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Mayor Asks Pres. Obama To Rethink Federal Grant Cuts

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Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado (Source: CBS4)

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado (Source: CBS4)

Gary-Nelson-600x450 Gary Nelson
Gary Nelson has been a member of the CBS4 News team since Septem...
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado was flanked by senior citizens and needy children at city hall Thursday who will be more needy if cuts to federal funding kick in as scheduled on April 1st.  It would prove a cruel April fool’s day.

The cruelest cuts to federal block grant funds – that help feed the elderly, provide pre-school and day care for the children of low income working parents, help kids with disabilities, and provide health care to the poor – would be felt in South Florida cities.  Hialeah would see it’s funding cut by nearly half.  Miami by a third.  Miami-Dade and Broward would see similarly draconian reductions, according to an analysis by CBS4’s News Partner, The Miami Herald.

“We have been to Washington, pleading,” said Regalado, “and now we’ve been surprised with these huge cuts.”

The block grant funding – administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development –  is based on a formula that factors in increases in available housing and population as calculated by the 2010 Census.

Cities argue housing was artificially inflated, particularly in state’s like Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California, by the boom and bust real estate market that didn’t provide housing for poor people.

Local leaders believe our population was dramatically undercounted in the Census due to the failure of undocumented aliens to participate, and the failure of Census workers to gain access to high rise condominium and apartment buildings to knock on doors and count heads.

At the Senior Citizens Activities and Feeding Center in Little Havana Monday, where prior cuts have already taken a toll, those living on fixed incomes worried about the possible loss of the daily meal they receive.

“I know a lot of people here, that if they don’t here today, they probably won’t get any lunch at all,” Said Antonio Mendez, a retiree who came in to eat and enjoy some social interaction.

President Obama, who visited South Florida Thursday, could use his executive authority to maintain funding at 2011 levels while the Census Bureau considers appeals of its South Florida count.

“He’s in town today.  We want to send a message loud and clear to our President, Obama,” said Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.  “The formula is broken.  These programs have been cut and cut and cut and can’t be cut anymore.”

Helena Del Monte, director of a program that assists children with disabilities, stood with two children with Down’s syndrome, who she said will need special care until “their last days on earth.”

“Please, Mr. President,” Del Monte said.  “Thank God your children have been born elitists.  Look at my children, and please help them.”

Madelyn Rodriguez Llanes, director of the Centro Mater day care center for the children of low income working parents said if the cuts go through, her agency will be unable to care for as many as 100 fewer children.

“These are children whose parents are out there working, trying to lift themselves up,” Llanes said.

President Obama scheduled no availability with the local media during his visit to South Florida Thursday.

Members of both parties from Florida in Congress, including Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Senator Bill Nelson have joined in a bipartisan effort to move legislation that would correct what they see as a flawed funding formula for block grant distributions.

Miami City Commissioner Frank Carollo expressed little confidence in Congress coming to the rescue.

“Nothing is moving in Washington,” Carollo said.  “That gridlock is affecting the neediest in our communities.”

Update 5:30 p.m.:

A White House official got in touch with CBS4’s Gary Nelson and said the president does not support the current formula for divvying up those funds, and has been unable to persuade Congress to see things his way.

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