Costa meets his new constituents

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comMarch 12, 2013 

Rep. Jim Costa, who now represents Merced County, held meetings Monday with area veterans and local law enforcement.

The get-together was promoted as a chance for the Democrat from Fresno to reach out to his new constituents. The recently redrawn District 16 includes parts of Fresno, half of Madera County and all of Merced County.

Local police chiefs, the chief of probation and the sheriff expressed concerns primarily focused on federal funding. Several law enforcement officials voiced concern about the increasing challenge of securing money specifically for personnel.

"It is getting harder and harder to compete for the grants where you're getting people," said Merced Police Chief Norm Andrade. "It's a lot different than it used to be."

Federal grant formulas can be hard on small- and medium-sized cities, Costa said.

"I have a sense of your challenges, but I don't know what you've done historically to try to access federal funds," he said. "It would be helpful for me to know what's worked and what hasn't."

Costa pledged to come up to speed on what the county needs to do to apply for funding, but he noted that recent federal spending cuts would impact funding.

Veterans and advocates asked their congressional representative for help securing services and getting the word out about those programs.

"I think for veterans a lack of knowledge of services that are available to them (is a problem), especially the homeless because they're not watching TV or listening to the radio or picking up the paper," said Art Granado, an active duty soldier living in Merced.

Costa said he would work on improving outreach to the veterans community in Merced County.

"I'm willing to work with you on a strategy over the next two years to see how we can do a better job of reaching out to them," he said.

The meetings were held at the County Administration Building at 2222 M St. at the congressman's Merced County office.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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