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(Washington, D.C.) – Today at a rally in Seattle, community leaders and Senator Patty Murray spoke out against cuts to Community Development Block Grant. The grants support local efforts to revitalize communities; provide safe and affordable housing; and create jobs and economic development in underserved neighborhoods. The Bush Administration has proposed cutting the program by more than $1 billion. Unless the cuts are stopped, Washington State could lose $16 million in critical community development funds.

Supporters gathered at the YWCA Opportunity Place in Seattle and heard from Murray, King County Executive Ron Sims, Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger, advocates and individuals who've been helped by federal grants.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

Today you’ve heard about just a few ways that the Community Development Block Grant program is being used to strengthen communities throughout King County.

Across our state, CDBG funds are being used by mayors and non-profit organizations to:

  • revitalize communities;

  • provide safe, affordable housing;

  • and create jobs and economic development in underserved neighborhoods.

And so often, CDBG is the catalyst that leads to successful public-private partnerships that bring new hope and opportunity to our communities.

CDBG is one of the best investments we can make. Each federal dollar leverages about $30 in private capital. That's a great return on our investment – and that doesn't include the lives it changes and the communities it rebuilds.

But today, that funding is threatened. The budget before Congress threatens to cut CDBG by more than $1 billion. That’s on top of a half a billion cut the program received this year. What that means here in Washington state is that CDBG funds would be reduced by $16 million next year.

I think that’s wrong. And I want you to know that I’m working hard in the Senate to protect CDBG and our investments in public housing. I know how important programs like CDBG are.

Everywhere I travel in Washington state I hear from families struggling to find a safe and affordable place to live. Whether it is a young couple looking to buy their first home, a family searching for rental housing near their job, or a senior citizen who wants better access to social services, it is harder than ever to find affordable housing. Over the past few months, I've been traveling throughout our state meeting with mayors and housing leaders. I've seen a wide range of challenges throughout the state. But no matter where I go, affordability is the biggest challenge – especially here in King County. Families who spend a high share of their monthly income on rent often are not able to save. They're not able to put money away so that one day they can afford a down payment. They don't have much money left over to buy the goods and services that employ our neighbors. The high cost of housing in this area often means people are stuck in substandard housing.

And it probably means they're moving further and further away – but still working here in Seattle or Bellevue. That creates all types of pressures on our transportation system. It means more congestion and higher costs for businesses and families.

Here in Washington, we're tackling this challenge. Non-profit groups, public housing agencies, and leaders, like Ron Sims and Grant Degginger, are working hard to leverage shrinking federal dollars to build affordable housing and revitalize underserved communities. Today we’ve heard some of those success stories, but we can do more.

I believe that in order to make America stronger we need to make investments here at home – in our people, in our infrastructure, and in our communities. That's why last week I led the fight in the Senate to fully fund CDBG. I was down the Senate floor Tuesday night and several times on Wednesday – speaking out and urging other Senators to keep investing in our communities.

In the end, we lost. But I'm not giving up. I know how much is riding on this investment. That's why I'm so pleased to stand here with community leaders and local advocates – to show the real people and community needs that are on the line. I'm going to take the stories we've heard here today back with me to Washington, D.C. and continue to fight for the investment we need to make our state strong.