State grants development money to Tennessee cities, counties
*** This story is an updated version with multiple corrections after our first version of the story contained various inaccuracies. We regret the errors, as accuracy is of the utmost importance to WREG News Channel 3 ***
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Lee approved millions of dollars in grant money Friday morning that will help counties around the state with infrastructure improvements and safety initiatives. But when the final list came out, much of West Tennessee was left off.
More than $26 million was given out to 66 different counties in the state.
Community leaders agreed, they’ll take all the help they can get, but there are different routes for different types of areas.
More than two-thirds of the counties across Tennessee received a slice of the almost $30 million that Gov. Lee approved Friday morning. In West Tennessee, Lauderdale County, Brighton, Gallaway, Stanton, Bolivar, Middleton, Toone, Adamsville and Michie all received grant money.
Some grants did go to cities and towns in the area, including about half a million dollars for a sewer project in Bolivar.
In total, West Tennessee will receive about $8.5 million, which does not include Memphis or Shelby County.
WREG reached out to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to understand why so little of that money made its way to the Mid-South. An official explained over the phone there are “entitlement cities” that are not eligible for the community development block grants because they already receive funding from the Housing and Urban Development Department.
That means Memphis and Shelby County aren’t considered for the state grants. State Rep. Antonio Parkinson explained the difficulties of balancing funding, saying avoiding the state process can actually be beneficial.
“The good thing about it is, we don’t have to go through the same process that some of the smaller counties have to go through,” Rep. Parkinson said. “So we get our monies directly from the federal government without having the state government as a middle man.”
Through the federal program, Memphis is receiving $6.6 million, and Shelby County is receiving $1.1 million.
A state official told WREG they balance the decision by combining community need and project impact, terms that at least this year have left a large portion of southwest corner of the state out to dry. If anything, it provides a clear window in the competitive state process, where everyone wants a piece of the pie.
“If you’re fighting for something that’s going to shore up a weak spot, that weak spot could be something that’s pulling in time and budget from the state now,” Rep. Parkinson said.