The ACF uses three types of applications for Head Start and EHS: competitive, noncompetitive continuation and supplemental applications. The Application for Federal Assistance forms (SF-424) and instructions are available from the appropriate ACF program office. The forms also are available in our Standard Forms section.
Under an OMB policy directive published in the Federal Register on June 27, 2003, all federal grant applicants (including those applying for Head Start and Early Head Start grants) are required to include their Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number. A DUNS number is required for every application for a new award or renewal/continuation of an award submitted on or after October 1, 2003. If your agency does not already have this number, one can be obtained at no cost by calling the toll-free DUNS Number Request line at 1-866-705-5711 or by visiting www.dnb.com. The DUNS number allows the federal government to identify entities receiving awards and their business relationships.
Competitive applications are submitted for new projects, expansion, special initiatives or in response to an announcement for a replacement grantee. The announcements describe the program, the amount of funds available and the eligibility requirements. Filing instructions such as where to obtain the application forms and deadlines, also are contained in the announcement. The announcement may be made through a notice in the Federal Register, mailing of individual letters, notices in local newspapers and other suitable forms of public notice. Prospective applicants also can obtain the information from the appropriate ACF office.
Head Start and Early Head Start are covered under Executive Order 12372 - Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs and 45 CFR 100 -Intergovernmental Review of Department of Health and Human Services Programs and Activities. Grantee agencies in states that participate in this process should contact their state Single Points of Contact (SPOC) for instructions. ACF offices have the list of states that participate and the information also is available from the Office of Management and Budget (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb). This process does not cover tribal governments.
Existing grantee agencies use the supplemental application process during the approved budget period for a variety of reasons. The funding for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) or Quality Inprovement increases (QI) may not have been available at the time the noncompetitive continuation application was funded. Grantee agencies may need additional funds for one-time expenditures for equipment or other program improvements. Also, ACF may make additional funds available on a noncompetitive basis for special initiatives.
When requesting additional funding, the grantee agency must explain the reason for the request and justify the need for additional funding. The application must indicate if the request is for a permanent funding increase or one-time funds. The COLA and QI funding is a permanent funding increase as the amount is added to the next noncompetitive continuation grant. The application must include the SF-424A and B forms and policy council approval of the request. The budget and budget justification need only include the items for which additional funds are requested. Grantee agencies do not need to submit the Line-Item Budget for Head Start and EHS.
Supplemental applications also are used to make major program changes even though there may be no increase or decrease in funding. The section on major program changes in the "Post Award Changes" narrative identifies what ACF considers major program changes.
Grantee agencies do not need to submit supplemental applications when transferring funds within the budget unless the transfer is for items that require prior approval or the grantee agency wants to use one-time funds for purposes other than those approved in the original request. Transfers within the total approved budget must be used for allowable costs.
Grantee agencies in states that participate in the Executive Order 12372 process should contact their state SPOC regarding supplemental applications. Some states only review the noncompetitive continuation and competitive applications.
Processing of Grant Applications
During the pre-award process, ACF uses different policies and procedures for competitive, noncompetitive continuation and supplemental applications as described later on in this section. However, once the award is approved the notification to all grantee agencies is the same.
The FAA is the official award document that notifies grantee agencies and others of the award. This document also incorporates the terms and conditions of the award and supports the obligation of funds in the accounting system. The Grants Officer is responsible for preparing, signing and issuing the FAA. The Responsible HHS Official also will sign the FAA. The FAA contains the following:
- Assistance type being awarded (Block 2)
- Grant number (Block 3)
- Budget period funded (Block 8)
- Overall project period (Block 9)
- Program director (Block 15)
- Approved federal share of the budget line items (Block 16)
- Non-federal share (Block 17)
- Amount of federal funds being awarded by this action (Block 19)
- Applicant's EIN number (Block 22)
- Client population and other specific requirements (Block 26)
Grantee agencies should review Block 26 carefully to ensure that they are familiar with the requirements and limitations specified. A list of Standard Terms and Conditions will be attached to the initial FAA for the grant period. Additional terms and conditions may be imposed for specific awards, such as the purchase or construction of facilities, special initiatives or a high-risk grantee agency.
Competitive applications must be submitted to the location identified in the announcement. An application is considered received when it is delivered to the location either through the mail, use of delivery services such as Federal Express, by hand or, when specified, postmarked by the deadline date. The program announcement will specify whether the application must be received or if a postmark is sufficient. Applications delivered to a location other than that specified will not be accepted.
Announcements usually establish screening criterion such as eligibility and the deadline for submission. This criterion is used to determine if the application will be accepted into competition. If selected for competition, the application will be reviewed and scored only on the material received by the deadline. Applicants not meeting the screening criteria will be notified within seven days of that determination.
It is the policy of ACF to seek maximum open and free competition. Each competing application will receive an independent, objective review by at least three qualified individuals against the evaluation criteria published in the program announcement. A panel or panels of non-federal reviewers usually do the review. At times, ACF may use a group of field reviewers in lieu of a panel.
Once the review is completed and the applications are ranked, the Responsible HHS Official approves funding through a formal funding decision process. Funding decisions fall into three categories: Approved, Disapproved and Approved but Unfunded. ACF approves funding based on the rank order of the application. Approval of an application is not a guarantee that the successful applicant will receive the amount of funds requested. ACF reserves the right to negotiate the funding level based on the number of successful applicants and the funds available.
In an effort to keep members of Congress informed, the Congressional Liaison Office (CLO) relays information on ACF awards to the senators and representatives in whose states and districts the projects are awarded. The responsible grants office will provides a copy of the FAA to the CLO and allows the CLO a 72-hour waiting period to notify the appropriate congressional delegation. The FAA will not be mailed to the grantee agency until the waiting period has expired.
The Responsible Program Office will notify applicants that were not approved or approved but unfunded within 30 days of the decision. The notification will include a detailed explanation for the decision or indicate that a detailed explanation will be provided upon request. Unsuccessful applicants also may request a debriefing on their application.
Noncompetitive Continuation Applications
The Grants Officer in the funding ACF Office must receive the application package at least 90 days prior to the beginning date of the next budget period. The Grants Officer will provide copies to the Responsible Program Official for review.
The review by both officials is to assure that satisfactory progress toward goals and objectives is being made and that the grantee agency is in compliance with the terms and conditions and to determine the funding level and budget for the next budget period. The financial review will include a cost analysis in order to determine if the costs are reasonable and allowable.
The grantee agency will be contacted regarding omissions or issues that need clarification. If additional information is required, the grantee agency should submit the requested items in writing. Significant changes may require approval by the person signing the original application and the policy council. The ACF office will advise the grantee agency on this requirement.
Noncompetitive continuation grants will be awarded prior to the beginning date of the next grant period. At the discretion of the funding office, unobligated funds may be carried over into the new budget period. Carryover funds may be used to complete any objective that remains unmet from the prior period.
The process for supplemental applications is very similar to those for noncompetitive continuation applications. If approved, the FAA is amended to increase the funding level and/or to document major program changes.