FEBRUARY 16, 2012
In a development that should make the average taxpayer’s head spin, the U.S government is doling out tens of millions dollars to support programs that help states spend their federal money more efficiently.
It’s definitely a new era of government spending. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is allocating $20 million to “improve performance and boost the capacity of state and local governments to implement their federal block grant programs for housing and community development.” In this case the cash will support “technical assistance” projects that guide local governments trying to “stabilize” in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis.
The money will go to three types of “results-oriented technical assistance and capacity building,” according to HUD; comprehensive assistance to help grantees improve their basic program performance; limited assistance to grantees that have clearly identified program gaps; and innovative assistance to help grantees in restructuring their housing and community development programs to better meet the needs in their communities.
“These funds will help our partners work smarter and stretch federal investments for the greatest possible benefit to the people and places we serve,” said Mercedes Márquez, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development. “In today’s budget environment, we not only have to do more with less, we have to perform at a very high level to make certain limited taxpayer dollars have the real and lasting impact.”
Eligible applicants include state or local governments, public housing authorities, nonprofit community groups, educational institutions, Indian tribes, for-profit organizations, public or private organizations and other “intermediaries.” In other words, pretty much anyone can qualify for this particular grant.
That’s because the agency has made a “fundamental change” in the way its traditional “program-specific” technical assistance has been structured. It will be replaced with a new “cross-program” approach. What does this all mean? Nobody really knows since it’s purposely written in a mystic government lingo so regular people can’t truly understand it.
What we do know is that HUD has initiated a number of controversial programs under the Obama Administration. Last fall the agency launched a special initiative to help illegal immigrants nationwide and it intervened against Arizona’s strict immigration control law by warning that federal housing obligations prohibit “discrimination against protected class members.” HUD also deployed its assistance secretary to intercept a Fremont Nebraska measure banning illegal aliens from renting in its jurisdiction.
HUD has also been embroiled in a huge scandal surrounding federal grants awarded to the famously corrupt Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN). In 2009 Judicial Watch sued the agency for the records and in 2010 a HUD Inspector General report revealed that ACORN embezzled millions of dollars for “housing counseling” in one year alone and destroyed the documents to hide the fraud.
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