2014 Grant Opportunities and Tips
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 | Comments

Source: Grants Office

In early January, the 2014 U.S. federal budget was passed and signed by President Obama. For the most part, the grants associated with public-safety communications remain consistent with previous years.

“From a communications standpoint, we haven’t seen much change in homeland security funding,” said Michael Paddock, CEO of the Grants Office. “It’s going to be maintained at the same levels as it has in the past, which still favors the larger urban areas.”

The federal government is the biggest grant-funding giver, usually hovering around $500 billion to $600 billion. Public-safety technology funding opportunities usually come from the departments of Homeland Security or Justice. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has shifted to a preparedness of all hazards, rather than only terrorism, Paddock said.

DHS’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers three grant opportunities — the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and Operation Stonegarden (OPSG).

And for the first time, the funding for the SHSP is less than the UASI program, Paddock said. In addition, in recent years, the number of eligible cities that qualify has decreased to 25, but the average funding to each area has increased.

“It looks like there’s going to be about $410 million for SHSP and $55 million for OPSG, which focuses on border areas, and $600 million for the UASI program. So there is significantly more for those urban areas,” Paddock said.

Other FEMA grant allocations, including the Port Security Grant Program and Transit Security Grant Program, will each receive about $100 million, consistent with past years, Paddock said. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant has been maintained at about $340 million.

“There are opportunities there, but it’s going to be competitive,” Paddock said. “You must put together a competitive program because you’ll be competing either nationally or regionally for these opportunities.”

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) and Bryne Criminal Justice Innovation Grants also remain at roughly the same amount as last year at around $375 million. “This is not an insignificant amount, but it’s not as high as we’ve seen it in the past,” he said.

A majority of the other available grants come from smaller pots, and often can be used for a wide variety of things, with technology being one option.

“It looks like there is also going to be funding for a new school safety program, which is a really terrific development for those agencies,” Paddock said. “It may be a small program, but it will be available. Although we don’t know yet how much will be allocated.”

The health and hospital preparedness programs, which are distributed through the states, broadly fund health services and can support interoperable communications between hospitals, law enforcement and other emergency services providers. That funding continues at close to $1 billion.

From the Office of Violence Against Women, the Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders Program specify that the money must be used for something related to domestic assault/violence and/or stalking. However, how agencies choose to use the funding is up to them and can include procuring new technologies that relate directly to the grant, but can be used for other day-to-day purposes as well.

One other potential grant opportunity is unspent funds from previous years. In 2013, DHS announced that there was $8.6 billion in unspent funds, and put specific parameters on how to apply. Since then, there hasn’t been much transparency, Paddock said. “We have to assume that if it was a problem then, it’s probably still a problem now.”

For interested parties in UASI areas, the urban area working group should have knowledge about available funds. For all others areas, check with your state administrative agency (SAA).

“Go to them with some sort of written project in hand with a clear idea of the money you need, rather than just asking them if they have unspent money,” said Paddock. “This will also put your project into the cue for this year’s round of funding.”

“The best advice is not to wait,” he said.

Collaboration and advocacy are other keys for success. Each SAA, the agency that administers SHSP funds, is made up of a small group of people appointed by the governor. When selecting projects, political considerations as well as balancing statewide and local needs must be taken into account. It is also an increasingly competitive distribution process because less money is available, so advocating for your project is very important, Paddock said.

Paddock encourages agencies to look at grant opportunities from both federal departments, because applicants have a greater chance of getting their project funded by at least one. “Put as many irons in the fire as you can,” he said.

If the applicant receives funding from both agencies, they can always negotiate to modify their project, he said. Funders understand that things can change.

Paddock shared six tips for applicants to keep in mind this grant season:

1. Collaborate ahead of time when possible.

2. Develop a written plan.

3. Proactively advocate for your project.

4. Look outside DHS to supplement your funding.

5. Get executive buy-in to your project.

6. Be sure to follow directions because applications can change.

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