When the good news comes that an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (JT) proposal has been funded, continued preparation and administrative work needs to be completed before funds are available. Release of funds cannot be made until “EPA Terms and Conditions” are met and a detailed work plan has been approved. Terms and Conditions state that two employees of the organizations must complete the EPA online mandatory Grants Management Training for Non-Profit Applicants. One of the employees must be the project manager, and the other authorized to draw down funds. Money will not flow until this administrative training has been completed. It should be noted that those who have received prior EPA awards are likely already certified. However the budget and work plan still need to be approved.
Paperwork and final approvals can take up to three months and must be completed before the end of the federal fiscal year (September 30). Spending of funds is allowed within 90 days of final authorization giving new grantees an opportunity to begin work before the final paperwork has been completed. Some organizations will not permit expenditure of funds before all paperwork is finalized.
KICKOFF MEETINGS WITH EPA REPRESENTATIVES
New grantees will benefit from a kickoff meeting with the EPA regional coordinator assigned to the grant, and another meeting with local stakeholders and staff. The purpose of the EPA regional coordinator meeting may:
- Acquaint the EPA regional coordinator with the community and the target area.
- Help the new grantee understand their responsibilities under the JT agreement.
- Identify issues to avoid future surprises.
- Develop a schedule and make sure expectations and responsibilities are clear for all involved.
There are several items that should be discussed with the EPA regional coordinator.
- Roles and responsibilities for each participant and partner.
- Grant terms and conditions.
- Hiring incentives (state, municipal, and federal).
- Community involvement, including plans and techniques for disseminating information regarding the program.
- Reporting requirements, including quarterly reports and ACRES, and the expected timeframe to report accomplishments.
- Other program deliverables, such as job training status forms and federal finance reports.
- Project timelines.
- Proposed curriculum.
- Financial requirements and payments.
- Performance expectations (e.g., 35 percent of funds spent within first year).
- Targets and projected output by year.
- Review and update of work plans, training plans, and budgets.
Attendees of this meeting may include:
- The EPA project officer or regional coordinator.
- Principal recipient of the award.
- State or local government staff, if they are involved in the program.
- Project personnel.
- Advisory board members.
- Consultants and partners critical to the program.
KICKOFF MEETINGS WITH COMMUNITY STAKEHOLDERS
Having established a relationship and understanding of grant implementation with EPA representatives and key personal, a kickoff meeting with local stakeholders is appropriate.
The agenda for a local stakeholder public kickoff meeting may include several talking points.
- Introductions of key personnel with brief descriptions of their roles and responsibilities.
- Introductions of other partners such as other agencies, and city and state contacts.
- Introductions of all attendees and the importance of networking for program success.
- Description of planned efforts for engaging the public.
- Explanation of the program timeline.
- Presentation of the proposed curriculum.
- Targets and projected output by year end, based on approved work plans.
- Networking opportunities.
- Request for community support and feedback.
A SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING REPORTING RESPONSIBILITIES
Expectations and responsibilities of new grantees will have been discussed in detail as part of the JT kickoff meetings with EPA representatives. New grantees will have been alerted to the importance of mandatory reporting requirements for all JT grantees. Separate from regular quarterly reports, ACRES reporting is also required every quarter. Failure to file either of these reports on a timely basis can impact an organization’s ability to receive EPA funding in subsequent competitions.
- Regular quarterly progress reports must be submitted to regional coordinators on a timely basis. These reports become part of the grantee performance file.
- ACRES reports must also be submitted as part of an online database. ACRES stands for the Assessment, Cleanup, and Redevelopment Exchange System. It provides the EPA Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization an analytical system to track and measure performance of all the various Brownfields grants. Once online, the information below is requested.
- Number of applicants entering the JT program.
- Number of participants completing the JT program.
- Number of veteran applicants entering the JT program.
- Starting salaries for graduates placed in jobs.
- Leveraging information.
There can be some challenging issues with ACRES. These include a password change every 90 days and the compilation of leveraging information, which can be subjective. Leveraging is an estimate of all contributions to the program including in-kind support, equipment, facilities, materials, and services. Formal documentation is not required, but it is a best practice to keep an informal estimate of program contributions and partners.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE MATERIALS RELATED TO GRANTEE EXPECTATIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Read the EPA Policy on Assessing Capabilities of Non-Profit Applicants for Managing Assistance Awards, EPA Order 5700.8. Complete the online training. It is suggested that all organizations complete this training even if they are not a nonprofit organization. The training provides an understanding of the EPA’s expectations for grantees when managing a federal grant and the intent behind the requirements.
"EPA assistance awards to nonprofit organizations are an important mechanism for delivering environmental protection to the public. However, EPA has found instances where nonprofit recipients have inadequate administrative systems to manage EPA funds or lack the programmatic capability to successfully perform the proposed work.
“To assure all nonprofit organizations have adequate capability to carry out EPA-funded projects, EPA issued the EPA Policy on Assessing Capabilities of Non-Profit Applicants for Managing Assistance Awards, EPA Order 5700.8. In accordance with the policy, EPA awards assistance agreements to nonprofit organizations only if they have the administrative capability to safeguard and properly manage EPA funds and the programmatic capability to perform the proposed work effectively."