As economic redevelopment efforts spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration continue across New York, a U.S. senator wants to see the federal government do more to that end.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced on Wednesday efforts to increase funding for the first time in a decade to the Economic Development Administration, an arm of the Commerce Department that gives funding to community projects linked to job creation.

“Next week, the president will be releasing his annual budget request to Congress,” Schumer said. “I’m hoping it will include a request for major increases to EDA. Whether it does or not, I’m sending a letter to appropriators to increase the funding.”

Specifically, the senator wants EDA funding restored to its 2007 level of $250 million.

“This year is the year sequestration is over, and for years it was cut, cut, cut,” Schumer said. “This year there’s now room in the budget to increase funding. We think there’s enough room to go up to $500 million.”

For most of the last 10 years, funding appropriations to the EDA have stagnated. Some years, funding has actually decreased, the senator said.

“That’s a big problem. Considering how important a service (the EDA renders), it’s amazing to consider that EDA only receives $180 million nationwide annually for all economic development priorities,” Schumer said. “As a result, upstate New York communities miss out on countless opportunities to create new jobs, attract new businesses to the region and grow innovation.”

The disparity between the number of grant submissions and available EDA funding is hard to ignore, Schumer said. Pointing to the 2013 fiscal year as an example, the senator reported the EDA received 1,476 grant applications totaling $2.5 billion in funding requests for projects across the country. The EDA, however, only had $183.4 million to disburse among 670 applications.

Between 2007 and 2014 — the years when EDA funding did not increase — the EDA made 142 grant awards to communities across New York totaling more than $55 million.

Western New York saw $6.3 million of the $15 million in EDA grant funding requested. Cattaraugus County received the bulk of the funding, being awarded $5.5 million.

During that same time period, Allegany County received $465,000, which went to offset a $930,000 water line project along Route 417 in Wellsville to update and expand the town’s water service area to several sites east of the village.

Though upstate New York has fared well with EDA funding, Schumer noted that between 2011 and 2014, 83 grant applications seeking a combined $100 million in funding went unanswered.

“A worst-case scenario is when a community has done the hard work on a project to attract a new company to their backyard contingent on a relatively modest investment in infrastructure, and the EDA application is so stalled for so long that the company moves elsewhere,” Schumer said. “This is a time when we’re trying to create jobs, good-paying job, not less.”

(Contact City Editor Christopher Michel at cmichel@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHChris)

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