Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Technical Assistance Grant?
A Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) provides money to community groups so they can pay for technical advisors to interpret and explain technical reports, site conditions, and EPA's proposed cleanup proposals and decisions at Superfund sites. An initial TAG of up to $50,000 is available for any Superfund site that is on the EPA's National Priorities List (NPL) or proposed for listing on the NPL where a response action has begun. EPA's NPL is a list of the most hazardous waste sites nationwide. Additional funds may be available for very large or complex sites.
Who is Eligible?
Q. Is my group eligible for a TAG?
A. You are eligible if members of your group (1) live near and may be affected by one of the 1,200 sites on the NPL or by a site that is proposed for listing on the NPL (the response action at the site must be underway); (2) your group is representative of the affected community; and (3) your group is nonprofit and incorporated (made into a legal corporation in your state) or in the process of incorporating.
Q. What types of groups aren't eligible?
A. You are not eligible if your group: (1) is a potentially responsible party (PRP) for the contamination at the site, represents a PRP, or receives money or services from a PRP; (2) is not incorporated (or willing to incorporate) for the specific purpose of representing affected people; (3) is an academic institution; (4) is a political subdivision (example: township or municipality); or (5) is affiliated with a national organization that has direct or indirect control over your group.
How Many TAGs are Awarded at a Site?
There can be only one TAG for each Superfund site. However, when the grant recipient changes (for example, when EPA or the recipient terminates the original TAG), the process of applying for a TAG starts over. Interested parties can write a letter to EPA expressing interest in applying for a TAG.
What Can TAGs Pay For?
Q. How can we spend TAG money?
A. The bulk of the TAG funds must be used to hire an independent technical advisor to help you interpret and comment on site-related documents. A technical advisor can help your group in many ways, including: (1) reviewing preliminary site assessment/site investigation data and other site-specific technical documents; (2) participating in public meetings to help clarify information about site conditions; and (3) visiting the site vicinity periodically during cleanup to observe progress and provide technical updates to your group. You also can use TAG funds to contract with a technical advisor to interpret site information related to public health, redevelopment, or relocation, if these issues are relevant for your site.
Your group can use part of its TAG to pay a grant administrator to help manage and administer the grant. TAG funds also can be used to purchase or rent office supplies and to print newsletters or fact sheets to disseminate information about your site. The purpose of these and all eligible TAG activities is to help improve your community's understanding of the environmental conditions and cleanup activities at Superfund sites.
Q. Are there things we cannot spend TAG money for?
A. Your TAG funds cannot be used for: (1) lawsuits or other legal actions, such as paying for attorney fees for advice tied to any kind of legal action or any activities that would result in an attorney/client relationship; (2) political activity and lobbying; (3) social, ceremonial and amusement activities and related costs, including meals, lodging, rentals, transportation, and tips; (4) group members' training and travel; (5) generation of new primary data such as sampling and well drilling and testing; (5) reopening final EPA decisions such as the Record of Decision; (6) resolving disputes with EPA; or (7) epidemiological or health studies, such as urine or blood testing.
How Do We Get the Money?
Q. Do we get a lump sum up front?
A. No. EPA pays your group by reimbursing you for costs that are TAG-related or identified in your budget as needed to meet the overall objectives of your project. You will be reimbursed up to the amount of the TAG.
Q. Can we get an advance payment to help us get started?
A. Yes. EPA will provide up to $5,000 as an advance payment to new recipients. Your group must submit in writing a request for an advance payment and identify exactly how it will be used. Advance payments may be used only to purchase supplies, postage, to pay the first deposit to open a bank account, the first month's rent on office space or equipment, and other costs associated with start up of your organization. They cannot be used for contracts with technical advisors or to pay the costs of incorporation.
Q. Can any of our pre-award costs be reimbursed with TAG funds?
A. The only pre-award expenses that may be reimbursed with TAG funds are costs associated with the incorporation of your TAG group. However, if the EPA does not award a TAG to your group, your group will not be reimbursed for the costs of incorporation.
How Do We Apply for a TAG?
