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Decide Whether to Apply

The Office of Head Start appreciates the effort that goes into an organization's registration and preparation of a grant application, and recognizes this process may require significant staff time. The following information provides guidance on the types of organizations eligible to apply for Head Start funding, registration guidance for interested entities, and the requirements programs are required to adhere to after the receipt of a grant award.

Interested entities are also encouraged to visit the Administration for Children and Families (ACF)'s webpage on deciding whether to apply for a grant.

Eligible Applicants

ACF solicits applications from local public or private nonprofit organizations, including faith-based organizations or local for-profit organizations in the community, that wish to compete for funds that are available to provide Head Start services to children and families.

Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships
Eligible Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Providers:

  • State governments
  • County governments
  • City or township governments
  • Independent school districts
  • Public and State controlled institutions of higher education
  • Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized)
  • Public housing authorities/Indian housing authorities
  • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • For profit organizations other than small businesses
  • Small businesses

Additional Eligibility Information:

  • Eligible entities include: (1) entities operating Head Start programs, (2) entities operating Indian Head Start or Migrant or Seasonal Head Start programs, and (3) other public entities, and nonprofit or for-profit private entities, including community-based and faith-based organizations, capable of providing child and family services that meet the standard for participation in programs under the Head Start Act.

Faith-based and community organizations that meet the eligibility requirements are eligible to receive awards under this funding opportunity announcement. Faith-based organizations are encouraged to review the ACF Policy on Grants to Faith-Based Organizations at: http: //www.acf.hhs.gov/acf-policy-on-grants-to-faith-based-organizations. Applications from individuals (including sole proprietorships) and foreign entities are not eligible and will be disqualified from competitive review and from funding under this announcement.

Please note, (1) entities operating Head Start programs includes entities operating Head Start, Early Head Start and EHS-CC Partnership programs.

Head Start
Eligible Head Start Providers:

  • County governments
  • City or township governments
  • Independent school districts
  • Public and state controlled institutions of higher education
  • Native American tribal governments (federally recognized)
  • Public housing authorities/Indian housing authorities
  • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • For-profit organizations other than small businesses
  • Small businesses

Applicants must demonstrate they meet the statutory requirement for designation as a Head Start agency in Section 641 of the Head Start Act. ACF will consider all "qualified applicants in such community" as required by Section 641(d) where the applicant demonstrates it has an organizational base within the community to be served. This could be established by virtue of the applicant being a provider of services in the community or having a clear relationship to the community as evidenced, for example, by board representation from the community or by evidence of the support of community leaders, including, but not limited to mayors, city council members, school principals, presidents of local chambers of commerce, county government officials, social service provider organizations, community organizations representing low-income, minority or other relevant sectors of the community, and child care providers and organizations.

Early Head Start
ACF solicits applications from public or private non-profit organizations, including faith-based organizations, or for-profit organizations that wish to compete for funds that are available to provide Early Head Start services to infants, toddlers, and pregnant women.

Eligible Early Head Start Providers:

  • State governments
  • County governments
  • City or township governments
  • Independent school districts
  • Public and state controlled institutions of higher education
  • Native American tribal governments (federally recognized)
  • Public housing authorities/Indian housing authorities
  • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • For-profit organizations other than small businesses
  • Small businesses

How to Register and Get Ready to Apply

The following steps provide registration guidance for a company, institution, state, local or tribal government, or other type of organization that wishes to submit an application for funding. The registration process is a one-time process, which is required before representatives of an organization can submit grant application packages electronically through Grants.gov. Please note that some steps of the process may require follow-up actions to renew or update information

Register and Get Ready at Least One Month Before Your Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Opens
Every applicant organization and sub-recipient organization must complete three registrations to be able to submit a grant application:

  1. Unique Entity Identifier (formerly DUNS) Number registration;
  2. System for Award Management (SAM) SAM.gov registration; and
  3. Grants.gov registration.

All three registrations are free, but the process can take one month or longer. If you plan to apply for an ACF grant, do not delay. Get registered today! You can stay updated on upcoming funding opportunities offered by ACF by visiting the HHS Grants Forecast website. ACF publishes a basic summary of all anticipated upcoming funding opportunities on this site.

