September 6, 2023

Marguerite Casey Foundation launches ‘Public Dollars for Public Good’ program centered on economic justice

The initiative aims to increase the use of public dollars to strengthen marginalized communities, decrease funds that harm their well-being.

SEATTLE — Today, Marguerite Casey Foundation (MCF) announced the launch of its “Public Dollars for Public Goods” (PDPG) initiative. The Foundation is investing more than $5M to support organizations that leverage community organizing to shift power by helping underserved communities access federal and local funding and control how those funds are spent. 

PDPG takes a comprehensive approach to ensure that public dollars are in the hands of traditionally marginalized communities and that these funds are spent for the benefit of these communities by providing operating grants to organizations that advocate for equitable budgeting and increased access to public options. 

Their first investment of more than $5M will support: Native Americans in Philanthropy, the Southern Economic Advancement Project, Addition Collective, Heartland Fund  Rural Democracy Initiative, The Amalgamated Foundation, Seattle Solidarity Budget, Kansas City Tenants, Economic Security Project, The Workers Lab, and the Center for Working Families. Each of these grant recipients is organizing communities or unlocking federal funds in ways that help us all to reimagine what our world could be like if our public dollars were used to build a thriving multiracial democracy.

For example, Native Americans in Philanthropy helped secure over $27 million in federal grants for Native American communities, who too often are excluded from federal funding. Additionally, the Seattle Solidarity Budget calls for Seattle’s city budget to prioritize marginalized communities instead of over-policing to expand the traditional definition of “public safety” and to reallocate resources toward affordable housing and public transportation that open communities up to jobs and commerce. Similarly, Southern Economic Advancement Project campaigns for equitable budgeting across the American South. Under PDPG, MCF will provide general operating grants and fundraising support to bolster each grant recipient’s work to expand economic justice.

“We all pay taxes, and that money — our money — should work for everyday people to make our collective lives better. Public Dollars for Public Good funds organizations and leaders that are creating evidence of what our world would be like if our dollars ensured everyone had a home to sleep in, had access to free public transportation, lived in communities with clean air and water, and had a robust and racially integrated public education system. This future is possible if we organize to win it,” said Carmen Rojas, PhD, president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation.

According to Rojas, privatization is a prime example of the mismanagement of public funds. Mass privatization of public goods — services that support the well-being of communities, including health care, utilities, education, and public safety — exacerbates inequality as essential public resources become inaccessible. For instance, in Flint, Michigan in 2015, the city contracted a private water management company that failed to address high levels of lead in the water supply. Water prices rose while contaminated water poisoned the community, leaving residents without access to safe, affordable drinking water. 

Additionally, MCF has appointed advisors — scholars, nonprofit leaders, and former members of the administration— who will work closely with the grant recipients, giving them access to a wealth of expert advice. Advisors will help grant recipients document progress and plan for future public dollar endeavors.  

"By partnering with grant recipients we will work together to help ensure that the people closest to challenges have control over the solutions,” said Sameera Fazili, a PDPG advisor who recently served as the deputy director for the National Economic Council at the White House. "It’s imperative that we help unlock access to federal resources for communities who have historically been marginalized from them. That will help put our country on a path toward more equitable and sustainable economic growth and strengthen our democracy.”

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