ROXBURY, NJ – The Obama Administration’s decision to block a local VFW from getting federal grants to upgrade and repair its property has prompted state Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (Morris/Somerset) to push for a regulation change.
Bucco, who also serves as Roxbury’s township attorney, was spurred to action by the plight of VFW Post 2833 in Kenvil. The post was promised about $135,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money, funds it was going to use to fix its handicapped access ramp, bathroom, kitchen and electrical panel.
The veterans thought everything was on track -- particularly because they’d been awarded CDBG money in the past -- but were stunned when they were eventually told the promised money was being rescinded. Morris County, which delivers the money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), told TAP into Roxbury that the promise made to the veterans was a mistake.
“It’s complicated and it’s unfortunate,” said Morris County Director of Human Services Jennifer Carpinteri in March. “Federal program regulations say that private non-profit facilities which are not generally open and available for public use, or that charge a fee that might make participation by a low- and moderate-income person prohibitive, are not eligible.”
Bucco announced his effort Tuesday night at a meeting of the Roxbury Mayor and Council. He said he sent a letter to all of New Jersey’s members of Congress, urging them to support his position that HUD needs to change its rules.
“These projects were not only beneficial to the (VFW) posts but also to the municipalities in general as the funds were used to update these facilities,” Bucco wrote. “Many of these grants were used for improving heating systems, repaving and roof repairs, to name a few.”
Bucco noted that VFW halls, while not always open to the public, often come to the aid of the general population.
“As you are well aware, during times of emergencies, such as Super Storm Sandy, Irene and the Nor’easter in October of 2012, many of these VFW and American Legion Halls became warming and charging stations for the public and benefited you and your constituents a great deal,” he wrote.
He pointed out to the senators and congressmen that CDBG grants were given to veteran groups “for many years.” The current administration, however, has chosen to enforce regulations that “specify that CDBG funds can only be used to fund private, non-profit facilities that are generally open and available for public use and, if a fee is charged, the fee will not prohibit participation by low- and moderate-income individuals.”
Bucco reminded the federal representatives that “the men and women of these posts have served our great country and deserve our help in preserving their facilities.”
The service of the members is also mentioned in a “sample resolution” Bucco drafted which asks Congress to change the regulation “given the extraordinary contributions of our veterans, both during and after their military service.”