It’s a regional thing: AFG grants

From "The Path to Grants Success" (PDF)
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Related Resources:

 'The Path to Grants Success' supplement (PDF)

Take a systematic approach to grant writing: Assess your vulnerability
Back to the basics: Success depends on understanding grant fundamentals
Dive in: Pool of grant funds is large

Without a doubt, the largest grant offering available to fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations is the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG). While most departments have some degree of experience with the Operations & Safety and Vehicle acquisition program areas, the Regional Project activity is much lesser known and greatly underutilized. Each eligible fire department or nonaffiliated EMS organization can submit one AFG application for each program area/activity. A word of caution: If multiple applications are submitted on behalf of one department within one of the program areas below, either intentionally or unintentionally, DHS will deem all of the applications in that program area to be ineligible. Assuming no major changes from the FY 2008 AFG, eligible activities/ applications for the FY 2009 AFG are listed below.

  • Fire or EMS — Operations & Safety
  • Fire or EMS — Vehicle Acquisition
  • Regional Projects

The value of the regional activity cannot be overstated. The regional project activity provides departments that commonly work together with a means to address regional operational issues such as standardization of firefighter rehabilitation, or interoperable communications equipment. Some departments I have assisted in the past were reluctant to participate in a regional project for fear that it would somehow have a negative effect on their other AFG request/s. This is simply not the case. Each activity’s application will be reviewed and scored on its own merit. In short, you can have your cake and eat it too. Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at what the 2008 AFG guidance has to say about regional projects.

(From 2008 AFG Program Guidance)
Any eligible applicant, whether a fire department or a nonaffiliated EMS organization, may act as a “host applicant” and apply for large-scale or regional projects on behalf of itself and any number of organizations in neighboring jurisdictions. A regional project is one in which multiple organizations serving more than one local jurisdiction benefit directly from the activities implemented with the grant funds. A county fire department applying for a countywide communications system is NOT a regional project because it does not benefit multiple “seats-of-government.” Regional projects are designed to facilitate interoperable communications and efficiency among the participating jurisdictions. As such, the only activities available for application under a regional project are training and equipment acquisition (such as communications equipment) that positively affect interoperability between jurisdictions. Purchase of turnouts, SCBA, wellness and fitness, modification to facilities, and vehicle acquisition activities are not eligible as regional projects. The criteria development panel recommended that, due to the limited funding available for grants and the recent change in SCBA standards (the 2007 Edition of NFPA 1981), DHS will not consider requests for regional projects that involve wholesale replacement of SCBA within a region.

Regional projects require one eligible applicant to act as the “host” for the project. Regional applications may only include activities that are meant to address the identified regional risk.

Regional applications cannot include the purchase of resources or any activities meant solely for the host applicant. As in last year’s program, host applicants in FY 2008 may apply for funding to address their own needs beyond the scope of the regional project in a separate application(s). The “host” will be responsible for fulfilling all grant requirements, such as reporting to National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), control of and accounting for the funds, and distribution and control of the property. Additionally, the host is responsible for assuring that the cost share is met. The cost share for regional projects is based on the total population and demographics of the entire region. DHS has the discretion to waive the legislatively established funding limits under AFG. In order to encourage interest and participation in this critical strategy to address interoperability, DHS may exercise this discretion, if the funding of a regional application is at risk of exceeding statutory funding caps (i.e., the funding of the regional request combined with other AFG awards would cause the host applicant to exceed the legislatively established funding limits).

In general, equipment purchased as a result of a regional project will be physically distributed to all the departments that are beneficiaries of the project. This physical distribution of the equipment to other first responder organizations is the single characteristic that distinguishes eligible regional projects from projects that are not regional in nature but may have an impact on a region via mutual aid. For example, a project that would not be considered to have an effect on interoperability (and thus would not be considered a regional project) would be an application for an air compressor or a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) response vehicle. In these examples, the assets would be shared with neighboring departments under mutual or automatic aid agreements, but the asset is physically located in the awardees’ department and not disseminated among the participants, as such, they do not qualify as a regional project.

Examples of viable regional projects would be a multijurisdictional communications system or standardization of training. As stated, regional projects should be designed to address issues of communications or equipment interoperability among multiple jurisdictions.

In order to apply for a regional project, the host organization must:

1) Be an eligible applicant (i.e., either a fire department or a nonaffiliated EMS organization) (a county, county association, or city could not apply for a regional project), and

2) Agree, if awarded, to be responsible for all aspects of the grant, including, but not limited to, accountability for the assets and all reporting requirements. In the application, the host organization will be required to describe the characteristics of the entire region that will be affected by the project (i.e., the population of the affected region, not the applicant’s first-due population). The applicant must provide detailed information in the project narrative describing the effect of the project and the need for the project. This includes a detailed description of the following:

  • the proposed project and the project budget;
  • the financial need for the project;
  • the benefits that would result; and the extent to which the grant would enhance daily operations, and/or how the grant will positively impact the regional ability to protect life and property.

In addition, the applicant must include a list of all the participating organizations that will benefit from the regional project, if the project is approved. Fire departments or nonaffiliated EMS organizations that will benefit from a regional project may also apply for funding under the AFG, as long as they are not requesting the same items as the host applicant for the regional project. For example, if a host applicant applies for a multijurisdictional communications project, a participating organization that will receive some of the communications equipment can apply for other needs as long as it does not apply for duplicative communications equipment. Host applicants MAY NOT apply to address other needs beyond the regional project on the regional application. However, a host applicant may submit a request to meet its own, nonregional needs in a separate application. When evaluating the benefits of any regional project, we will take into account the other partners that will be involved in the project, whether they are other fire departments, nonaffiliated EMS organizations, or other public service organizations. We will also take into consideration the extent to which the non-fire/EMS partners will contribute to the overall costs of the regional project.

Fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations serving populations of over 50,000 or more must match the federal grant funds with an amount of non-federal funds equal to 20 percent of the total project cost. Fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations serving populations between 20,000 and 50,000 must agree to match the federal grant funds with an amount of non-federal funds equal to 10 percent of the total project cost. Fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations serving areas with a population of 20,000 or fewer must match the federal grant funds with an amount of nonfederal funds equal to 5 percent of the total project cost. Regional projects’ cost share will be based on the total population and demographics of the entire region.

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