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Sumter residents asked for feedback on what the city should use federal funding for

The Community Development Block Grant provides federal funding to cities like Sumter through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

SUMTER, S.C. — The Community Development Block Grant aims to improve neighborhoods and make Sumter more livable. The city has received this federal funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development every year since 1994. 

Currently, Sumter is taking suggestions from residents for what to do with the money.

Clarence Gaines is the Community Development Director for the city of Sumter. 

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"I retired from the military after 27 years and my goal was when I retired, I wanted a fulfilling type job. And there’s no more fulfilling job than this job," Gaines shared. "You know when you can help people, like pull people up, that’s the good part of my job."

Gaines is currently taking feedback from residents to hear what they want to improve in their community. He’s compiling a list, which he will present to City Council. 

This year, Gaines says the most common request seems to be for "drainage problem[s], low line area[s]."

The council will then use the CDBG grant to make improvements. About 40-50% of the money goes toward helping repair houses in low income communities, Gaines told me.

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"Some of those houses been passed down from generation to generation and people just, you know, basically can’t afford to repair the house and we do it as a grant," he said.

In recent years, this funding has helped with projects like supporting the Sumter YMCA's after-school program. Fannie Georgia is the YMCA Youth Director.

"It’s been great. They’re trying to partnership and just make life better here in the Sumter community. And just knowing that we bond together to try to help families to reduce hardships," Georgia said. "It keeps us operating and the kids love it and they need somewhere to come to be able to have fun, to be safe."

The money has helped the YMCA purchase school supplies, and it has afforded scholarships for families to use the service, which is normally $185 a month for members, $350 for non-members.

"Right now we have 106 children in the program," Georgia shared. "Out of that 106, 35 of those are on scholarship and that grant helps with that to support those that are low income and need assistance to put their kids in the program."

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Georgia plans to attend Tuesday’s public hearing to express her appreciation and to ask for more funding to help with transportation to the YMCA for more kids. 

That public meeting is happening tomorrow night at 6 p.m. at the Sumter Opera House. Gaines says he's not sure how much money will be awarded to the city, but that it's dependent on population. Last year, the city was afforded around $308,000, according to Gaines.

While a lot of the funding will go toward repairing houses, Gaines said his office helps residents find other resources outside of the CDBG grant. Community members interested in learning more can visit the Community Development Office at 12 W. Liberty St.

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