Nebraska Fails to Submit Grant Application, Loses Federal Housing Funds for Residents With AIDS
Nebraska will not have access to a $1.3 million federal housing grant that would have assisted state residents living with AIDS with their housing costs because Nebraska Health and Human Services Director Ron Ross missed the application deadline, the Lincoln Journal-Star reports. Ross, who said that he supports the "concept of helping people get decent housing," stated that he had only one day to review the application, which was not enough time to obtain answers to his questions and to "make an informed decision." According to the Journal-Star, Ross and Dr. Richard Raymond, the state's chief medical examiner, had two weeks to review the application, which was left "sitting on [Raymond's] desk" for a week while he was on vacation. Although the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development denied the state a deadline extension on the application, HUD officials told Nebraska staff that the application could be mailed in without Ross' signature, a "technical violation" that would have allowed "several weeks" for Ross to get his questions answered about the proposal. Ross refused to do so, however, saying that he would "not knowingly put in a defective grant" (Hicks, Lincoln Journal-Star, 7/3). Gov. Mike Johanns (R) "defended" Ross' actions, saying that he "would not want [Ross] to submit a 'deficient' application" (Reed/Tysver, Omaha World-Herald, 7/4).
'Confused' and 'Incensed'
The Journal-Star reports that Ross' actions have left those who worked on the three-year grant proposal "confused" and have made HIV/AIDS activists "incensed." Although some have accused Ross of not signing the application because it could help gay AIDS patients, Ross said that such a theory was "way off base." Nebraska and Kansas are the only states that do not already receive the federal housing funds, and both states were expected to be approved for the grants this year, according to Erin Porterfield, director of client services for the Nebraska AIDS Project. The grant would have been used to subsidize housing costs and to provide case management, transportation and mental health services for people in Nebraska with AIDS (Lincoln Journal-Star, 7/3). Johanns said on Wednesday that he has directed Ross to meet with AIDS advocacy groups to develop a grant application for next year. He added, "They have to be on board with us to submit an application that's right" (Omaha World-Herald, 7/4).