Examine Benefits Of Federal Grants

Politicians in Washington dole out billions of dollars in grants every year. It makes them appear to be tackling tough challenges. Voters back home like it when some worthwhile cause receives a few hundred thousand dollars from Uncle Sam.

Everyone gets in on the act. Schools get grants to improve curriculum. Economic development agencies receive money to clean up abandoned industrial sites. And “job training” programs rake in millions of dollars whenever there’s a major layoff in their areas. Get “alternative energy” in your company’s name and you may qualify for a nine-figure boost from Washington.

Just this week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced $1 million in grants to five entities in West Virginia. The money will be used to cover “assessments” of dozens of old industrial sites.

That does not mean the “brownfields” sites will ever actually be cleaned up. Many sit idle for years after “assessment” grants are received.

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $15 million in grants to areas of West Virginia that suffer from “persistent poverty.”

Not a dime will be used to battle poverty. The money is earmarked for activities such as soil and water conservation.

Fifteen million dollars could help one or two poverty-stricken communities in our state, if used prudently. But federal agencies tend to use a shotgun approach, scattering as much money as widely as possible.

Federal bureaucrats insist they test the effectiveness of grant funding. In reality, emphasis is on whether forms are filled out correctly. Perhaps Congress should commission a study of just how effective the grant process is.

Maybe there is grant money available for such an investigation …