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7/23/2010 Urban Affairs Weekly Newsletter

A weekly look at recent and upcoming events in urban policy from the Office of Urban Affairs.

Top News

President Obama Signs Landmark Wall Street Reform Into Law: This week, the President signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which provides stronger protections for consumers against unfair credit and mortgage practices and puts an end to taxpayer-funded bailouts. Learn more about the content of the bill here. Speaking at the bill signing ceremony, President Obama remarked that passing the historic bill was no easy task but that, ultimately, “this reform will help foster innovation, not hamper it.  It is designed to make sure that everybody follows the same set of rules, so that firms compete on price and quality, not on tricks and not on traps.”

The President, Congress Authorize Unemployment Benefits Extension: After a delay in the Senate over the extension of unemployment insurance, which has resulted in 2.5 million jobless Americans exhausting their assistance since May, Congress passed legislation to extend unemployment benefits and assist those in need. Unemployment benefits help boost the economy, providing those still seeking work with money they can spend to support their families and area businesses. The bill is one of many meant to help the economy that has met partisan resistance in the Senate. Speaking on the passing of the unemployment insurance extension President Obama said, “Americans who are working day and night to get back on their feet and support their families in these tough economic times deserve more than obstruction and partisan game-playing that happens too often here in Washington.”

The Vice President Surveys Recovery and Relief Efforts on Gulf Coast: Vice President Biden, this week, traveled to the Gulf Coast for a second time, stopping in Theodore, Alabama to assess efforts to counter the BP oil spill. During the visit, the Vice President toured the Theodore Staging Facility and met with fisherman and small business owners from the area. He also delivered remarks, stressing the Administration’s commitment to restoring the Gulf Coast. “We’re not going to stop until this area, all the entire Gulf, has recovered; until the economy of the Gulf is revitalized and literally a way of life is restored,” he said.

Administration Discusses Role of Federal Leadership in Sustainable Building: At a White House Clean Energy Forum this week, Administration officials came together with 120 leaders in the commercial building community to identify innovative ways to improve energy efficiency, cut costs, reduce pollution, and create new business opportunities and jobs in commercial building. Currently, America’s 5 million commercial buildings account for nearly twenty percent of primary energy use in the US. The Federal Government’s 500,000 buildings alone ran up a $24.5 billion utility and fuel bill in 2008. In 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order pledging the Federal Government to lead by example, setting sustainability goals for Federal agencies and committing them to make improvements in their environmental, energy, and economic performance.

Administration’s Housing Scorecard Shows Increases in Affordability: The Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Treasury released the second edition of their housing scorecard this week. The Administration’s comprehensive report on the housing market, the scorecard shows that efforts to help homeowners refinance their homes and avoid foreclosure have helped millions of Americans. The scorecard also shows that home affordability in the U.S. is near its highest in 10 years, though fragility in the market and a large inventory of homes on and off the market remain.

Department of Energy Announces $30 Million for Energy-Efficient Housing Strategies: The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that it will fund fifteen research and deployment partnerships to help improve the energy efficiency of American homes. The partnerships will receive up to $30 million to deliver innovative energy efficiency strategies to the residential market and address barriers to bringing high-efficiency homes within reach for all Americans.

VA, HUD Invest $15 Million in Homeless Prevention for Veterans: In an effort to prevent homelessness among veterans, primarily those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs announced an investment of $15 million in five selected communities near military installations. The funding is intended to provide housing assistance and supportive services to veterans who might otherwise be living in homeless shelters or on the streets. “Nowhere is our obligation to our citizens, and to our Veterans who have defended our Nation, more important, more visible, or more necessary than in our commitment to prevent and end homelessness," VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said.


LISC receives first-ever grants from Social Innovation Fund: Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping community development organizations transform distressed neighborhoods, was awarded $4.2 million from the Obama Administration’s Social Innovation Fund to support the expansion of their Financial Opportunity Centers. The Social Innovation Fund, an initiative enacted under the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, targets millions in public-private funds to expand effective solutions across three issue areas: economic opportunity, healthy futures and, youth development and school support.

Huffington Post: Keeping the Promise of Promise Neighborhoods: PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell writes in the Huffington Post about the need to fully fund the Obama Administration’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative, which provides funding to communities to implement wraparound services to support children from birth to college. Blackwell explains that the President's request for $210 million to fund Promise Neighborhoods in FY 2011 was cut down to $60 million by a congressional subcommittee. “We must invest what's needed in order for this program to truly thrive—and for potentially millions of children to benefit from the lessons of the Harlem Children's Zone,” Blackwell writes.

Funding Opportunities

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhood Pre-Notice: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development posted the Choice Neighborhood FY 2010 Notice of Funding Availability Pre-Notice to give potential applicants guidance prior to the actual Choice Neighborhoods funding notice that will be published this summer. The guidance offers advance details regarding the application process to compete for funds through this pilot program. 

Local and Tribal Government Climate Showcase Communities Grant, Deadline July 26th: The Environmental Protection Agency announced the availability of up to $10 million for the establishment and implementation of climate change initiatives. The grant supports improvements in the environmental, economic, public health, or social conditions of a community and is a product of the partnership between DOT, HUD, and the EPA that encourage smart growth practices.

UPDATE: Tiger II Discretionary Grants Program, Deadline August 23: The Department of Transportation is soliciting applications for the "TIGER II" discretionary grant program, a $600 million competitive transportation grant program for surface transportation projects. The TIGER II Discretionary Grant Program pre-application process will close at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 26, 2010.

UPDATE: Sustainable Communities Grants, Deadline August 23 (Pre-Application July 26th): The U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development have joined together to award up to $75 million in funding–$35 million in TIGER II Planning Grants and $40 million in Sustainable Community Challenge Grants–for localized planning activities that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing, and economic development. The HUD Community Challenge Planning Grant Program pre-application process will close at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 26, 2010.

HUD Sustainable Regional Planning Grant: Deadline August 23: The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development is seeking applicants for their $100 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program. The program is designed to create stronger, more sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation, and building a clean energy economy. The grant is part of the DOT, HUD, EPA partnership.

EDA Innovation in Economic Development Competition, Deadline August 27: The Economic Development Administration announced funding for projects that advance innovation, boost competitiveness, and create jobs. Grants will be given to innovations in commercialization, regional innovation clusters, global export promotion, and green technology.

Upcoming Events

July 28th
Melody Barnes, the President’s Domestic Policy Advisor and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, will address the National College Advising Corps Wednesday in Washington, DC. The Corps seeks to increase the number of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students entering and completing higher education by placing recent college graduates in low-income communities and schools to serve as college advisers.

July 29th
President Barack Obama will deliver a plenary address Thursday at the 2010 National Urban League Centennial Conference in Washington, DC.