Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Firefighters lose: US grant goes to ACORN

Nearly $1 million in Homeland Security funding typically earmarked for fire departments has been awarded to ACORN. The grant to ACORN's Louisiana office became public on Oct. 2, less than three weeks after the House and Senate voted to cut off ACORN funding.


It was one of only three such grants issued to the state and made up almost 80 percent of the firefighting money earmarked for Louisiana, prompting one of the U.S. senators from the state to demand that the funds be taken back.


"I request that you rescind this grant based on a history of abuse of federal dollars by ACORN and their clear lack of expertise in this area," said Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican.


"I have no problem with not getting a grant, I've lost grants before," said Chief Flynn, one of the fire officials who complained to Mr. Vitter in a letter. "My issue is ACORN in New Orleans. Their mission statement says nothing about fire safety or fire prevention. It bothered me that ACORN got $1 million and there are so many smaller and bigger departments that have a need for that money."


ACORN received $997,402, slightly less than the maximum allowable grant of $1 million. A total of $35 million was available for the grants project to fire districts across the country this year."


Several Louisiana fire departments have voiced their serious concerns to me over the award of these funds to ACORN," Mr. Vitter said in the letter. "We can all understand that there are never enough funds to allocate for all the deserving requests of fire departments, and each year there are many more requests than funds available," he wrote. "But when so many fire departments throughout the nation are struggling for funding for important and lifesaving projects, how is it that a non-fire department with no clear expertise in fire safety and prevention is given such a large award for fire safety?"


The money, formally awarded for fiscal year 2008, was given to the ACORN Institute, which bills itself as a research and training facility "to combat the poverty, discrimination and community deterioration that keeps low-income people from taking advantage of their rights and opportunities."


This is the second year ACORN has been awarded the fire prevention and safety grant. In the 2007 fiscal year, ACORN received $450,484 out of Louisiana's $859,596 share."The Senate voted Sept. 14 to cut off funding for ACORN in response to the release; the House followed suit three days later. The two bills will have to be combined before a final vote takes place.


However, the Internal Revenue Service says it will eject ACORN from the agency's volunteer tax assistance program, and the Census Bureau has excluded the group from helping with the 2010 census.

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