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5 Takeaways From NGMA's Virtual Grants Training

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In case you missed the live training, here's a recap of what you need to know.

At this year's National Grants Management Association (NGMA) Grants Training, eCivis' Certified Grants Management Specialist and CARES Act expert, Maria Howeth, shared the latest updates to Uniform Grant Guidance, what governments should anticipate in terms of federal expectations and requirements for grants going forward, and best practices to make grants programs more effective while maintaining compliance. 

Here are five key best practices according to Maria that can help governments standardize their grants management in line with the most recent Uniform Grant guidance. 

1. Stay in the know about Federal expectations and requirements

While governments are readily expecting funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, many are still managing their CARES Act funding as well. Maria summarized some of the most important updates from the latest Uniform Grant Guidance updates. First, the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) extension for state, local, tribal, and US territory governments to expend their funds is now December 31, 2021. Secondly, federal agencies are prioritizing ongoing support to federal awards that meet program goals, meaning they can pull funding any time if they feel a grant project is failing to meet goals and outcomes. 

When it comes to single audit guidance, recipients and subrecipients must separately identify any COVID-19 Emergency Acts expenditures on the Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards (SEFA) as well as report audit any findings. 

2. Focus on Performance and Outcomes

One highly important (and still relevant) piece of legislation to review that can help with knowing what to aim for in grants projects and spending is the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements (GREAT) Act of 2019. The primary goals include:

  • Reducing compliance costs for recipient reporting with improved automation and innovative technologies.
  • Improving efficiency of reporting requirements for government, businesses, and nonprofits.
  • Enhancing grants management with comprehensive data on activities funded with taxpayer dollars.
  • Encouraging the development of new technologies to drive efficiencies. 

3. Establish Statutory Authority to Spend Funds

With all reporting-based activities, the first critical step governments should take is ensuring they have the legal authorization to receive any COVID-19 relief funding as well as other grant awards. 

That's why it's especially important to have regulations and internal operating procedures established prior to applying for or receiving grants. Maria emphasized that this is critical for setting clear expectations from both the state and city/county level. 

  • State level: Do you have the statutory authority or legislative appropriation that authorizes the spending of funds?
  • County and city level: Has your agency or department authorized appropriation within the budget to spend new federal funds?

4. Separate Federal From General Funds 

One of Maria's favorite anecdotes is to "be best friends with accounting" if you aren't already. Ensure the grants team is working with the finance and accounting professionals of your agency to confirm the chart of accounts are structured to eliminate the commingling of federal with general funds. This must be in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP.)

Double check that all records are up to date including:

  • Compliance reports
  • Financial data
  • Recent budgets
  • Evaluation data (whether in progress or completed) 

5. Ensure Necessary Cost Accounting Structure Is In Place

In both cases of CRF as well as ARP funding, these can only be used for salaries not in existing budgets, i.e. overtime and first responders. That's why it's ideal to organize spending categories for any incoming relief into these three buckets:

  • Salaries
  • Operating expenses, which can usually be captured through indirect costs
  • Equipment

Additionally, once governments receive their funding, it's most helpful to organize it into these two major categories:

  • Spending that is related to any recently passed Congressional legislation( i.e ARP Act)
  • Re-allocation of funds that you've been previously awarded for other projects

Be sure to review your cost allocation plans when determining which funds you'll need and which ones you can reallocate. 

Have questions on how to navigate the latest wave of grant funding? Reach out and one of our Certified Grants Management Specialists, like Maria, can help!

 

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