Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson, a Birmingham evangelist, called into question state funds he says were awarded to an LGBTQ group during Governor Kay Ivey’s time in office.
In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Dawson said $800,000 of the state’s money was given to the recently shuttered LGBTQ group Free2Be since 2015 from grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs department.
“I was reminded of how broke we are,” Dawson said of the discovery, noting that the state has a lack of funds, said during the speech.
Free2Be, formerly known as GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, was a non-profit founded in 2009 with the mission of “ensuring the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of youth and young adults struggling due to sexual orientation or gender identity issues, according to non-profit search engine Guidestar.
Ivey's office responded to the allegations in a press release.
"The grant awarded to Free2Be is overseen by ADECA using funds given by and regulated by the federal government from criminal fines and forfeitures, not taxpayer dollars. In 2013, Alabama was notified that at least 10 percent of the grant dollars given to the state under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) must be given to agencies that provide services to underserved populations," the release said. "Additionally, Alabama was notified that grants must be extended to organizations which seek to provide victim services to the LGBTQ population. Following federal direction, a grant was first awarded to Free2Be in 2014, which was the only organization seeking the grant."
Dawson went on to say that by awarding the money, “we’ve placed one worldview over another” and “betrayed Alabama values.”
Organization programs included the LGBTQ Youth Peer Support Groups in Huntsville and Mobile, which has supported 150 area youth. It also started the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project in 2014.
Dawson says that in 2017, Ivey's first year as governor, the group received "three-quarters of a million dollars" in grants from the state.
Dawson said pointing out the grants wasn’t about bullying and said he was the target of bullies himself as a child.
“No child or person should ever be bullied,” he said.
Read Ivey's full statement below:
"Since 2014, Free2Be (formally known as GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services) has received a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. As part of the grant process, the organization undergoes continual monitoring by ADECA in accordance with federal regulations. As a result of recent actions by the organization, Free2Be is currently being investigated and audited by ADECA. No grant dollars are currently being distributed to the organization and will not be, until the audit is completed.
The grant awarded to Free2Be is overseen by ADECA using funds given by and regulated by the federal government from criminal fines and forfeitures, not taxpayer dollars. In 2013, Alabama was notified that at least 10 percent of the grant dollars given to the state under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) must be given to agencies that provide services to underserved populations. Additionally, Alabama was notified that grants must be extended to organizations which seek to provide victim services to the LGBTQ population. Following federal direction, a grant was first awarded to Free2Be in 2014, which was the only organization seeking the grant.
All federal grant programs ADECA administers require ongoing monitoring for compliance. In March of this year, ADECA began planning an on-site compliance monitoring visit to the Huntsville office of Free2Be. During the desk review process that precedes routine monitoring, it was discovered that the organization has an outstanding federal debt with the IRS for payroll taxes. The agency was placed on high risk status on March 29, 2018, and the agency’s ability to draw grant funds was suspended. ADECA continues to monitor the agency and will be making a monitoring and financial audit visit on May 21, 2018.
The grant given to Free2Be was extended and monitored in compliance with federal law and in accordance with publicly available rules and regulations. The Free2Be grant, as required by the federal government, provides assistance for victims of domestic violence, bullying and other crimes of violence. Federal regulations require agencies receiving grant dollars to provide matching funds, a requirement which Free2Be has complied with.
Any suggestion that the Free2Be grant is an expense of state dollars which could have been used for any other purpose is simply wrong, and illustrates a lack of understanding of federal grant processes. Compliance with federal regulations is required to ensure that Alabama continues to receive federal grant dollars. In 2017, ADECA administered federal grants totaling approximately $168,665,540.
The views espoused by Free2Be, nor the extension of a grant to the program, do not represent Governor Ivey’s personal views and simply represent a requirement and demand from the federal government."
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