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COLLEGE STATION, ARKANSAS, TO GET REBUILDING ASSISTANCE; HOUSING SECRETARY CUOMO SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH COMMUNITY LEADERSCUOMO: "REBUILD COLLEGE STATION...BUT BUILD IT BETTER"
COLLEGE STATION, AR -- The rebuilding effort in College Station received a boost today when U.S. Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo pledged that the small, predominantly African American community will receive the hands-on assistance it needs to recover from the devastation of the March 1 tornado.
Cuomo and Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater joined Governor Mike Huckabee in signing a cooperative agreement pledging an unprecedented, community-based effort to rebuild College Station.
Signing the agreement on behalf of College Station were Austin Porter, Jr., chair of the College Station Community Redevelopment Coalition, Pulaski County Judge F.G. "Buddy" Villines III, and Vice Mayor Michael Keck of Little Rock.
"In the wake of the March tornado, neighbors helped neighbors, and the entire Arkansas community pulled together," Cuomo said. "Today, we're telling the community of College Station that you have a federal partner to not just rebuild, but to build better."
Under today's cooperative agreement, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will help College Station bring two, full-time experienced staff persons to the community to work on the rebuilding effort for two years. Cuomo said the staff will address the community's needs for infrastructure improvements, affordable housing, rehabilitation of damaged properties and the rebuilding of community institutions destroyed by the tornado. HUD will provide $150,000 to fund this effort.
In addition, HUD -- through the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission and Pulaski County -- will establish a Coalition Revolving Loan Fund at the College Station Community Federal Credit Union. The loans will be used to build or rehabilitate housing, develop small businesses or build public facilities. HUD will provide $250,000 in initial capital for the fund.
HUD will contract with the ICF Kaiser International management firm to bring in experts to provide advice and technical assistance to the College Station Coalition during the rebuilding effort.
HUD also will grant special waivers permitting the State of Arkansas to use funds from HUD's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs more flexibly for disaster relief in College Station and other tornado-ravaged communities.
Arkansas will be permitted to use CDBG money on recovery efforts that normally could not be funded under program rules. In its 1997 application, the state targeted $2 million from CDBG to help communities rebuild from disasters--the first time the state has set aside CDBG funds specifically for this purpose.
For example, the CDBG funds may be used to build new houses, help homebuyers with downpayments, repair or rebuild public buildings, or provide additional services such as legal aid, housing counseling or child care for residents whose lives have been disrupted.
HUD will suspend the 25 percent matching requirement on $5 million in HOME affordable housing funds that the state has set aside for disaster recovery. This will save Arkansas more than $1.25 million in state and local matching funds. The HOME funds could be used to help low-income persons pay rent or for increased financial subsidies for new or reconstructed housing.
Other HUD assistance highlighted today includes: