There is a fundamental disconnect, a lack of understanding about how states, cities and towns gain access to federal program and grant dollars, monies most use to prop up significant infrastructure projects like the one currently being conducted on two of East Providence’s four fire stations.
You don’t just raise your hand and say I want some money. It’s not how it works. It’s not that easy.
This money is targeted for specific purposes, not as a fund for cities and towns and states to draw from when their fiscal fortunes fade. There is a very restrictive and arduous process to procuring these dollars. The people who write these grant applications are hard-working members of individual departments, who have gained a certain expertise over the years in how things are done.
More than a few taxpayers, however, see the monies as some sort of windfall or better yet a cure all for some of the other woes we face here and in other places. But there are restrictions for the use of these funds. In fact it’s illegal to use them in any other way except to which they’ve been directed and approved.
Though not the same, it’s also not too dissimilar from last year’s Google money asset forfeiture scenario when many residents believed the $60 million the police department earned from its involvement in the investigation could be used to spare the then financially strapped city. Through some political wrangling, some of the money was used to settle up the cops’ unfunded pension liability, which certainly helped. The rest, however, remained for its stated purpose, which was to assist law enforcement in future endeavors.
Unlike the Google money, which was a one-off chance, the good news is there’s plenty of federal programs that give municipalities and states access to money. But the bad news is they don’t cover bad political decisions or mismanagement of money, two things often commonplace in here East Providence.