionary grant programs, where localities compete to get the dollars in the program.

Suffolk has created a stimulus work group, which is monitoring the funding opportunities, developing grant applications, and coordinating with other agencies to get available funding, Chief of Staff Sherry Hunt said in a presentation before council Wednesday. The group also will be creating a link from the city’s Web site with information on Suffolk’s use of stimulus funds.

Millions of dollars have been allocated for Suffolk, Hunt said, and more is available through competitive grants.

Suffolk is requesting funds for such projects as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, renovations to 53 apartments in the Cypress Manor and Parker Riddick housing communities, school funding for at-risk students, highway projects, hiring additional police officers, buying new tactical equipment, and constructing new fire stations.

Addressing the seemingly low amount of money allocated for road improvements, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said the city is still searching for opportunities.

“We’re not giving up as it relates to infrastructure,” she said. About $1.9 million is available for federal aid highways, but it cannot be used for local roads.

For more information on Suffolk’s stimulus status, keep reading the Suffolk News-Herald and checking