The 2017 fiscal year has been an important one for federal government grants. Milestones include the completion of a Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) pilot program and the release of the OMB M-17-26 Reducing Burden for Federal Agencies by Rescinding and Modifying OMB Memorandum.
Many federal agencies conduct similar types of work, such as awarding federal grants. While the mission and specific goals of each grant program vary, many of the processes for posting, applying for, managing, and reporting on federal grants are the same. This is where federal shared services come in. Rather than each agency developing & maintaining the same services, the costs and benefits are shared. In this role, Grants.gov serves its purpose—to be a shared service for both the public and federal agencies.
The U.S. federal government is in the midst of an effort to fix inconsistencies in the terminology used across federal financial assistance application forms. The home for the newly “harmonized” terms is the Common Data Element Repository Library, or CDER Library.
Over the years, synonymous data elements on federal grant forms have sometimes been used interchangeably. For example, forms from different systems and applications have listed “address” as “Street 1”, as “Address Line 1” or as “Street Address Line 1”.
In Part 1 of this series, we explained the content development process for new and updated Grants.gov forms. In Part 2, we focus on Grants.gov’s role in the technical development of forms.
The development time of each form can range from one month for a cosmetic change to up to six months for a new, multi-page form. The following provides a high-level overview of the forms development cycle:
A critical part of registering as an applicant organization with Grants.gov involves entering a DUNS number – or obtaining one before proceeding.
A DUNS number is a unique nine-character number that Grants.gov and other programs use to identify your organization. For example, the federal government uses the DUNS number to track how federal money is allocated. Applicants doing business with the federal government can get one for free through Dun and Bradstreet (D&B).
In 2018, the D&B contract with the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA) expires, and the GSA has released a Request for Information (RFI) for government-wide entity identification and validation services.
With a name like Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (commonly called “Uniform Guidance”), you’re unlikely to mistake this government publication for a comic book or romance novel. But, unless you’re a federal grants expert, you may have some difficulty pinning down the Uniform Guidance’s main goal.
In plain English, the Uniform Guidance is simply a set of authoritative rules and regulations about federal grants from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This “guidance” is designed to keep everyone in the federal grants community – Congress, grant-making agencies, and applicants – on the same page.
The forms in your federal grant application take quite a journey before getting to your computer.
Last week, OMB released the latest memo on the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act)—Additional Guidance for DATA Act Implementation: Implementing a Data-Centric Approach for Reporting Federal Spending Information.
The memo describes the main steps agencies need to take to improve data quality and transparency on where the Federal Government’s award data (i.e., from grants or contracts) should be displayed for the public.
David Miller, the Controller of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), writes, “The reporting of data in accordance with the data definition standards will enable financial data to be posted on USASpending.gov for use by taxpayers and policy makers in a consistent, reliable, and searchable format.”
It’s easy to see the Notice of Award, the official, legally binding issuance of a grant, as the beginning of something – for instance, a program, study, or project that will benefit the greater public.
In fact, before the awarding of a grant, an incredible amount of time and effort has gone into shaping it.
Between the halls of Congress and the hands of award recipients, there is a complex web of laws, regulations, policies, and guidance.