The city of Walla Walla has received its largest contribution yet from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.

The allotment of $394,643 was granted and announced to the city in May but was heralded to communities Thursday in an announcement from the office of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

The funds are part of the annual allocation the city receives as an “entitlement community,” said Walla Walla Community Development Block Grant Coordinator Jennifer Beckmeyer.

The program provides yearly grants through a formula for qualifying cities and counties to help develop housing, expand economic opportunities and provide suitable living for low- and moderate-income residents.

This year’s budget was around $380,000, so the jump was a pleasant surprise, Beckmeyer said.

She said the city has a five-year plan for how to dedicate the funds. That plan is revisited each year with opportunities for public input.

The program helps to support homeownership, housing rehabilitation, public improvements and economic development projects, Cantwell’s announcement explained. Specifically over the last five years in Walla Walla, funds have been used on minor and major home repairs, park improvements, sidewalk and ADA ramp installations, construction of the teen shelter, public services such as adult literacy classes, neighborhood revitalization led by Commitment to Community, pro-bono legal assistance, solar light installation to improve safety, assistance with the update on Walla Walla County’s five-year Homeless Housing Plan and more.


Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, or on Twitter at

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.