It was heartening to see that we had 20 responses in a matter of 48 hours from among the nonprofits we work with. They could see the importance of this issue, and were quick to step up to the plate to help. What they told us is amazing.
One agency receives $18,000 from block grant. With that funding they work to rehab and fix up houses for veterans and seniors so they can stay in their homes. With that amount of money, they work with 500 people, leveraging four or more dollars for every one that they receive through the block grant program.
Another program receives $30,000 a year in block grant funding to provide paid internships to young people in Milwaukee’s central city. For many, this is their first paid work experience, and teaches them the skills they need to access and keep a job after they graduate. Fifty kids participated last year. More than 80% came from households earning less than $28,000 a year and 23% were wards of the state, in foster care or other similar programs. This agency leveraged three dollars for every one dollar they receive from block grant funding.
Are you getting the idea here?
An agency from the south side of Milwaukee reports that if block grant funding is eliminated, 20,000 students will not have a safe place to go or healthy meals to eat during the summer while their parents work. And 120 fewer families will actualize the American dream of owning their own home in Milwaukee and building that asset for the future.
I could go on and on here, but let's just do one more.
A program building trust between law enforcement and over 100,000 residents will be scaled back or eliminated if block grant funding is cut. This means fewer crimes reported, and therefore less safety on our streets and in our neighborhoods. A graffiti abatement program will be eliminated and 20,000 young people will not have access to a safe place and support to overcome negative influences like organized crime and substance abuse. In other words, our community will not be safe.
Here's the thing. Nonprofits in our community do a LOT of very good work with the money they receive from the block grant program. Administered by Housing and Urban Development, it's federal money that comes originally from your tax dollars. That money comes back to the city and is then distributed to nonprofits who apply for it every year. There's a rigorous application process requiring nonprofits to outline in detail how they will use the funds to help the community, and they report on it every month. At the end of the year they are audited to make sure they did what they said they were going to. How many times have we heard that for-profits that received money from the state through WEDC didn't even come close to delivering on their promises?
Ok. That last line may be overstatement for effect, but the point is we need this funding. Without it our streets aren't as safe, our kids are at risk, people can't buy homes and live secure lives, and veterans coming home from the wars won't have help retrofitting their houses. And you know what? It's not just Milwaukee. There are block grant programs feeding the elderly in Ozaukee County, on the far western portions of Waukesha county. It's everywhere, serving people young, old, black, white, Latino: people who need a little help.
You can't separate fiscal issues from social issues, and you should know the facts about how your money is being used. While there are certainly some bad eggs out there - CDBG recipients who are not successful in their utilization of funds - on the whole you'd be proud if you saw what is being done in Milwaukee with your tax dollars.
As a matter of fact, do just that. Look into it for yourself. Don't trust the politicians to tell you about what they don't know. Check it out. Think about it, and then let your legislators know what you found. They need to know how many solid, well managed nonprofits do amazing things with this money we give them. Here's the list of block grant funded agencies in Milwaukee.