MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – Three cities in Muskegon County want to know how they can best help residents with low incomes.

For example, is transportation a big need? How about assistance with home repairs, youth activities, legal services or employment?

An online survey allows citizens of Muskegon, Muskegon Heights and Norton Shores to provide input on how an estimated $1.5 million in annual federal funding is spent in their communities.

“It’s money that’s coming to us to make a difference in our community,” said Oneata Bailey, director of community and neighborhood services for the city of Muskegon.

The request was posted on city of Muskegon’s website Monday, March 1. Plans are gather public input until Monday, March 15.

The three cities will use responses to develop a five-year regional plan that begins in July, Bailey said. They previously collaborated on the 2016-21 plan, she said.

“We want to be collectively thought of as a jurisdiction of this community,” Bailey said. “We’re all using the same money, so why would we write three different plans?”

The Community Development Block Grant Program funds come from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Communities are required to spend 70 percent of them on low-income households, Bailey said.

“The activities that we select are to benefit low-income families,” she said.

In some instances, the three communities collaborate to provide services to all their residents, and in other instances they provide for their own citizens based on priorities they each set and write into individual annual plans, Bailey said.

The individual cities at times use the money in different ways. For example, Bailey said Muskegon Heights has focused money on legal aid for tenant issues, while Norton Shores has used funds to support senior transportation services and the Call 211 assistance line.

Norton Shores also offers owner-occupied housing rehabilitation grants and fair housing services, said Anthony Chandler, the city’s director of administrative services.

The city of Muskegon has used some of its allocation to help pay for the new downtown fire station, according to its 2020 action plan.

Much of the funding is spent on housing programs, including those to prevent homelessness, provide home repairs, enforce housing codes and support low-income housing.

However, the funding also can be used for many other services, including childcare, transportation, recreation and education programs, health care and such public works projects as street repairs, park renovations, demolition of unsafe structures and tree removal.

After a tumultuous 2020, Bailey said she’s interested in knowing of specific needs related to COVID-19, such as additional child tutoring or mental health assistance.

“We want to make sure that everyone’s doing well,” Bailey said.

Residents also can provide input by sending an email to [email protected] or calling 231-724-6717. Faxes can be sent to 231-726-2501.

Surveys also can be requested from the city of Muskegon Heights by calling 231-733-8830 and the city of Norton Shores by calling 231-798-4391.

Also on MLive:

Muskegon County courthouse reopening March 1 to public without appointments

Muskegon area residents under 65 could start getting COVID-19 vaccine in April

Public bus system threatened with defunding likely to be cut loose from Muskegon County

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