FROM THE EXPERT:
Grant Expectations for Competitive Stimulus Funds
By Ericka Harney, CSG Fund Development Coordinator
Individuals working on grant applications for states are used to deadlines and long lists of objectives. But enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has complicated an already very detailed process.
While those familiar with federal grant procedures will be more comfortable with the process, a handful of differences merit special attention.
How competitive will competitive funds really be? Because the Recovery Act emphasizes the urgency in quickly allocating funds, federal agencies can consider using funds as continuation or renewal for currently funded projects. Agencies also have the option to limit competition among projects that are currently funded but only selecting some of them to fund.
Will the review process be the same? For the funds that are full and open competitive opportunities, agencies must follow the same procedures and practices set for the competitive process. This includes use of peer review panels. It remains to be seen if deadlines for panel decisions will be shorter to allow for quicker disbursement of funds.
What will be specific to the Recovery Act in terms of objectives and reporting? Agencies are expected to add objectives for the Recovery Act on most grant opportunities. This will include definitions and descriptions of these objectives and a method of measuring the number of jobs created or retained through Recovery Act funds. The law also stipulates quarterly reporting, rather than longer periods usually found in regular competitive grants. Each request for proposal will outline these specific dates and provide more Recovery Act reporting information.
The Office of Management and Budget is expected to issue more instructions on Recovery Act funding soon. The office issued a memorandum with initial implementing guidance to heads of agencies Feb. 18.
Details are already available on some stimulus grants.
States are also taking a variety of approaches when it comes to the application process for competitive Recovery Act funds.
One approach has been for the governor to set up a separate entity to manage stimulus funding. Such is the case in New Hampshire where Gov. John Lynch established the Office of Economic Stimulus to manage all Recovery Act funds.
“We want to ensure that New Hampshire and its citizens receive maximum benefits from any federal economic stimulus package, and that those funds are used to create jobs and protect essential services here in New Hampshire,” Lynch said in a press release announcing the new office. “This office will ensure state agencies are coordinating their efforts and that New Hampshire complies with all federal requirements.”
In Oregon, Gov. Ted Kulongoski created the Oregon Way Advisory Group to assist in seeking grant opportunities. This group of public and private sector representatives will review any project concepts before applying for funding to ensure all projects in Oregon meet the Recovery Act requirements.