Understanding the AFG application process

FEMA has tweaked parts of AFG application process regarding turndown letters and funds monitoring upon award

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided an insightful look at the 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) application scoring and review process at FDIC recently. The workshop covered a variety of topics including turndown letters, reasons applications didn’t make it to peer review, information on AFG debriefings, a look at 2018 and more emphasis on monitoring.

Understanding AFG turndown letters

If you received a turndown letter last month, your application did not make it to peer review. If you applied for items in more than one AFG category and only received one turndown letter, then you need to review it and determine which activity you were turned down for. To do this, look at the heading on the letter and it will tell you what category the letter is referencing.

If you received a turndown letter last month, your application did not make it to peer review.
If you received a turndown letter last month, your application did not make it to peer review. (Photo/Pixabay)

This year FEMA initiated a new policy and sent the technical turndown letters out early. In the past, applicants had to endure weeks of award announcements before they finally learned that their applications weren’t being considered for funding. After hearing complaints from applicants regarding this practice, FEMA decided to release the technical turndowns earlier in the process. This ensures departments have time to apply for the item again, or if they want to look for funding from a different source.

If you received a turndown letter, FEMA is offering debriefings to departments. For additional information, visit the Pre-Score Webinar Schedule Page to check for additional debriefings.

SAM and DUNS issues continue

I know some of you are probably tired of hearing about the Systems for Awards Management (SAM) and DUNS registration, but many departments are not receiving awards because their registration with these two entities are not current. In the past, FEMA would repeatedly remind you with emails and phone calls to get your registration current. Beginning this year, you will receive one phone call and be given seven days to fix the problem. If the issue is not corrected in seven days, FEMA will disapprove your application. Last year 180 applicants did not receive an award because of SAM or DUNS issues.

Understanding the Request Details section of AFG applications

Another area of concern is the “Request Details” section of the AFG application. There are simple mistakes that applicants make in this area which can kill their application, such as:

  • You cannot request more turnout gear than you have firefighters listed in the Characteristics I section.
  • If you are not requesting funds for training with this application than you must check the box that indicates you will receive training elsewhere.
  • You cannot request more SCBA or portable radios than you have seats listed in the Characteristics II section.
  • The reason you are requesting the PPE or equipment must be a high priority or it will not score high. The priorities are listed in the NOFO each year.

Prepare to save all documents relating to AFG funds

Be aware that FEMA has more funding now to conduct monitoring. You will probably receive notice that you have been chosen for a desk audit. If you receive an award, make sure to follow your procurement procedures, as well as document and save everything involving your grant for three years after the grant is closed out.

Remember, you must purchase exactly what you requested in your application. If you need to change the number, type, size or make any other changes, please call your grant manager first. You cannot simply decide to purchase five mobile radios when your award was for 12 portables. The application you file, and subsequent forms, are federal documents. If you lie on them, you are opening yourself and your department to civil and criminal penalties, including imprisonment.

Additional AFG application insight

FEMA does not provide applicants their score and there is no process to request them. At this point in the process, rejected applicants would only have a partial score, since their application did not go to peer review. However, even after peer review, your score wouldn’t mean anything unless you also knew the scale for the application period.

There is no appeal of FEMA’s decision. In accordance with the appeal procedure outlined in the Code of Federal Regulation, FEMA will only reconsider an application “with respect to an initial grant award decision only when the applicant asserts that FEMA made a material technical or procedural error in the processing of the application and can substantiate such assertions.”

The citation further goes on to state that “as grants are awarded on a competitive basis … FEMA cannot consider a request for reconsideration based upon the merits of an original application. Similarly, FEMA will not consider new information provided after the submission of the original application.”

Finally, your regional fire program specialist at FEMA has access to your turndown letter. If you have additional questions you can always contact them for assistance.

FEMA is projecting a fall opening of the 2018 AFG application period.

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