Grant Writing Part III: Post-Grant Award
In Part I of Grant Writing , we explored how grant writing in transit was different from other types of grant writing and how to write the initial grant proposal. In Part II of Grant Writing , we learned who to submit your proposal to. In this installment, we will be looking more in depth at what happens after you receive grant funding. Life after you receive grant funding typically consists of four steps:
1. Perform the Work
Performing the work may require hiring new employees, purchasing equipment and awards, hiring consultants, and the general incurring of expenditures. Because of the irregular nature and uncertain duration of projects, most transit agencies make heavy use of consulting firms in post-grant award administration, especially grants for things such as New Starts Projects that require a lot of planning effort.
2. Monitor and Fiscally Manage the Project
Most transit grants are for periods of several years, requiring close attention to the financial details on a constant basis. Because in a large transit agency several departments will likely be involved in most grants (Government Relations, who likely writes the grant applications; Finance, who likely manages the monetary aspect of the grant; and either Service Development or Maintenance, who likely provides the details of the grant application depending on whether the grant is for new service or new vehicles) monitoring grants can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
Federal grants require consistency in estimating, accumulating, and importing costs; consistency in allocating costs incurred for the same purpose; accounting for unallowable costs; and consistency in using the same cost accounting period. Typically only a small percentage of the grant is allowed to be spent on administration; the vast majority needs to be spent on the new service, new vehicles, or primary purpose of the grant.
3. Create and Submit Requests for Payment
Again, due to the number of departments involved, this can be a surprisingly complex process. Because 75% of the operations budget and up to 100% of the capital budget of a typical transit agency consists of varying levels and types of government subsidies, the cost of the average new route or bus purchase is likely to be paid for by several different programs - each of which have to have their funding awards allotted correctly. Creative employees can sometimes use this step to distribute funding in such a way that agency desires can be reached in spite of federal, state, and local grant program requirements. For example, AC Transit in Oakland was able to purchase buses made in the Netherlands by the Van Hool company despite normal federal Buy In America requirements due to the shuffling of different funding sources.
4. Ending the Award
Like any other grant funder, government grants require the submission of technical, financial, and other reports at the close-out of a grant. If the grant was for something such as the purchase of vehicles, ending the award is simple. The ending of multiyear grants for things such as new subway lines is always more complex and usually consists of a wide variety of exit interviews, performance reports, and similar paperwork.
The Costs of Non-Compliance With Government Regulations Pertaining to Grants
The costs of not complying with government regulations pertaining to grants can be quite severe, and can include the reduction of a funding award; a prohibition against applying for future awards; and even jail time. Note that in the transit arena agencies can have their funding negatively affected by not following regulations in areas not related to grant administration. For example, BART in the San Francisco Bay area had its federal funding for its Oakland Airport Connector project withheld by the FTA because the project was not in compliance with Title VI regulations .