Proposal recommends almost $37-million for high crime and low income areas
Attorney General Matt Denn announces details of his Lifting Up Delaware’s Communities proposal as Governor Jack Markell and members of Wilmington City Council look on.
(WILMINGTON) – Backed by the Governor, legislators, police, educators, clergy, community activists, Attorney General Matt Denn proposed a multi-faceted plan to allocate money from a financial crisis settlement Wednesday, designed to have a profound impact on some of Delaware’s most economically distressed and crime-stricken communities.
Funded by settlements with Bank of America and Citi to resolve allegations of actions with respect to investments that contributed to the financial crash, “Lifting Up Delaware’s Communities” consists of three main components: Investing in people and neighborhoods, providing help to our high-poverty schools, and promoting affordable housing and development in economically impacted areas.
“We believe that this ambitious investment in Delaware’s economically impacted communities has the potential to transform parts of our state,” said Attorney General Matt Denn, “and we have faith it will have a real impact on people who desperately need help.”
Governor Markell noted the plan supports efforts in some of the highest need areas of the state, which can then serve to enhance all of Delaware.
“Thriving cities shelter their people in safe and comfortable homes,” Markell said. “They support vibrant neighborhoods, and that allows businesses to prosper, and it also lures visitors as well.”
The details of Lifting Up Delaware’s Communities are as follows:
a. Substance Abuse Treatment. Proposing $3 million be spent over a period of three years to establish additional treatment facilities for persons suffering from substance abuse disorder or related conditions.
b. After-School and Summer Programs. Proposing $3 million be spent over three years for summer and after-school programs targeted at children from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
c. Prison Re-Entry Programs. Proposing $3 million be spent over three years to provide competitive grants to non-profit organizations that assist persons being released from correctional facilities in Delaware to avoid new criminal offenses.
d. Community Policing and Community Support. Proposing $5.9 million be allocated to the state’s Neighborhood Building Blocks Fund, which can make grants for a broad array of government and non-profit efforts to support economically impacted neighborhoods. The fund currently has $1 million available from a prior bank settlement. One example of a potential use of these funds is the Wilmington neighborhood foot patrol initiative that the Department of Justice and the City of Wilmington are about to propose to the Fund. We are also proposing that $1 million of the funds be used to continue the existence of the Department of Justice’s Crime Strategies Unit, which is designed to address underlying causes of crime in economically disadvantaged areas (such as abating nuisance properties).
Brittingham Elementary (Cape Henlopen School District)
East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)
Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
Bancroft Elementary (Christina School District)
Elbert Palmer Elementary (Christina School District)
Pulaski Elementary (Christina School District)
Stubbs Elementary (Christina School District),
Eisenberg Elementary (Colonial School District)
Colwyck Elementary (Colonial School District),
Dunbar Elementary (Laurel School District)
Highlands Elementary (Red Clay School District)
Lewis Dual Language Elementary (Red Clay School District)
Richardson Park Elementary (Red Clay School District)
Shortlidge Elementary (Red Clay School District)
Warner Elementary (Red Clay School District)
West Seaford Elementary (Seaford School District)
a. Foreclosure Prevention. Proposing to direct $1.5 million to the Delaware Mortgage Assistance Program to help Delaware homeowners prevent foreclosures on their primary properties.
b. Affordable Housing. Proposing to dedicate over $10 million to the Delaware State Housing Authority’s Strong Neighborhoods Revolving Housing Fund which is dedicated to the creation of affordable housing in economically impacted areas.
c. Economic Development in Low Income Areas. Proposing to devote almost $4 million to the Downtown Development Districts Program, half of which would be used to provide down payment assistance to homeowners willing to purchase homes in those districts.
The settlement of multistate investigations into the actions by Bank of America and Citi, in addition to providing direct relief to some homeowners and the state’s pension funds, has resulted in the state having $36,615,801 that it is permitted to spend to (a) remediate harm the state suffered from the mortgage and financial crisis, and (b) improve housing. Given the nature of the settlement, the settlement funds are not meant to be used to simply supplant existing state programs or for programs that do not target economically impacted areas or individuals.
“In the past, the Attorney General’s Office has independently exercised its common law authority to distribute lawsuit settlement funds,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “But given the unprecedented sum of money involved in this settlement, we believe it is a sound practice to consult with the Governor and General Assembly regarding the expenditure of the funds.”
The Attorney General has already consulted with the Governor and obtained his agreement regarding the use of the funds, and will now seek to enter into a similar agreement with the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee.
Addressing high poverty schools is supported by educators across the state. Equetta Jones, a fourth grade teacher at Warner Elementary School in Wilmington, looks forward to the opportunities the school funding will bring.
“So many people think our children don’t want to learn. They do want to learn, they are inspired to learn, and they are me. I am a prodigy of city schools,” Jones said. “Our teachers are capable but we do need resources, and this funding will actually support us by giving us additional staff.”
Colonel Elmer Setting, Chief of the New Castle County Police, believes education is a key component to substance abuse treatment.
“It’s normally the message from law enforcement that we must find drug dealers and arrest them,” Setting said. “We’ve done that, but the prisons are full and forced sobriety is not the answer. Education is the only way out.”
Several elected officials representing the city of Wilmington offered support to the initiative.
“This proposal to invest in some of our hardest hit communities is a balanced one that is important to our citizens and to our effort to reduce violent crime,” said Senator Margaret Rose Henry. “Not only should we make these investments, but given the violence that we are seeing in our neighborhoods, we should make them sooner rather than later.”
“We can argue about what money should be spent where, but it’s difficult for me not to agree with conceptually where this money is being spent,” said New Castle County Councilman Jea Street. “The fact of the matter is, if you look at housing, the highest foreclosure rate in the state is in my council district in the city. The city is in trouble and it needs help.”
Wilmington City Council President Theo Gregory thanked the Attorney General for acting so quickly.
“I wanted to thank and express my appreciation for the foresight in the recognition that there’s an urgency to get started, and that Matt Denn hit the ground running,” Gregory said.
The Join Finance Committee is expected to address the proposal in early February.Related Topics: attorney general • Matt Denn
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