Business of Giving: Why George Soros Is Right, Again
Philanthropist's bailout of troubled schools serves as an example to all.
That's what billionaire and philanthropist George Soros did earlier this month when he donated the $35 million that New York State needed to qualify for $140 million in federal stimulus money. His donation ensured that 850,000 low-income children in New York had the money they needed for school supplies, winter coats, and new backpacks.
Because of New York's $2.1 billion budget gap, there was no way Governor David Paterson would have been able to secure the $35 million necessary to draw down the federal funds. Now that the state has the money, it will be distributed in an equitable manner using the state's food stamp and welfare registries to target low-income families that need the help the most.
This is an excellent example of the benefits of private-public partnership. Private corporations and foundations would do well to follow Soros' lead and invest their philanthropic dollars into programs that benefit populations already identified as at-risk.
And there's no shortage of those. In California, thousands of children are at risk of losing state-sponsored health-care benefits through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) because of the state's financial woes. In Arizona, elder abuse cases go uninvestigated because that state had to lay off social workers to balance its budget. These are just two of the many programs that could use an infusion of private capital.
Some have loudly criticized Soros' donation, saying it amounts to a government handout. I don't see it this way, and neither should others who are in a position to give. If you have children, you know that back-to-school supplies aren't luxury items -- they're necessities.
The average family will spend $549 on back-to-school supplies this year according to the National Retail Federation. For a family with limited resources, where else would this money come from? Without extra funding, thousands of children would not be prepared to start the school year.
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