Let’s talk grants for a moment 

Grants can be a great way to increase funding needed for specific projects! But is it FREE MONEY? “Nothing in life is free”, so the saying goes. Grants are available funds designated for specific projects, generally with a specific goal or outcome in mind. No matter what a grant is for, the money came from somewhere, or someone else first.

There are different types of grants. Grants made available by governments “set aside” tax dollars. Because of that, it certainly cannot be considered ”free” money. Citizens of our society are compelled to pay taxes, with imposed penalties for not doing so. That money is then “granted” to groups or individuals to accomplish the goal that the granting organizations feels is a benefit to society as a whole.

Local grants from charities and businesses collect the money from voluntary donors or “set aside” a portion of their profits in order to be able to grant the money. In a way, this isn’t quite free either, but the donors generally do so willingly and are aware of their financial contribution. These grants don’t always come without certain strings attached, but are generally less cumbersome for the recipient, and are generally money kept locally.

Some grants are available only to private business, others are only available to public entities like cities, schools, counties or states. Locally, the City has offered a couple of grant options for homeowners and businesses inside City limits that are for the specific purpose of keeping Louisburg beautiful and revitalizing older homes and business districts. There are few strings attached and no ongoing burden to the homeowner as part of the grant.

Federal grants are generally only available to public entities, and more than likely have strings attached that can add additional cost to the recipient which becomes a double whammy for taxpayers who funded the grant to begin with! They come with data collection and reporting mandates, which the public is rarely made aware of, and is an expense of resources for the public. They can come with expectations of establishing and implementation of programs that the local entity doesn’t want or need. They can also come with strict rules compliance with any rule the granting department deems necessary, both present and into the future. These rules may or may not align with the local citizens wishes or financial ability, but must be adhered to nonetheless. These can cause limits, restrictions, and headache for future generations of citizens, just for the privilege of getting some money in the present.

In order to apply for grants as a public entity, proof of available budget funds (because again, it’s not completely free) must be provided, meaning finding money in a budget to pay for the matching portion. This means having money on hand that isn’t already devoted for some other purpose. Some of the grants make you apply first before seeing the requirements. Of course you can deny the grant after it’s awarded if you don’t like the terms, but how many of us would apply for a home, car, or business loan, go to the hassle of pooling money and filling out mounds of paperwork, and the stress and anticipation of moving forward with a project, without knowing what all it entails? I hope the answer is NO ONE.

Not all grants are bad, but not all grants are helpful. A general rule for individuals, businesses, and government decision-makers should be “just because money is available, doesn’t mean it’s needed.”Nothing is truly free, and we have to ask if we are willing to pay what it costs to get the money.

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