ONE Lowell is denied its federal grant, should it even get one?

Here is a little story that popped up this morning.  What follows is the whole short story that appeared in the Boston Herald yesterday.  ONE Lowell didn’t do anything wrong we are told, just that other applicants were better.

A Lowell immigrant advocacy group that helps Cambodian refugees obtain U.S. citizenship has been denied a federal grant to continue its program.

Victoria Fahlberg, executive director of ONE Lowell, said today her group was recently notified by the Office of Refugee Resettlement that it would not renew the group’s three-year grant for $180,000. She said that leaves 550 refugees seeking citizenship in limbo.

A spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, the agency that oversees the grant, said there were no problems with ONE Lowell’s application but other applicants scored higher.

Fahlberg said in three years the group has helped around 1,300 refugees, many elderly Cambodians, become U.S. citizens with free classes and assistance with immigration documents.

Read the comments and note that commenters point out (rightly) that the classes aren’t free—that taxpayers pay for them.  But, here is a little more information on ONE Lowell.   From its Form 990 filed in 2008 (the only one on record), we learn the following:

*Their entire income was $348,346 for 2007.

* Government grants (taxpayer funding) were $224,386.

* Salaries totalled $208,993, payroll taxes $19,508, and $1,340 in benefits (they must not pay much for health insurance!).  

So, we can conclude that  most of ONE Lowell’s budget is for salaries for a few people.  If they don’t get their federal grant of $180,000 the organization could hardly go on.

But, should they go on?  Looking at the ADVOCACY page on their website it’s pretty clear they are advocating for rights for illegal immigrants and registering voters.  They are urging people to contact legislators. Is that what we are funding with taxpayer money?  I thought it was citizenship classes for poor Cambodians!

Is this just one more mini-ACORN?  Incidentally these ACORN copycats seem to reproducing like rabbits.  ONE Lowell was only incorporated in 2006, here.  It must have gotten a federal grant right off the bat if it was a 3-year grant they are now seeking to re-new.

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