Prince George’s County’s non-profits will undergo more scrutiny and be required to show detailed spending plans before the county executive hands out $2 million in annual, discretionary grants. The move by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) changes the grant-making process used by his predecessor Jack B. Johnson (D), who put fewer requirements on non-profits seeking county funds.
Some local politicians and county residents have complained that the grants — a fraction of the county’s $2.7 billion annual budget — have received little oversight and have been used to reward political allies.
Jerry Adams, executive director of the Prince George’s Human Services Coalition, welcomed the new rules.
“In the past, they have had a review panel, and then decided who gets the money and sent them a check,” said Adams, whose organization represents about 130 non-profits. “This administration looks like it is serious about this. That’s accountability that did not exist previously. It is a step in the right direction.”
The Prince George’s County Council also has begun asking for similar information from grantees who divvy up about $1.7 million in council earmarks. Each of the nine council members also hands out $100,000 annually to non-profits in their districts. Each office sets its own standards for the applications and grants.
The executive-level grants are usually sought by non-profits for a specific purpose or project. By contrast, ongoing county contracts with non-profits to provide regular services to the county are subject to a different form of oversight through contract audits and other examinations.
The Prince George’s County Office of Management and Budget will administer the discretionary grants, and a five-person review panel will examine applications. The review panel was used by previous administrations, but the new criteria set by Baker are more specific.
To apply for a discretionary grant from the county executive’s office, non-profits will have to show proof of their tax-exempt status and that they are in good standing with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. Previously applicants could simply state on the grant application that they were tax-exempt, but did not have to submit proof.
The review panel will evaluate the grants based on criteria that were not always used in previous administrations, including cost/benefit, public benefit, strength of the organization, and overall strength of the proposal, said Tom Himler, head of the county’s budget office.
Grantees also will be required to make regular reports to the county’s budget office explaining how the money is being used, and what results are being achieved.
Grant applications for less than $15,000 will not be required to report regularly, but will have to file a report once the grant funding is used.
Applications will be accepted continuously through the county’s fiscal year, which began July 1.