Tricky bureaucracy


Here's an email I received this morning: Thanks for a well written article, but what is most important is missing!  With Pennsylvania allotted $359.9 million, due to expire in September and with no guarantee of an extension, what’s the hold up when so many are unemployed?  Yes, a requirement to come up with 20% of this amount in matching funds is not chicken feed; but, it is certainly no excuse.  It is time to get our priorities in order.  How about a follow-up article in tomorrow’s paper on how our state government needs to rise to the occasion and soon? 

Of course, I love to read that someone thinks something I wrote is well-written. (Thanks, Ron!) It's a story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer about how Delaware is using millions of dollars in stimulus money to create a subsidized job program. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, like many other states, have hundreds of millions of dollars of available, but have not done so yet.

And, like the person who wrote to me, I wonder about the hold-up myself. I've learned a little bit about the hold-up, but it is very wonkish. There are certain triggers that need to be met. The 80-20 match was more of an obstacle than it is now because there is some feeling that supervisory costs can count as an in-kind 20 percent match. There are other funds that tie in and there is a limit to the total amount. Another complication is that these programs often work through two separate state departments -- the department that handles welfare and the department that handles jobs. It is the silo effect that is so common and damaging in businesses and organizations.

In New Jersey, it is even more complicated because of the new leadership. I'm not saying that I know what Gov. Christie's position is in this, but this is a tricky bureaucratic dance. Naturally, the government bureaucracies in Trenton are laying low as they see what's going on with the new boss.