Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at a Press Conference with Congressman Artur Davis

Birmingham, Alabama
Monday, July 6th, 2009

Thank you so much. It's great to be here in Birmingham today along with my colleagues from state and local government.

We're here today to announce that communities across the country, including Birmingham, can now start spending their Community Development Block Grant Funds allocated through President Obama's Recovery Act - funds that will jumpstart our economy, create jobs, stabilize our neighborhoods and above all, put us on the road to recovery.

We all know that these are tough times for communities across the country. And with our housing crisis at the root of our economic crisis, HUD is at the center of the Obama Administration's response.

That's why I always appreciate the opportunity to see how our efforts are working in communities like Birmingham. There is no better way to assess our progress and our challenges as an agency than to speak face-to-face with our staff and grantees right here on the ground.

They tell it to you straight - and they should. We need to know what's working and what could work better. And so, it's been an honor and a learning experience for me to be in Birmingham today.

For months, HUD has been working side by side with local partners on the ground to stem the tide of foreclosures sweeping the country.

The President's Making Home Affordable plan is helping families in danger of losing their homes. More than a million homeowners have received information about the plan and participating services have extended offers on nearly a quarter-million trial modifications so far.

On top of that is the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to purchase and convert foreclosed and abandoned properties into new affordable housing, land banks, or other options that preserve neighborhoods. Birmingham has already received $2.5 million through the NSP program. Senator Shelby was an essential partner- and I look forward to continue working with him on these issues in the coming months.

But the most important work we're doing to stabilize our economy is through the Recovery Act, which is pumping $14 billion into communities across the country.

Through the Recovery Act, Alabama received a total of $1.7 billion, including $191 million directly from HUD. We expect these funds to create or save 52,000 Alabama jobs.

Given how essential these funds are to economic recovery, I'm proud that HUD allocated nearly 75 percent of that money within the first week of receiving Recovery funds.

One of the most important investments in the Recovery Act is the nearly $1 billion we've made in the Community Development Block Grant Program to help local governments and agencies across the country rehabilitate affordable housing and improve public facilities, helping stabilize communities and create good paying jobs.

That's why I'm proud to announce today that the City of Birmingham has been approved to spend their Community Development Block Grant allocation of $1.8 million.

In the days to come, communities around the country will follow Birmingham's lead.

As one of the requirements in the Recovery Act, communities had to put forth a detailed action plan describing how they were going to spend CDBG funds to improve their community.

The central focus of Birmingham's action plan is to provide low-to-moderate income homeowners up to $5,000 to rehabilitate their homes through the city's Critical Repair Program.

The Critical Repair Program provides assistance to Birmingham's most vulnerable populations-for instance, seniors on fixed incomes-who need help with upgrades to their roofs, their heating and air conditioning, their electrical, or plumbing.

In recent years, Birmingham only had enough funding to assist residents 6 months out of the year.

But with these Recovery Act funds, the city expects to be able to take applications year-round for the next 18-to-24 months. That means not only will more families be reached, but more jobs will be created or preserved for the local contractors who perform the work.

And with the last Minority Business Enterprise report showing that approximately 41 percent of contractors are minority companies, these funds will help create equal opportunity across the social and economic spectrum. At a time when Alabama's unemployment rate is higher than the national average, that's particularly important.

In all, we expect to assist about 320 homes here in Birmingham, assisting families and stimulating job growth in the some of this area's hardest hit neighborhoods.

Birmingham can and should be a model for communities across the country who will be approved for CDBG Recovery funds over the course of the next several weeks.

With so many neighborhoods reeling from foreclosures and job losses, these funds will help the people who need them most: the communities, families and small businesses across the country who have borne the brunt of this economic crisis.

This is, of course, only one component of President Obama's strategy to stabilize our economy.

Collectively, these efforts will go a long way toward helping this community-and communities across the country-recover and lay the foundation for sustainable growth our country needs in the months to come.

And so, I'm pleased to be here as Birmingham takes its first step toward recovery - and would be happy to take any questions you may have.


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