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Bishop: Use federal grants to renovate VFW halls

Rep. Tim Bishop, speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Kings Park Monday, said he is proposing legislation that would steer $50 million in federal anti-blight dollars to veterans groups nationwide so they can renovate their facilities.

The legislation would tap funding from the $4.45-billion federal Community Development Block Grant program, which funnels money through local governments to curb neighborhood blight, improve community facilities or boost employment in low- and moderate-income areas.

The Southampton Democrat said his plan to use the fund would be appropriate because although they are privately owned, veterans halls are often used for parades, scouting events, senior citizens and other activities, making them de-facto community centers.

"These VFW and American Legion halls serve as hubs in their communities," he said. "I think it is entirely in the spirit of the CDBG to help community organizations that add to the vibrancy of communities."

Under the bill, veterans groups could apply for up to $200,000 in competitively awarded federal aid for renovations.

But Diana Weir, executive vice president of Long Island Housing Partnership, a nonprofit group that builds low-cost housing, said although veterans facilities often benefit communities, they should have to compete with other projects, rather than be granted special access to limited federal grants.

The post commander at the Kings Park VFW Post 5796, where Bishop announced the legislation, said CDBG funding would provide welcome assistance to veterans groups whose aging members lack the finances to make improvements to facilities that are sometimes as old as they are.

"We're not the only post that is struggling with this issue," said post commander Al Mlodynia.

His VFW Post 垖 sustained extensive water damage last year when a roof leak ruined the ceiling, sent water seeping down a first-floor wall and flooded a basement kitchen.

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