Unique Entity Identifier Number Registration

  1. You can complete this registration in one day.
  2. Visit the D&B DUNS Numbers for U.S. Government Contractors and Grantees
  3. Select the country or territory where your organization is physically located (ACF only provides grants to organizations located in the United States). Complete and submit the form. You will need to provide basic information about your organization, including physical and mailing addresses, name and title of the chief executive, primary Standard Industrial Code (SIC), whether or not the organization is minority-, woman- or veteran-owned, number of employees, and annual revenue.
  4. Your Unique Entity Identifier number will be emailed to you the same day.

System for Award Management (SAM) Registration (Formerly the Central Contractor Registry)
You can complete the initial registration on SAM.gov in three days. SAM.gov registration must be updated every year, which can take five days.

  1. Visit the System for Award Management
  2. SelectStart a New Registration and complete the form, which will take about an hour.
  3. You must have your Unique Entity Identifier number and other information about your organization.
  4. You will have to designate an E-Business Point of Contact (E-Biz POC), who will identify a special password called the MPIN. The MPIN will give the E-Biz POC the authority to designate which employees of your organization are Authorized Organization Representatives (AORs) who can submit applications on behalf of the organization. Soon after submitting your registration, the E-Biz POC will receive an email requesting approval of designated AORs. If your organization already has an EIN (Employer Identification Number), this step can be completed in three days. If not, this step could take up to two weeks.
  5. To keep your SAM.gov registration active, be sure to renew at least once each year. If your registration expires you cannot submit a grant application until it is renewed.

For help with SAM.gov, please visit their support page.

For any SAM registration issues, please refer to the ACF Policy for Applicants Experiencing Federal Systems Issues [PDF, 168KB] document for complete guidance.

Grants.gov Registration
One day after receiving notification of final SAM.gov registration, an approved Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) can complete the required registrations by registering your organization with Grants.gov. You can complete the registration in three weeks.

  1. Visit Grants.gov > Get Registered.
  2. You must know your organization's Unique Entity Identifier number and be an AOR who has been approved through the System for Award Management (SAM) to register with Grants.gov.
  3. When the AOR registers with Grants.gov, the E-Biz POC will receive an email, prompting her or him to log into Grants.gov and approve the AOR.
  4. When the registration is complete, the submitting AOR will receive a confirmation email.
  5. Grants.gov registration must be updated every year and passwords must be updated every 90 days.

This Grants.gov video provides useful information on registering, searching and applying for federal grant opportunities.

Expectations of Successful Awardees

Agencies that provide Head Start, Early Head Start and/or Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership services to children and families must meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) and the requirements set forth in the Head Start Act of 2007. OHS also offers direction through Program Instructions (PIs) and Information Memorandums (IMs).

Agencies interested in applying for Early Head Start- Child Care Partnership funding are encouraged to review the Policy and Program Guidance for the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (EHS-CCP) ACF-IM-HS-15-03.

OHS uses the Aligned Monitoring System to review grantees. This approach ensures that monitoring measures the quality and accountability of Head Start programs across the country. It also provides grantees with opportunities for continuous improvement. The Aligned Monitoring System gives OHS a multi-year perspective on grantee performance with a focus on high quality and compliance.

OHS assesses grantee compliance with the Head Start Program Performance Standards, the Head Start Act, and other regulations through the Aligned Monitoring System. This system conducts on-site review events and desk review events. It disseminates its findings through formal monitoring reports.

The Aligned Monitoring Virtual Expo provides a comprehensive introduction to the Head Start monitoring process and each of the review events.

Why Service Areas Become Available

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as required by Congress, established the Designation Renewal System (DRS) to determine whether Head Start and Early Head Start agencies deliver high-quality and comprehensive services to the families they serve. DRS established five-year grant periods for all Head Start service awards, with many agencies receiving further five-year grants without competing for funding.

Any agency which meets a specified condition during the course of the grant period is not eligible for funding without competition. Instead, the opportunity to provide Head Start services in that area is made available to any interested agency which submits a competitive application in response to a funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Select the link to view the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about DRS.

Competitions also result from grantee relinquishments and terminations.

When an opportunity to provide Head Start services in an area is made available, interested entities can visit the About Funding Opportunities section of the Grants Toolkit documents related to the provision of services in the area, including the grantee profile, grantee inventory, and frequently asked questions (if available).

* Grantee profiles and grantee inventories are not available for national competitions such as the Early Head Start Expansion and EHS-Child Care Partnership funding opportunity.

Interested applicants may email the OHS Operations Center at OHSTech@reviewops.org for additional information.

Last Reviewed: June 2016

Last Updated: June 23, 2016