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More than $18 million in grant money that could be cut, funds current projects in Southwest Virginia

More than $18 million in grant money...

President Donald Trump's proposed budget could save the country $3 billion, but it is at the expense of community development block grants. Trump says the grant money is not demonstrating results, so News 5's Kristi O'Connor went to find out if that is the case in our area.

According to the Mount Rogers Planning District, $6,713,730 of Community Development Block Grant money is being used for projects across the district. In the Leniwisco District, about $4 million of block grant money is funding projects in that district. In the Cumberland Plateau Planning District, $7,049,880 of block grant money is funding current projects.

We went to Marion, Va. to see how some of that money is being used.

"As many people say, Marion is an overnight success that's taken 20 years to get here," Economic and Community Development Director Ken Heath said.

Heath says he applied for the town's first community development block grant in the 90s. The $15,000 helped them create 20 new low income apartments downtown.  

"When people live downtown, they shop downtown, they spend their money downtown, they eat downtown," Heath said.

Since then downtown revitalization has taken off and programs that are partially funded by block grants have resulted in 27 new businesses, more than 100 new jobs, and 50 new affordable houses in Marion.

"I can certainly tell you that in Marion, and the communities we've worked in throughout Southwest Virginia, Community Development Block Grants work. They are a great reinvestment of taxpayer dollars," Heath said.

The City of Bristol, Va. is entitled block grants because of certain qualifications like population, poverty and housing overcrowding. This year the city received more than $235,000 in community development block grants. The money is disbursed to these seven programs:

-Forensic Interviewing for Child Victims of Abuse- Children's Advocacy Center of Highlands Community Services
-Medical Services-Crossroads Medical Mission
-Job Readiness Training- Bristol Public Library
-King's Mountain Supportive Housing-People Incorporated of Virginia
-Court Appointed Special Advocates-People Incorporated of Virginia
-Case Manager for Homeless Transitioning- Family Promise of Bristol
-Opening the Pathway: Accessibility Improvements- Crisis Center

For Crossroads Medical Mission, a nonprofit that provides more than $1.5 million in medical care annually to the uninsured.

"They would generally go without the care or they would end up putting up with whatever ailments they have until they are exasperated to a state where they would have to go to the emergency room," Executive Director Cindy Rockett said.

While block grants are only a small part of the organization's budget, Rockett says they rely on any funding they can get since more than 1,200 people in this area rely on them for free care.

"We will keep chugging along and providing care, but it will be an extra challenge," Rockett said.


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