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House passes bill to help fund projects in distressed communities

OLYMPIA—Organizations in very distressed and low-income areas could soon get much needed Capital Budget funding for projects that serve their communities if a bill passed by the House today reaches the governor’s desk.

House Bill 1952, sponsored by Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, would modify the state match for the Building Communities Fund (BCF) and adjust conditions for providing technical assistance grants.

“Getting funding to grassroots groups or small nonprofits in distressed and low-income communities is difficult, and many of the people who live in these communities rely heavily on the services these organizations provide,” said Ortiz-Self. “My bill tries to fill this gap to ensure these organizations can provide their services to the people who need them most.”

In 2008, the Legislature created the BCF, administered by the Department of Commerce, to provide competitive grants to nonprofits for community service projects in distressed communities. The projects include social service centers and multipurpose community centers.

Applicants for the BCF must demonstrate their projects increase services provided, offer three or more distinct activities, reflect the long-term vision of the community, accomplish a usable phase of the project, make timely use of funds, and fill an unmet community need.

“The changes in my bill will simply open up the program guidelines to make funds more accessible for communities that don’t currently have the capacity to apply for these grants,” Ortiz-Self added. Last year, Ortiz-Self’s bill passed the House on an 86-11 vote but didn’t make it through the Senate, so it was returned to the House, which passed it again today, this time on an 89-6 vote.