For the majority of states strategizing on the distribution of critical CARES Act funding, there are a number of challenges to navigate. For one, many grants administrators in charge of managing such funding tend to be spread thin across different teams, offices, and departments. Not only does this make effective collaboration and communication more difficult, but it also makes tracking funds especially challenging. Additionally, with more scrutiny and funding dedicated to compliance and administrative measures (at least $80 million appropriated to the Pandemic Response and Accountability Committee), ensuring transparency and accountability of every dollar spent is paramount.
So how can states quickly disburse the funding that other city and local entities so desperately need while making sure every dollar is accounted for? The state of Arizona has found a solution by centralizing grants processes with an electronic grants management system like eCivis’ Grants Network, helping to power its newly released Public Assistance Express Pay Program.
Arizona’s Public Assistance Express Pay Program
In an effort to expedite the disbursement of COVID-19-related funding across the state, Governor Ducey’s Office is launching the Arizona Public Assistance Express Pay Program, expediting delivery of public assistance to local governments, tribal communities, schools, nonprofit organizations, and houses of worship for FEMA-eligible projects related to COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. The program was initiated in an effort to centralize the disbursement and tracking of funding for Arizona’s applicants. The program will also be managed by the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), streamlining the FEMA application process (as part of FEMA’s Category B Public Assistance Program) to ensure continued delivery of critical services for Arizonans.
Previously, along with many other states, some Arizona agencies had been operating with manual paper processes, which complicates grants management and can lead to a significant slowdown in getting funds out. DEMA is now automating the tracking and distribution of grants in a centralized cloud system. The system will serve as a one-stop-shop for pass-through entities and sub-recipients of funding. According to Anna Haney, Programs and Performance Manager in the Governor’s Economic Recovery Management Team, the hope of the program is to expedite the timeline of reviewing, disbursing, and reimbursing grants from months to possibly as little as five business days.
Lessons Learned: From Paper to Automation
While no one anticipated the enormous scale and impact COVID-19 would have, many states are learning that preparation in advance is key not only to success but also to economic survival. For Arizona, having an electronic grants management system already in place has been essential to ensuring a unified source of information; data visualization and transparency; and better grant programs and performance.
One Source of Truth
Having a one-stop-shop means grants teams are not relying on disparate spreadsheets or data for their information. Instead, they turn to the grants management system for one, unified source of truth to track where the funding is, who’s responsible for next steps, and to ensure smooth transitions throughout the grant lifecycle (from pre-award to close-out).
Data Visualization and Transparency
With the electronic and automated tracking of funds in the cloud, Haney’s team can ensure they’re reporting the most accurate numbers as well as keeping in compliance with 2 CFR 200.
Now that DEMA is utilizing the state’s enterprise grants management system, the State of Arizona can promote better visibility and transparency to FEMA and citizens alike with automated reporting in real-time regarding where COVID-19 dollars are going. When compliance is automated and built-in from the get-go, grantors can also ensure their awardees or recipients have an easier time staying compliant when it’s time for the Inspector General to check in. Lastly, leaders and legislators can use these numbers for better, data-driven decision-making in identifying and prioritizing which entities need funding the most.
Program and Performance
With most national crises, such as storms or other natural disasters, FEMA can focus on distributing funds one state at a time or to affected areas. However, what is unprecedented about the virus is its spread and scale across the nation, overloading the Emergency Management Agency. That’s why speed and utmost performance of grants programs during this time is critical. Arizona’s centralized grant management system enables DEMA to tag and distinguish different funding streams, i.e. HHS dollars from FEMA, etc. making it easier to scale grant programs by quickly tracking and disbursing COVID-19 dollars.
For more information on how Arizona is using cloud to combat the coronavirus, check out www.arizonatogether.org/grants.
To receive information from the Arizona Governor’s Economic Management Recovery Team, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ready to automate your grants management and cost allocation? Reach out to one of our grants management experts at email@example.com.
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