Amado has – for the moment – lost its status as a “target community,” a decision that could impact the federal funding it receives to support several programs serving the area.
Margaret Kish, Pima County’s director of Community Development and Neighborhood Conservation, said the designation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development means more than 80 percent of a community earns less than 50 percent of the area mean income. In this case, that’s $59,000.
The designation is important because it makes the assumption that people taking advantage of projects – such as libraries, parks or other public spaces – using funds from HUD’s Community Block Development Grant program meet low-income requirements. Without it, organizations have to income-qualify individuals for projects to ensure HUD dollars are used only for low-income individuals, Kish said.
The change doesn’t affect all types of funding and doesn’t mean organizations in Amado can’t receive federal money from HUD, but they have to go through the extra step of making sure the residents are income-qualifying, she said.
A target community is decided based on data from the decennial U.S. Census and the American Community Survey, an annual random sampling of American communities by the Census Bureau.
Amado (known to some as Arivaca Junction and distinct from the Santa Cruz County community of Amado) is among four Pima County communities, including Helmet Peak, Picture Rocks and Why, that fell off the latest list of target communities last fall.
Kish said it’s important to note the distinction is made by HUD and not local leaders, and the federal department also provides guidelines for a community to appeal if it feels it has been dropped unfairly.
She is still reviewing the guidelines, but one step will be to conduct a community survey that statistically proves that it qualifies. Kish said to pull off such a survey, the county will need the help of Amado residents and the organizations that work there.
Daniel Tylutki, a Community Development program manager for Pima County, said the survey likely will start this summer and reiterated that they need the community to step up and participate.
“We need the community’s support and we’re working through the agencies in the area looking for help,” he said.
He said there would be two reasons the community would fail to re-qualify for funding: Not enough participation in the survey, or that the community no longer is a low-income area.
“They need to meet us halfway and participate because it would be a shame to go through all this effort and find it not statistically significant,” Tylutki said, referring to a lack of participation in the survey.
County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, whose District 3 includes Amado, said the loss of the designation is probably due to bureaucratic bungling at the federal level. She’s confident the community will regain the status on appeal.
“Clearly, if you look at the income level and the need, it’s a no-brainer that they qualify,” she said.
Bronson said limitations on CDBG dollars would be devastating for places such as the Amado Food Bank and Amado Youth Center, which have no other source of funding.
Mary Jane Goodrick, executive director of the Amado Food Bank, said she’s surprised at the loss of the designation. Most people who live in Amado are food bank clients, meaning they are at or under 175 percent of the federal poverty level.
In the past, the county has used CDBG funds to help the food bank, such as painting it, building a wall and even completing its roof, she said.
The Rev. Donna Maurer, minister at the Sonoran Desert Center for Spiritual Living in Amado, said a lot of people must not have responded to a survey or the census because the community unquestionably qualifies for the designation.
She knows many organizations around the community use the grants frequently. The funding is critical for the work she and the Amado Youth Alliance are doing to keep youths away from a highly prevalent drug culture in the area, Maurer said.
“If we lose those funds, we’ve lost those kids,” she said. “It’s that simple.”