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Is Virginia Missing Out On Federal Grant Money?


Virginia gets a lot of money from the federal government, so much that it’s often seen as being overly reliant on Uncle Sam. But there’s one part of the state’s budget where the federal government plays a minimal role.

Virginia ranks dead last among the states in terms of money that comes from federal grants — $1,099 per capita. So how did the Commonwealth get to the back of the line?

Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says it’s because the state is so stingy with its money, and state leaders are often unwilling to put up matching funds. “And the feds say OK, you put up 50 percent and we’ll consider you. And you say well no we’re only going to put up 25 percent. And they say fine you’re not getting it. So I think that stinginess is an adverse issue,” Shafroth says.

Perhaps the stingiest part of the state budget is health care. Virginia ranks 44th in terms of Medicaid expenditures. Michael Cassidy at the Commonwealth Institute says the rules surrounding Virginia’s Medicaid program are one of the most significant factors leading to the lack of federal grant money.

“Virginia maintains one of the strictest Medicaid programs in the country and so as a result in the health care category Virginia received 40 percent less than the national average,” Cassidy says.

That could change soon, of course, if lawmakers and Governor Ralph Northam agree to increase Medicaid to 400,000 people who live in poverty or with disabilities. If that happens, Virginia would shoot up the list, closer to the national average in terms of money from federal grants.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.
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