The city's housing department will hire 10 new employees to monitor the Community Development Block Grant program.
The city Board of Estimates yesterday authorized $280,000 to hire the workers who will be assigned to the Department of Housing and Community Development, the agency that administers the block grant program. The 10 employees would be paid $28,000 annually and they would not receive any benefits except workmen's compensation.
The block grant program is funded with money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Last year, federal officials criticized the city for being incapable of tracking millions dollars that are funneled to the program.
Harold Perry, deputy housing commissioner, told members of the the Board of Estimates that the new employees would be paid with block grant money. Perry said because of new #F monitoring regulations implemented by HUD in 1988, monitors must keep track of the hours worked by all personnel who are paid with block grant money. Perry said there are 83 block grant recipients in the city including neighborhood organizations and non-profit housing groups which renovate homes for low income people.
The 10 contract employees will supplement the eight city employees already in the department's monitoring and documentation section, Perry said, adding that the 10 separate contracts would be renewed yearly.
Although the board approved the request, it did not come without some sharp criticism from City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who chairs the board.
Clarke questioned the effectiveness of the monitoring "when they [the new workers] could be better used working in the programs themselves."
Perry that hiring the new workers was not a direct response to the criticism by HUD.
"We were aware even before HUD brought it to our attention that we needed to increase our monitoring capabilities," Perry said.
HUD recently gave the city conditional approval of its $24 million block grant for next year. Last November, in an unusually critical report, HUD officials questioned Baltimore's ability to administering the program.
Federal officials were particularly critical of the city's failure to adequately monitor block grant money spent by the Council for Equal Business Opportunity, a private group created to help minority contractors. HUD said the organization violated federal guidelines by failing to use the money to fund businesses that created permanent jobs for low income city residents. As a result, HUD now reviews all agreements between the city and outside organizations that receive block grant money.