Q. What is the first step for getting a TAG?
A. The first step is to let EPA know that your group is interested in getting a TAG. Your group should first submit a Letter of Intent to the EPA Regional Office for your area. The Letter of Intent should state that your group intends to apply for a TAG, identify the name of your group and the Superfund site for which your group would like to apply, and provide the name of a contact person in the group and his/her daytime phone number.
Q. What does EPA do once it receives our Letter of Intent?
A. If your site is on the NPL or proposed for listing on the NPL and a response action is underway, EPA will publish a public notice notifying other interested groups in your community that a TAG for the site may soon be awarded. Usually, EPA notifies the community about the availability of a TAG by publishing an ad in a local newspaper announcing that EPA has received a letter of intent from a community group interested in applying for a TAG. If no response action is underway or scheduled to begin at your site, EPA will tell you that it is not yet accepting TAG applications for your site.
Q. What if more than one group wants to apply for a TAG?
A. If your group is the first to send EPA a letter of intent, other interested groups will have 30 days to contact your group to form a coalition. If the groups cannot form a coalition, EPA will accept separate grant applications from all interested groups for an additional 30 day period.
Q. What do we do next?
A. The next step is to determine whether your state or regional clearinghouse requires review of your grant application so that your Governor can stay informed about the kinds of grants awarded within the state. The EPA Regional Office can provide you with the contact for the intergovernmental review process.
Q. What has to be submitted?
A. The last step is to prepare your TAG application (Application for Federal Assistance) which includes: (1) a budget that shows how you will spend the money; and (2) a scope of work, which explains how your group will organize, describes the work that will be undertaken with the technical advisor and how your group will share information with the affected community, and identifies your project's milestones and provides a schedule for meeting those milestones. The scope of work also explains how your group's board of directors, technical advisors, and project manager will interact with each other.
What Will It Take to Manage A TAG?
Q. Will we have to open a special bank account?
A. Yes. Reimbursement will be made to the group, so your group should open a bank account in the name of the group.
Q. What types of reports are required?
A. Your group will have to submit several types of reports to EPA during the life of the TAG: (a) quarterly progress reports (b) financial status reports (c) annual Minority Owned Business Enterprise/Women Owned Business Enterprise (MBE/WBE) utilization reports, and (d) a final report.
(a) Quarterly progress reports are required to show your group's progress towards completing its TAG project according to the approved schedule. The quarterly report tracks TAG project milestones and identifies any special problems your group may have encountered.
(b) Annual Financial Status reports are required to track the status of project funds by showing all project transactions. A final financial status report also is required after your project ends.
(c) Annual MBE/WBE utilization reports must be submitted, even if no contracts have been awarded. If your group entered into a contract during the year, the value of the contract and the percentage of project dollars spent using minority- or women-owned businesses will have to be reported.
(d) The Final Report will include a description of project goals and objectives, activities undertaken to achieve goals and objectives, difficulties encountered, technical advisor's work products, and funds spent.
Q. Are there other financial or record-keeping requirements?
A. In additional to the report requirements, you must send EPA a copy of each final written product your technical advisor prepares for your group. Your group also must keep careful records that show how TAG funds are spent and document the steps your group took to comply with federal regulations for procuring goods and services with TAG funds. Your group must keep TAG records for ten years from the date of the final financial status report, unless you opt to send your records to EPA for safekeeping. After ten years, you may dispose of your TAG records if you get written approval from EPA.
How Do We Find and Hire a Technical Advisor?
Q. What should we look for in a technical advisor?
A. Your group must follow government regulations when procuring goods and services with TAG funds. This means you must provide an opportunity for all qualified contractors to compete for the work. Before considering any technical advisor, the group must make sure the advisor is not on the "list of parties excluded from federal procurement." The EPA Regional Office can help you make this determination.
Your group should hire a technical advisor who has (1) knowledge of hazardous or toxic waste issues, relocation issues, redevelopment issues or public health issues related to hazardous substance/toxic waste issues, (2) academic training in a relevant field (toxicology, biochemistry, environmental sciences, engineering, environmental law and planning). A public health technical advisor should have received public health or related training at an accredited school of medicine, public health or an accredited academic institution of other allied disciplines, (3) the ability to translate technical information into terms the group and community can understand, and (4) experience working on and communicating information to the public about hazardous or toxic waste issues.