Denn continues his efforts to use settlement funds for communities

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Attorney General Matt Denn makes his pitch for spending $29 million to reduce crime, fight substance abuse and educate children. (Submitted photo/Department of Justice)

WILMINGTON — Attorney General Matt Denn unveiled a plan for using $29 million in settlement money to fight crime and benefit needy communities Wednesday, continuing his pitch to spend the one-time funds not to balance the budget but for new initiatives.

Titled “Lifting Up Delaware’s Communities,” the new proposal includes $10.7 million to help people and communities, $10.5 million for housing assistance and $7.8 million for schools. That money can then be further broken down into categories.

Under the plan, substance abuse and prison re-entry programs will each receive $3 million over three years. The Neighborhood Building Blocks Fund, which provides grants to help needy neighborhoods in various ways, would get $4.7 million.

A total of $1.5 million would help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Four million dollars would flow to the Downtown Development Districts program, intended to aid people who lost their homes to foreclosure since 2008 buy houses in downtown areas. Another $5 million would be allocated to the Delaware State Housing Authority’s Strong Neighborhoods Revolving Housing Fund, which aims to provide housing in lower-income areas.

Under Mr. Denn’s plan, the state’s 16 highest-poverty elementary schools would get $100,000 per year for a three-year period to hire teachers or paraprofessionals, at a total cost of $4.8 million. Additionally, $3 million over three years would be spent on after-school and summer programs for low-income students.

“Our proposal in January, and our proposal today, is that these funds be used to help lift up our state’s hardest-hit communities,” Mr. Denn said. “That is what is called for by the settlement agreement, and speaking for a moment as an elected official whose top priority is fighting violent crime, investing in these communities is also what we should be doing if we really want to bring down the rate of violent crime.”

In January, Mr. Denn pushed for the General Assembly to use $36 million received from Bank of America and Citigroup to combat crime in similar ways. The money was given to the state as a result of alleged mortgage-related misconduct.

Mr. Denn’s plan was rejected, with $5 million being used for the state budget. Earlier this month, the legislature’s budget committee approved a request of $2 million for Wilmington and Dover, both of which have struggled with high amounts of violence.

Lawmakers have chafed at being advised on how to spend the money, refuting arguments it belonged to the Department of Justice. Several Republican legislators have spoken of using the remaining $29 million to balance the budget this year, although other lawmakers have objected to committing one-time money to recurring expenditures.

A nonprofit has filed suit against the state for using $5 million in the budget, arguing that money was intended to benefit people affected by the mortgage crisis and Great Recession from the end of the last decade.

Mr. Denn has continued to advocate against filling gaps in the budget with settlement money.

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