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Glut of Stimulus Requests Dims Hopes of Indiana Mayors

City officials around Indiana are scrambling to apply for funds from the federal stimulus package. With deadlines looming, some mayors and department heads are devoting significant time angling for ways to secure the billions of dollars in funds set aside for municipal projects.

But still months away from receiving the money, some are beginning to question how effective it will be.

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said he is not optimistic about how the stimulus will affect his city.

“You know, I think that’s a hard one to answer. My gut tells me: not a ton,” he said.

Bennett said the city may not even be able to afford to apply for some of the money.

“With some of these [grants], we’re finding out now, is [that] you have to have matching funds for different areas; some of them, not all of them. We may not even be able to come up with those matching funds,” Bennett said. “We may decide that we may not apply for [a] particular grant because we don’t have the funds.”

Dozens of proposed Terre Haute city projects qualify for stimulus money waiting to be allocated, but Bennett said that does not promise anything.

As part of the package President Barack Obama signed into law last month, the city will receive more money than usual for streets and roads, transit, housing and urban development, and safety.

“But everything else is competitive grants. We’re trying to make sure we don’t miss anything here. And that we’re doing everything we need to do to get every piece of funding that we feel should come to Terre Haute,” Bennett said. “My guess is that we still won’t know things for weeks, maybe a couple months. But as soon as it comes available to us, we will apply for it and see what happens.”

Bennett said he met with Indiana’s congressional delegation a few weeks ago in Washington, D.C. There he learned how to best position the city to possibly receive stimulus dollars. But he said it is anything but a sure thing.

“The question is: who decides? How do you look at an application when everybody’s applications look the same, other than whatever verbiage you can add to it? Who makes the decision [regarding] who gets funded and who doesn’t? Nobody can seem to answer that question right now,” he said.

Bennett made his comments on WFIU’s “Ask the Mayor” program.

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