A new measure to be filed in the House of Representatives is seeking the eventual restoration of funding cuts made to fire companies, senior centers and other nonprofit community organizations.
As part of an effort to close a $364 million budget gap, lawmakers in 2017 cut 20 percent from a state grant program supporting the work of nonprofit agencies serving Delaware communities. As a result, the current Grants-in-Aid Bill, fiscal 2018, contains $37.2 million — $8.64 million less than the bill it replaced.
Rep. Charles Postles, R-Milford, the lead sponsor of the resolution that will be circulated for sponsorship, said the measure is intended to emphasize the importance of this issue to legislative budget writers. The Joint Finance Committee will begin its work in February to craft a new operating budget and Grants-in-Aid bill for the new fiscal year that starts in July.
“The organizations that receive this grant money put it to work in the service of our citizens,” said Postles. “In my district alone, the Carlisle Fire Co., the South Bowers Fire Co., Kent-Sussex Industries, the Milford Senior Center, Frederica Senior Center, the Milford Historical Society and the Boys and Girls Club of Milford are just some of the groups that rely, in part, on this funding.”
The resolution directs the JFC to restore funding to the Grants-in-Aid bill to the fiscal 2017 levels.
“I am simply asking budget writers to make it a priority to reinstate the Grants-in-Aid funds to prior levels. The reductions were a measure of last resort needed to balance the budget. We are now expecting a surplus at the start of the new fiscal year in excess of $80 million. I don’t support any new expenditures, but if we have the means, I believe we must fully honor our obligations to those serving our citizens,” said Postles.
State House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson, R-Fairthorne, said she supports making the Grants-in-Aid Bill whole.
“I will vote for this proposal, and it has the backing of most of the House Republicans with whom Rep. Postles has discussed it. I hope this is a measure that all legislators will endorse. There are hundreds of groups receiving GIA funds that are working on behalf of every citizen in this state,” said Hudson.
Hudson said that the Grants-in-Aid process could soon be more transparent and accountable than before. Legislation she sponsored with State House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, that passed the House of Representatives, seeks to establish a new joint legislative committee to evaluate the grants program.
“Once enacted, the committee would vet applicants and check how effectively the money was being used. This mechanism would ensure that tax money was being used efficiently,” said Hudson.