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Twice the Results, Half the Cost Matching Grants By Tom Luce No one denies that human needs continue to dramatically increase. No community is immune to increased drug abuse, homelessness, juvenile crime, random violent crime, school dropouts, teen pregnancies, senior citizen needs and other social ills. Government at all levels has failed to successfully meet these needs; in fact, many would argue that government programs have created or exacerbated these problems. The current political debate is stale. Conservatives argue spend 10 percent less; liberals argue spend 10 percent more. Neither approach offers real hope for radical change or abandonment of unsuccessful programs. On the other hand, segments of the private, non-profit sector continue to successfully meet human needs. In every community, there are examples of programs that work. In Dallas, the Salesmanship Club responds to “at risk” youth with outdoor living programs that transform lives. The Dallas Can Academy responds to the same need in an entirely different, but successful manner. The First Presbyterian Church responds to the homeless with a program that feeds and offers shelter to the homeless. I could go on and on. The “Matching Grant” concept would build on these islands of strengths by providing public funds to these successful programs and others like them by matching on a dollar-for-dollar basis private contributions. Overnight, successful programs would be able to dramatically increase the number of clients they could reach and help. No new government program would have to be created. No new government bureaucracy would be established. Not a single new government employee would be hired, but our ability to meet human needs would be multiplied. The ratio of matching funds on a dollar-fordollar basis would ensure that expansion would not create organizational problems. The “matching grant” concept, of course, has a self-correcting mechanism built in. If a selected private organization’s performance begins to decline, private sector contributions will begin to decline and accordingly public sector contributions will decline. An ancillary benefit that may result from the grant program is the strong likelihood that in the current environment of taxpayer resistence to increased governmental spending, any funds allocated to the “matching grant” program will not be available to existing programs that are not working. Eventually, unsuccessful programs will be starved. How do you ensure that grants are based upon merit or successful performance versus political patronage? By putting in place a process whereby the state legislature or city council would appropriate or allocate a fixed sum of money, e.g. $1,000,000, and an independent board fashioned after the base closure commission would be appointed to allocate this total by awarding specific grants to specific organizations for specific programs that work. Using this method will ensure an award system based on merit. If it does not, you still have in place an adjusting mechanism, private sector contributions. The beauty of this idea is it helps to meet human needs by allowing government to do what it can best doallocate resourcesand removes it from what it does not do welloperate or implement. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15