Grant Submissions Disqualified Due to Technicalities
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the programs designed to help the city’s most vulnerable residents have been derailed due to procedural technicalities. A new roof for an impoverished homeowner, an educational after-school initiative for at-risk youth, and an emergency sanctuary for women fleeing violent domestic situations – all faced the same fate. These well-intentioned programs had their grant applications turned down by the city on what were deemed to be minor bureaucratic errors.
Faced with the reality of a critical lifeline being cut because of red tape, it raises a critical question: Is the City of Tulsa losing sight of its core service ethos in its pursuit of administrative perfection?
The grant application process, known to be a labyrinth of paperwork and formalities, can be daunting for even the most experienced. Despite the city offering workshops to guide applicants through this intricate maze, it seems there may be gaps in the city’s efforts to assist, with the system more inclined to obstruct than enable.
The narrative unfolds on a frigid day last December when a homeowner shared their experience, “The program provided me with a much-needed new roof.” This individual was able to benefit from a grant-driven initiative, a testament to the critical importance of such programs.
Pleas Thompson, president of the Area Councils for Community Action (ACCA), sheds light on how the system works, “Every day we have people inquiring about home repair opportunities. The funding for these repairs is channeled through the city from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).”
However, this well-meaning program hit a roadblock. An email from the city’s Grants Administration department disqualified the program’s proposal as invalid, citing a paperwork error, not their competence or effectiveness in running the program.
Feeling wronged, Thompson decided to make his case before the city council, expressing his surprise at the lack of support from a city with which he thought he had built a strong working relationship over the program’s nearly 40-year existence.
A representative of the Grants Administration, Rhys Williams, informed the city council that ACCA’s error was in misidentifying the nature of the services they provide in the paperwork.
Regrettably, ACCA wasn’t alone in its predicament. Williams revealed that six other applications had been dismissed, including one from a housing support program run by the Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS).
Tracey Redmon, Executive Director of DVIS, explained they were seeking nearly $200,000 to provide emergency shelter and subsequent support for victims of domestic violence to secure safe, affordable housing. The application was rejected due to a misunderstanding of the grant’s specific categories of service.
Ironically, city rules allow for an incomplete application to be rectified within three days. However, for incorrect submissions, the city offers no such assistance, leaving the applicants in the dark about their errors.
Thompson and Redmon express a sense of frustration and disappointment in the city’s lack of help, with the Grants Administration seemingly more of a hurdle than a helping hand.
In the wake of their rejections, DVIS was unaware of any option to appeal, contrary to what was implied during the city council meeting. This discrepancy has raised eyebrows and questions about the transparency and fairness of the grant process.
In an investigation, two other organizations were found to have faced similar dismissal over paperwork issues. Fears of future retaliation have dissuaded many of these organizations from speaking out. Thompson, who had his extension granted by the city council to rectify his application, shares these fears.
ACCA’s application, however, was rejected again after resubmission. Thompson is still committed to applying, with the hope that the city will revise its process to favor the merit of programs rather than paperwork perfection.
As he reflects on the current state of affairs, Thompson concludes, “They’re not treating people right.”
Despite the city refusing an interview with News Channel 8, they have issued several statements outlining the applicants’ errors in detail. Here are the full statements;