Fire grant delay: What to do while you wait

Rather than wring your hands over when the AFG application period will open, take these steps to be ready when it does

For 95 percent of my life, when we enter the months at the end of the year you could always expect to hear the same questions being asked.

  • "What are you doing for the holidays?"
  • "What do you think Santa will bring you this year?"
  • "What do you want to get the kids this year for Christmas?"

In the last few years those questions have changed dramatically. Now as I run into people, take phone calls, and check emails the question is consistently the same.

"When do you think AFG will open?"

I wish I had that crystal ball that I could peer into and find the answer, but I don't. I can tell you that it will be sometime soon. That is the best I can do.

I realize that we are all upset and frustrated with FEMA over this situation and I can tell you so are they.

Yes, FEMA actually has very limited control over when AFG or any of their other grant programs will open. Once FEMA has developed the Funding Opportunity Announcement, it has to be approved by five other departments in the federal government.

If only one of these departments puts the AFG FOA at the bottom of its list, the entire process comes to a screeching halt. Only one of these departments has say you need to change this section, and the entire process starts over.

Yes, it is bureaucracy at its finest, and there is nothing we can do about it.

As we wait
Well, yes, there actually is something we can do. We can get started on our 2015 application before it opens.

First, since October 2003, all federal grant applications must contain a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System number. The DUNS number helps the federal government identify organizations that receive federal funding and ensure consistent name and address data for electronic grant applications.

There is no charge to obtain a DUNS number, and it is your organization's responsibility to obtain one. FEMA will not grant extensions to applicants who are unable to obtain a DUNS number prior to the end of the application period.

Apply for a DUNS number as soon as possible by calling (866) 705-5711 or by going online. Remember, it may take several weeks to obtain the number, so now, while we wait for AFG to officially open, would be the best time.

Next, your organization must be registered in the System for Award Management. This is a free website owned and operated by the federal government that consolidates the capabilities in CCR/FedReg, ORCA and EPLS.

SAM I am
During the 2014 AFG grant process, a large number of awards were delayed because departments had problems with their SAM registration. Make sure your SAM registration is current.

For the 2015 AFG application, you must be registered with SAM in order to apply. Therefore, in order to receive an AFG award, you must be registered and have up-to-date information in SAM.

Several bogus SAM registration sites have appeared over the last year. These sites require payment in order to register, however, they are not affiliated with the federal government. I recently spoke with a chief who was asked to pay $900 to update his SAM registration. Remember, SAM is free.

Go into your FEMA account and make sure that the information on your FEMA profile matches your SAM and DUNS number. This is the perfect time to do that.

Make sure you know what you will be applying for this year and have secured a cost estimate for your project. Also, gathered your call data for the past year. One thing I can tell you is this year FEMA is switching to the NFIRs reporting approach to alarm classifications.

Dear John letters
Are you planning to apply for a project that was rejected by AFG in the past? Look at your turndown letter and discuss how you can make your application more competitive.

If you were turned down in the preliminary part of the review process, examine how closely the proposed project meets AFG priorities. If you did not score high enough in peer review, examine the section or sections referenced in your turndown letter.

It might not make sense to you, but the section or sections referenced in the letter are the lowest scoring sections of your narrative. Now is the time to determine how to make those sections stronger.

These are all steps that you can take while you wait for AFG to open. Completing them now will make the entire process less stressful. Once you have all of these items completed sit back, relax and enjoy the season and wait for AFG to open.

Oh, if you want to know when AFG that will actually open, I defer to Carnac the Magnificent who would say, "The answer has been sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall's front porch since noon yesterday."

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