Obama administration officials could announce Friday in Detroit that more than $100 million in federal and private funds -- some new money, some previously announced -- will be made available for demolitions, policing and transportation, a person with knowledge of the officials' scheduled meeting with state and local leaders said Wednesday.
Two days before the summit, much of the agenda -- as well as the list of all participants -- remained a mystery, though some details have emerged.
Among the possibilities: a $20-million private-sector match for the $52 million in federal demolition funds Detroit received; $10 million in grants to beef up policing around schools; technical assistance from Washington in freeing up as much as $100 million in transportation funds that haven't been put to use because the city hasn't met the qualifications.
President Barack Obama's administration is sending at least three cabinet officials -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan; Attorney General Eric Holder, and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx -- to the summit. They will meet with a group to include Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and emergency manager Kevyn Orr.
"I think they are sending in the cavalry," said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat from Detroit, whose staff, the Free Press reported weeks ago, created a list of more than 200 programs through which the administration could find dollars to help Detroit. Levin said he expects the cabinet members to announce funds that have not been announced. He also said the visit is the first of many.
"These cabinet officers ... will do more than just planning and simply saying, 'There's going to be an effort made,' " he said. "In addition to describing the effort, which is a pretty serious one when you've got three cabinet officers, I'm hoping there will be some announcements made about specific grants, funds that have been found in existing programs that can be used."
"We tried to identify every single program that might be a ... funding source," said Levin, who is also expected to attend, along with Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and U.S. Reps. John Conyers of Detroit, John Dingell of Dearborn and Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township.
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr said that one of the great things the feds could offer is technical assistance to a city with computer technology so outdated that much of the accounting is done by hand.
"If we as a city show we are capable of meeting conditions to get the aid, use the aid, account and report for the aid, different federal agencies ... will feel comfortable giving us aid.
"We have $293 million administered through seven programs, and we're not compliant," he said.
Orr, who has floated the idea of hiring a firm just to ensure the city complies with regulations to get funds, cited the fire department in a specific example of how getting a grant and keeping a grant are two different things.
"We had a SAFER grant to hire 140 FTES" -- or Full-Time Equivalents -- in the fire department, he said. "But the grant has limitations on how much it will pay for overtime. So the administrator over at Fire has to sit there and make these calculations and entries for each FTE. It takes 20 minutes apiece, on average, for each person -- three weeks, without the technology that could take the press of a button. If these were quarterly reports, that means a third of each quarter for an employee is spent on compliance. That's one grant. Without technology, we're actually putting a tremendous burden on both city operations and our own employees, who are trying. I've developed a great deal of respect and admiration for our employees. They're trying to do their jobs with the tools that they have."
Announced last Thursday, Friday's meeting -- the first large-scale gathering of federal officials with state and local leaders in response to Detroit's bankruptcy -- is expected to last from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and be held at Wayne State University. It will touch on blight eradication, public safety, transportation systems and the city's capacity to use federal resources. The meeting is by invitation only and closed to the media, though there could be a briefing afterward.
With no wide-scale federal bailout coming, White House officials have been monitoring the city's progress and offering to match local leaders with existing sources of aid through a series of meetings in Washington.
By the time three cabinet members, an economic adviser and their staffs finish meeting Friday with local leaders and stakeholders, they plan to announce new monies and improved ways of ensuring that Detroit gets and spends the more than $200 million it is awarded in federal grants each year.
Much of that money goes unspent because the city fails to comply with rules for handling it.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, said the meeting is part fact-finding and part relationship-building.
"They want to establish a working relationship with folks in Detroit. ... They also want to show ... that the administration wants to support the city."
(c)2013 the Detroit Free Press. Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
Original headline: Feds could bring news of $100M in aid for Detroit
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