Monday, August 25, 2008

...And Urban Legends Make My Head Asplode.

Usually, my postings are made up of specific links and bits of information that you can use re: financial help for individuals. Today I'll take some time to talk about useless crap you can't use: urban legends about everybody out there who is supposedly getting free money, like women, immigrants and minorities. People, they aren't. They aren't getting rich off your tax money. The Arabs down the street from you? They didn't get their party store or gas station from free federal grant money. And nobody is screwing you because you are a white male. Just trust me.

What prompted this little diatribe from me is that yet another white male told me that he wasn't qualified for any programs, because "I'm not a minority or a woman, I'm not qualified for anything." I asked him who said this, he said, "They told me I made too much money." Well, that is quite different than being a white male. Some programs for homelessness and poverty were indeed geared for women, especially women with children. But I found some programs that he probably did qualify for, and sent him on his way.

In truth, financial help programs are frustrating to find, because they are never just cash to spend as you want or need. They are pointed to a particular purpose, and have a bewildering laundry list of limitations: usually, you must live within a particular political entity (city, village, county, etc.), and there are income limitations (it could be below the median county income for one program, or 150% of the poverty level for another). The agency could run out of money, thus ending the program, and so forth.

But while some programs, like government contract set-asides are aimed for women and minorities, or some programs are for enrolled members of American Indian tribes, most programs are created for people in certain areas, with certain incomes, with certain needs (like housing and transportation). And of all the most pernicious rumors, the dumbest is about immigrants who are supposedly set up in business by Uncle Sam.

In truth, many immigrants who set up businesses come from entrepreneurial families in the old country who give them the seed money to start. Often, they live tight-fisted lives, plowing money back into the business until they are economically secure enough, and their business(es) well enough established enough to enjoy spending money on themselves. But generally, they live by the Amish axiom: "The smart Amish have a big barn and a small house. The dumb Amish have a big house, and a small barn." That's why you see them in their own businesses so much. The government has no programs I know of to set up immigrants in their own businesses.

But let me make this sporting: if you are sure you know immigrants who landed big government grants, and can verify that minorities are living it up on grants created specially for them, please let me know. Leave a posting telling me what government program this came from, and what federal or state department. I have set this challenge to my patrons who swore their friends and relatives got lots of money that way. None of them ever came back to confirm it. Once though, some lady *lied* to me and told me she was getting free grant money. When I contacted the agency, they assured me it wasn't true. So prove me wrong, everybody.

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