Letters: Earmarks Could Have Helped St. Matthews

I am writing to respond to accusations made in The Times and Democrat on Jan. 12, “CDBG water system improvement project set to begin in February,” about my alleged lack of involvement on a St. Matthews water project.

Mayor Joe Sikes was in touch with my office on several occasions regarding this project. He requested my assistance to help secure a federal grant to extend water lines to a low-income area of the county. His request was for a grant to cover the entire project cost that would not require the town to provide matching funds or repay a loan.

It was explained to Mayor Sikes that, much to my displeasure and disappointment, the authority of members of Congress to direct funds to projects has been taken away, no matter how valid the projects may be. Consequently, my office is not able to circumvent the rules established by law regarding the distribution of federal agency program funds, in this case through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the end, the town of St. Matthews was able to secure a smaller federal grant through the Community Development Block Grant program to begin the project, and I am pleased to see that it is moving forward. Hopefully, the ability to earmark funds will be restored in time to help with the completion of this project.

Nobody is any more committed to community and economic development than I am, and I am always happy to assist municipalities in the 6th Congressional District within the letter of the law. This case underscores the value of earmark authority, so members of Congress can be more responsive to local needs and priorities.

As I have said repeatedly, without earmarks local communities are at the mercy of federal bureaucracies and the situation in St. Matthews is yet another unfortunate example of that system’s shortcomings.

— James E. Clyburn, 6th District Congressman

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