April 19, 2007

FEDERAL DOLLARS AT WORK

By Senator Mike Crapo

Spring is a busy time for many of us. In Congress, spring means another season of appropriations. As Congress makes federal agency funding decisions for the next fiscal year, it's important to talk about one of the ways that we make sure hard-earned tax dollars are returned to our communities. It's important to control federal spending. Serving on the Senate Budget Committee, I make decisions about proposed federal expenditures through the lens of a fiscal conservative. Once adopted, a fiscally-sound federal budget allows federal dollars to be channeled to critical local projects. In Idaho, for example, the federal budget directs significant dollars to wastewater infrastructure and upgrades for small communities, conservation programs to help private property owners comply with environmental mandates, and local programs that help keep our children and families safe. These dollars come through federal grants. A federal grant is an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States. Grants are not benefits or entitlements (federal assistance or loans to individuals).Grants allows the government to assist organizations and individuals in carrying out federal mandates in ways that are better tailored to local efforts than if the same actions were undertaken by non-local federal officials. Still, with over $400 billion allocated to over 1,000 grant programs, through 26 grant-making federal agencies, working through the system might seem a little bit overwhelming. In 2002, the federal government created a grant information website called Grants.gov, which is also available through my home page, http://crapo.senate.gov. The site contains comprehensive information on grant programs, step-by-step instructions on applying, on-line help and a phone help center. Grant programs fall into multiple categories: agriculture, arts, business, disaster information, education, employment, energy, environment, nutrition, health, housing, legal services, natural resources, regional development, science and technology, transportation and others. Organizations eligible for grants include government, education, public housing, non-profit, and some for-profit organizations. Some organizations that apply for grants use a professional grant writer, but this isn't necessary and can be expensive. Some advice from those who have done grant writing includes:â?¢ First and foremost, research opportunities outside of the government. There are many private and non-profit organizations that offer grant money (Foundations, state programs). Often, that competition isn't as stiff as it is for some federal grants.â?¢ Know the organization and the community that will be affected by the work that will be facilitated;â?¢ Educate yourself; make sure you understand what the application wants. It can be helpful to contact the agency representative on the grant application form.â?¢ Make sure that the organization has a clearly-stated, comprehensively-planned project for the grant money. You must justify the grant, but the granting agency must also be able to justify its decision in giving the grant.â?¢ When answering application questions, be precise and provide only the information it asks for. Because of the volume of applications submitted, personnel will only consider those applications which provide the information requested. â?¢ Consult with other successful grantees for their suggestions and recommendations for your application.These are a few tips to help you through the process. Often grants are for significant sums, so please invest the time necessary to prepare and submit your application, which should be turned in on time. Federal grants are one way we make sure that money appropriated by Congress is returned to local communities and used in proper ways. If you want more information on grants, please visit my website at http://crapo.senate.gov. WORD COUNT: 592