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Groups back simpler social service funding process

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Evanston aldermen, agency leaders and members of two city panels had little trouble Monday night agreeing to consolidate and simplify the process of awarding city funding for social service programs.

At what was billed as a Human Services Funding Summit the parties agreed to come up with a single application process for federal funds the city receives through the Community Development Block Grant program and for local tax dollars that are part of a new Human Services Fund.

Sarah Flax.

The city's grants administrator, Sarah Flax, explained that only 15 percent of the roughly $2 million in CDBG funds the city receives annually can be spent on what the federal Housing and Urban Development department calls "public services" — or human service programs.

Those funds are allocated by the city's Community Development Block Grant committee.

Meanwhile, the city's Mental Health Board recommends how to allocate the city's Human Services Fund, budgeted at $859,000 for next year.

Until now the two groups have used different application forms and separate review processes to evaluate funding requests.

The city typically provides only a modest amount of the total funding for the social service programs.

A budget spreadsheet distributed at the meeting indicated that for 19 groups for which both projected 2015 city funding and agency operating budget data was available, the average city contribution amounted to 3.34 percent of the agency budgets — with a range from less than 1 percent to just over 10 percent.

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