Grant requests for housing, city services move online

Funding will be allotted through revised review process, incorporating new initiatives

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Providence Division of Community Development held a public hearing yesterday to review its grant application process. The process is moving online for the first time this year.

The division receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which it allocates to local nonprofits through several grants, including the Community Development Block Grant, the HOME Investment Partnership, the Emergency Solutions Grant and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program. The majority of the state’s HUD funds go to the Community Development Block Grants.

Community Development Block Grant funds contribute to community improvements, affordable housing and public city services. But they can also be used by nonprofits to provide public services, or to acquire, construct and renovate buildings. In the past year, the grant dollars helped fund city-wide sidewalk repairs, affordable housing and rental units in South Providence, the Rhode Island Urban Debate League and the Olneyville Housing Corporation, among other projects, according to speakers of the hearing.

The division plans to alter the application process for all of the HUD-funded grants and move the process online.

Grant funding will now be allotted through a revised review process that takes into account specific iniatitives. One such focus is the division’s goal of transforming nonprofit facilities to make them more accessible to disabled individuals. This change comes as a result of the data on accessibility that the division collected during last year’s grant-giving process, according to the forum.

The division is also looking to streamline the application process to collect larger amounts of data from applicants with greater ease.

But this consolidation can interfere with the applicants’ ability to “provide narratives,” which make the grant applications more personalized, said Caitlin Frumerie, director of community development.

“We tried to do more yes-no, fill-in-the-blank drop-downs because those are what work better for the database, but there still are narrative sections,” Frumerie said.

And streamlining the application process can be constraining to some applicants. One member of the audience pointed out that her nonprofit provides child care for toddlers and preschoolers and charges different rates for different ages, but the application leaves applicants little room to express such subtleties or variations in design.

The division is currently accepting feedback on the application process and seeking beta testers for the application system. It will hold application workshops Friday for nonprofit directors to learn about the new process.

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