Administrative and Legal Considerations of Working with Partners
In general terms, all stakeholders are partners. Most Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (JT) grantees have their own internal tracking and accounting rules for subgrantees, nonfinancial partners, and contractors. With regards to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), minimum administrative and regulatory requirements must be considered whenever money is transferred using grant funds. For administrative discussion, partners can be categorized into:
- NONFINANCIAL PARTNERS
- CONTRACTORS AND CONSULTANTS
When money changes hands (involving grant funds), administrative rules begin to apply. The first category, subgrantees, are extensions of the JT program—primarily other nonprofit or governmental organizations. They must comply with every EPA federal regulation for which the JT grantee is responsible. They are subject to audits, allowable and nonallowable costs, and contracting procedures as indicated in the Federal Register. As primary grantee, the JT program is held responsible for compliance by subgrantees.
Subgrantees may be selected without a competitive process as long as they are identified in the grant proposal, budget, and approved work plan. Change of subgrantees requires approval from EPA. Contractors and consultants are not usually considered subgrantees. A community college or governmental organization may be a subgrantee or a contractor.
Any group or organization that is not compensated for their efforts or contributions can be categorized as a nonfinancial partner. These leveraging partners are a necessary component to the success and sustainability of JT programs. Contributions may include in-kind labor and training, equipment, facilities, operating funds, or instructional materials—basically, anything provided to the program at no cost to the grant.
Examples of non-financial partners include the organization types below.
- Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs)
- City or state government
- Housing authorities
- Foundations and individuals
- Private sector enterprise and consultants working without fee
- Educational institutions
- Faith-based and nongovernmental organizations
Partner contributions are important and should be recognized, identified in the grant proposal, and reported as leveraged resources. There are no regulatory or administrative responsibilities associated with leveraged contributions. Leveraged resources and partners may come into the program at any time. The EPA regional coordinator should be informed when major leverage partners written in the proposal change.
Seeking leveraged resources is an important component for program sustainability and can be incorporated as part of community and labor market assessments. Finding new leveraging partners should be an ongoing activity, and is most effective when program staff make the effort to network and connect with former contacts.
CONTRACTORS AND CONSULTANTS
A contract partner is any organization (not including subgrantees) that is paid with EPA grant funds for goods or services. Official and detailed information can be found on EPA’s website.
In simple terms, when money changes hands and is paid with grant funds, potential contractors, consultants, or service providers must undergo a competitive review. EPA will not generally allow sole source procurement contracts for professional services or goods that are available in the commercial marketplace.
Contractors may represent a variety of organizational structures. The key distinction is that they are providing service or goods for a fee. While not subject to subgrantee regulations, they do need to comply with federal procurement guidelines.
JT grantees are required to purchase goods and services in accordance with the minimum EPA requirements even if their own procurement system has less stringent standards. Some organizations may have more stringent purchasing requirements than required by EPA. Since obtaining competitive bids and administering the procurement process take time to implement, it is important to plan for and start the requisition process early, preferably during the program planning stage, so that it can be written into the grant proposal.
At a minimum, the procurement process must include a public competition with at least three participating bidders. The award does not need to go to the lowest bidder, but justification needs to be recorded supporting the final award.
It is not necessary that the procurement process wait for the JT grant award. In fact, it is helpful to have the training contractor or consultant on board such that they can be written into the grant proposal. This is a simple process in that the Request for Proposal (RFP) should include a statement that the award is contingent on receiving EPA funding and an approval of the budget and work plan. RFPs can be conducted electronically, via website, or in print. It is important that winning contractors deliver services in accordance with EPA procurement requirements in addition to meeting the proposed training schedule.