Bowden: Support needed for bill to create Grants-in-Aid Committee


Bill Bowden is a retired Verizon Delaware executive and past president of the Delaware Quality Award. He also served eight years in state government as the executive director of the Department of Technology and Information.

Delaware House Bill 40 is a “good-government” bill that has yet to be heard by the Senate Executive Committee. This is just wrong!

HB 40 is a bill that aims to create the Grants-in-Aid Committee, a joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives, to rigorously review and recommend a balanced grants-in-aid appropriations bill. Grants-in-aid are funds that support nonprofits that provide services to the citizens of Delaware, such as fire companies, ambulance services, senior centers, veterans’ organizations and other community organizations. The bill was introduced for the second time Jan. 5, 2023, passed in the House and is still awaiting consideration in the Senate Executive Committee.

The bill has previously received overwhelming bipartisan (virtually unanimous) support from both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives for the last two sessions. It certainly deserves to be aired out on the floor of the Senate, where any concerns or opportunities for improvement could be discussed. The Senate owes that to both parties in the House, who voted over 80 individual times to support a more comprehensive approach on how our taxpayer dollars are being used.

The bill should be voted out of the committee and become law because it would improve the transparency, accountability and efficiency of the grants-in-aid process. The bill would require the committee to review the performance, financial stability, financial controls, audits and efficiency of each grant applicant and to disclose all state and other revenues received by the applicant from other government entities. The bill would also ensure that the grants-in-aid appropriations bill is consistent with the state budget and reflects the priorities and needs of the people of Delaware.

The grants-in-aid program is an important source of funding for many nonprofits that provide invaluable services to the people of Delaware. The program has recently invested a record-setting $70 million in more than 300 organizations across the state. However, the current process of allocating these funds is not transparent or accountable enough. There is no clear criteria or standards for evaluating the applicants or their outcomes. There is also no mechanism for ensuring that the funds are spent wisely and effectively. This leaves room for potential waste, fraud or abuse of public money, aka our taxpayer dollars!

HB 40 would address these issues by creating a more rigorous and professional process for reviewing and recommending grants-in-aid appropriations. The bill would establish a joint committee composed of members from both chambers of the legislature, who would have expertise and experience in nonprofit management, finance, auditing or evaluation. The committee would meet regularly and hold public hearings to solicit input from stakeholders and experts. The committee would also have access to relevant data and information from state agencies and other sources to assess the performance and impact of each grant applicant.

By passing HB 40, the legislature would demonstrate its commitment to good governance and fiscal responsibility. The bill would enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the grants-in-aid program and ensure that it serves the best interests of the people of Delaware. The bill would also foster a more collaborative and constructive relationship between the legislature and the nonprofit sector, which is vital for addressing the social and economic challenges facing our state.
I hope you will join me in asking the Senate leadership to move this bill forward!

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