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What simplifications could we make to the grant application process for grants issued through the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response?

2011 March 31

EPA offers grants through a number of programs. In the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, we offer grants for waste management and land cleanup issues, such as brownfields grants. EPA is always looking for ways to simplify the grants process. What ideas do you have to simplify the grants process in OSWER?

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. William Janes of AK Dept. of Environmental Conservation permalink
    March 31, 2011

    1. Revisit some of the standard grant conditions. I don’t have specific examples offhand but perhaps these could be streamlined.

    2. The required budget detail regarding specific staff who will charge to the grant, and the FTE percentages for each, can be difficult to predict and difficult to follow through the course of a one-year performance period. Is this level of detail really needed? In my opinion this is a big waste of time. My EPA project officers have never monitored to this level of detail so how is the information used? Get rid of it!

    3. Benefits comprise a significant percentage of personal services, but why do we need to show the details of what the benefits package entails? It is what it is and it varies state-by-state.

    4. The required travel detail is also over-the-top. Why not just an overall travel budget and then leave it up to the grant recipient to report actuals?

    5. Determining FTE’s by task is also difficult to predict. Again, I don’t think this level of detail is needed as long as the overall grant shows the FTE is synchronized with the grant award amount. This is no more than simple math based on an average FTE calculation.

    6. Simplify work plan formats and perhaps develop on-line forms.

  2. Lenny Siegel of Center for Public Environmental Oversight permalink
    April 1, 2011

    The biggest problems I have experienced have been after the “award.” It takes months, at a minimum, before the money is ready to flow. I remember being told, “Congratulations! You only need approvals from 10 more offices.”

    I recognize that it’s important to ensure that grantees follow the rules and do what they’ve promise, but I get the sense that the paperwork is just sitting in someone’s inbox for weeks.

  3. Denise Nickel of MCIA permalink
    April 8, 2011

    We began tracking application time spent. The past two successful apps. took on staff a fast-paced 80 hrs. each. That does not include time of support staff, partners, and other government entities. More time could have been spent to improve the application as well. You interest in simplifying is very welcome.

    One area I would suggest changing is in the level of detail in the budget. Especially for community-wide assessments, it is guesswork to predict types and costs of assessments and investigations, numbers of sites, etc. Travel costs can also vary a lot depending on the region of the national conference, which is unknown in advance. Also, is it possible to charge for some portion of documentable time spent on an application if an award is made? In these very lean times for state and local governments, the time for applications is considerable. Lastly, I think it is extremely difficult to predict project economic benefits. Most projects are many years (sometimes as much as a decade) from coming to fruition and multiple factors will affect the outcome.

    I hope this is helpful.

  4. Jeanette of permalink
    April 11, 2011

    Revert to the electronic check/narrative system. Certain criteria for all grants are quantifiable. We should give applicants the opportunity to tell their story while at the same time eliminate those that are ineligible at the beginning.

    The electronic check system would allow applicants to input statistical type data into fields and the narrative section would allow applicants to tell the story that gives the community a voice.

    This would not only speed up the grants cycle, but it would also give the applicant automatic feedback as to why the proposal was not accepted and eliminate the amount of time OSWER employees spend on reading and ranking grant proposals.

  5. Melissa Wittstruck of Cit of Spokane permalink
    April 13, 2011

    I agree – simplify the budget section. Use auto fill where possible, including retrieval of past grant award information from EPA databases. I’m not a big fan of forecasting economic impact, even if you have access to IMPLAN. Demonstrating consistency with EPA goals and objectives, community comprehensive plans, leverage of other resources, and ability to meet criteria for capacity to execute are more meaningful, especially if it includes planning.

    Simplify overall – we are tracking application and grant management time and the dollar value of the award/ability to do the project vs the resources spent is shrinking. Of course it is valuable to have the assistance, otherwise projects couldn’t be attempted, but the incentive has to account for increasing costs, decreased resources. When was the last time the amount of grant awards was evaluated for effectiveness?

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