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If the U.S. government had only $100 million left in the budget, I would begin devising a grant program to direct money to local governments in the pursuit of assisting the most fragile and disenfranchised populations. I believe government’s inherent social value is establishing services essential to provide basic human needs. This, however, is not a mandate for government to deliver services. Rather government should be a coordinator of parties and resource, and no one understands the unique demands of each geographic community better than local government.
The grant program would award money to local governments who would then contract with partners in accordance with the approved application. Requirements within the application for funding would have two basic mandates. First, in order to maximize the dollars being allocated, applicants must outline plans to raise private funds to match the exact amount of the grant. Second, applicants must demonstrate at least one partnership with a local, state, or national non-government organization committed to serving the identified population. The objective of both these mandates is to ensure collaboration between groups working on similar projects, and ensure that local governments are outsourcing the delivery of services. Ideally, by contracting services out the dollars are not only assisting those in need but are also stimulating local economies.
Grant recipients will be chosen based on maximizing efforts to reduce costs of services, draws in multiple partnerships (both government and non), selects partner organizations that are locally based, and maximizes the number of people being served. For example, the New York City Department of Homeless Services and New York City Human Resources Administration partner with multiple non-government organizations to create a new program that serves food to homeless and individuals eligible for food stamps. Additionally, the application outlines efforts to secure bulk purchasing power by partnering with food manufactures within a 90-mile radius and New York based farms that results in reduction of costs and supporting local business.
Applications would be open to all agencies for any project that serves basic human needs. It is important for the language to be broad in order to keep the pool of applicants open. I understand that in order to make the grants substantial, different regulations (minimum size of grant, total number of grants awarded, etc.) would need to be instituted. But, the grant program would not reach its maximum potential if it restricts agencies based on a perception set by national trends. It is up to the local government to identify the areas in need that are unique to their community. I believe this is how we address the different demands of such a large and unique society, rather than a one size fits all fix that diminishes the diversity of our culture.
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