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The importance of grant reporting

To validate its usefulness to the folks in Washington, we must describe how the equipment is being utilized and how it has enhanced our ability to protect our communities

Many online reporting sites require departments to answer specific questions to determine a baseline measurement of program effectiveness. For most departments, the minimum reporting requirements are never accompanied by a narrative statement that paints the picture for those who are not in your immediate community.

A more accurate statement would be to not only report numbers, but to provide an analysis of the numbers. Example: During this quarter, 132 felony arrests were made in the target area. This represents a 7 percent increase from the previous quarter. Citizen’s complaints decreased by 15 percent.

Often, reports that measure the effectiveness of UASI or Homeland Security Funding will simply identify the description and quantity of pieces of equipment purchased or the number of participants at a training exercise. To validate its usefulness to the folks in Washington, we must describe how the equipment is being utilized and how it has enhanced our ability to protect our communities. Taking a few extra minutes to jot down two or three narrative sentences could preserve or enhance future funding.

If there is not enough space on the online reporting sites, don’t let that be a deterrent. Regular communication with local reps should be a standard practice. A representative from your regional planning area should provide informative reports throughout the year, not just when budgets are being drafted or cuts have been proposed. Provide them with the tools and resources to be able to advocate on your behalf.

A recent article titled "How UASI Cities Can Save Their Funding and Programs" by emergencymgmt.com says:

  • To save the program, Josh Filler said state and local governments must measure the effectiveness of their UASIs and communicate that data with the elected officials in Congress and the Senate. “If they don’t do that, I think the end state is quite clear: These programs die. They will terminate these programs,” he said
  • For fiscal year 2011, 33 Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) cities did not receive funding

In addition to the UASI grants, these communities are also no longer eligible for other Homeland Security Initiatives such as transit security.

The article also says:

Filler added that there’s little understanding in Congress as to how the grant process really works between the annual appropriation, three-year performance period and the obligation of funds versus actual expenditures.

Once again, it is up to the people who are managing the day-to-day operations of many of these initiatives to articulate the terms of the contracts and/or to evaluate upfront the feasibility of program completion during the specified timeframe.

Implementation of a new Records Management Program may involve contracts in which a percentage of the funds may be paid at the beginning of the project, with the remaining balance due after specific milestones are reached or upon completion of the project. Activities could include several months of work with the build or design team to approve system specifications, followed by testing, data conversion, training and system implementation. Vendors may require departments to sign multi-year contracts, whereas the grant funds may be restricted to a shorter timeframe. You may need to check with your grant program fiscal advisor to determine if the funds can be encumbered for these expenses or work with the vendor to develop a contract clause for the timely reimbursement of advanced payments.

Another option would be to seek approval to extend the programmatic reporting project period. The idea here is to have the project up and running by the end of the grant project period, but offer an additional six to 12 months to report solely of the effectiveness of the effort. Fiscal reports will be closed-out while a site continues to provide evidence that the money was well-spent.

Another article from the same publication says:

The grants are not pork. As a condition of receiving funds, every state, urban area, transit agency and maritime port must have a homeland security plan with goals, objectives and implementation steps and that plan must be approved and on file with the DHS. Each grant applicant must also provide elaborate annual funding justifications to the DHS explaining how projects link to their plan and what the projects will accomplish by reducing risk through enhanced capabilities.

Departments must be able to justify their needs. At a time in which so many budgets are being reduced, many departments are looking to obtain funding through various sources. As tempting as it may be, don’t sacrifice your integrity by asking for funding for an item through a source in which the item clearly is not an eligible expenditure. A request like this appears frivolous and provides ammunition to those who are not in support of funding legitimate needs of all law enforcement agencies.

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