Sometimes what seems like a good idea just doesn’t work out. When that happens, we should admit it and correct course.
As the CPSC and Congress have struggled to try to reduce the number of children drowning, one idea that has not worked is a grant program to spur states to pass particular water safety and swimming pool construction laws. For the past few years, Congress has set aside several million dollars for grants to states and localities that pass certain pool safety laws. Because the CPSC does not administer federal grants like this, we pay the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to administer this program. As we try for the third year to make this grant program work, we should look at where we stand:
- Since the beginning of the program, not one state has applied for a grant and not one dollar has been disbursed, despite changes made to improve the program.
- We will soon have paid CDC almost half a million dollars to administer a grant program with no takers.
Drowning is a safety problem that must be dealt with as effectively as possible. The public resources that have been allocated to an unused grant program could have been, and should be, used to actually address the issue. Trying to encourage states to pass laws by offering them a small, one-time shot of cash does not seem to be the best way to achieve our safety objective.
I suggest that Congress can—and should—find better ways to spend scarce public resources. That means either allowing the Commission greater discretion in using the funds to further pool safety or directing the funds elsewhere.