An official website of the United States government.

Frequent Questions about the FY 2020 Children's Healthy Learning Environments RFA

On this page:

General information about the FY2020 Children's Healthy Learning Environments RFA


General Information

1. EPA is not able to comment on specific projects or approaches in applications.

2. Can you repeat examples of environmental and health factors affecting children?

Information related to children's unique exposures is available on our  websites at epa.gov/children and https://www.epa.gov/schools Examples mentioned include air pollution, both indoor and ambient; toxic chemicals, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic; pests and pesticides; water pollution; radon; carbon monoxide; asbestos; and other chemicals of concern defined by EPA.

2. What do you mean by multi-media?

Examples of environmental media include, soil, air, and water. Ideally, a project would help to prevent and reduce exposure to health hazards in more than one media.

4. Can you further explain what you mean by "building on existing work"?

EPA is seeking projects that further existing efforts and understanding, rather than replicating current efforts. Applications should discuss why the project is important to the advancement of the field of children's environmental health by discussing how these activities will build upon existing national efforts and programs.

5. Must the proposal deal with more than one environmental concern?

EPA would prefer a multi-media approach, but even a focus on one issue or environmental concern, such as reducing lead exposures, could have multi-media impacts.

6. What do you mean in the RFA by "authoritative children's environmental health training"?

EPA is not looking for projects that create new materials when many materials with the same information are available on EPA's website. Training materials should build upon already existing materials to the extent possible. "Authoritative" means materials and approaches that have been peer-reviewed or otherwise reviewed.

7. What is "just-in time" training? (mentioned as an example activity on p. 4 of the RFA)

Just-in time training generally refers to trainings that are part of day-to-day work, rather than a separate, scheduled session. Just-in time training is available when and where employees need it.

8. Is one Principal Investigator (PI) acceptable with partners? Or would you like to see Co-PIs?

One is acceptable.

9. Are pilot projects that could be replicated acceptable?

Projects should create sustained activities that continue beyond the completion of the grant project period. Replicability is one of the evaluation criteria under "Cross-agency Coordination, Outreach, Transferability and Sustainability."

10. Would this grant favor funding long-term projects or short-term projects already in an organization's pipeline?

EPA is looking for projects that will have sustained activities beyond the two-year funding period. EPA is looking for projects that will be able to continue with other funding sources or on their own, or that could be replicated.

11. What are the "learning" concepts referred to in the presentation?

Grant activities must relate to gathering or transferring information or advancing awareness and demonstrating changes in attitudes and behaviors of those participating. Proposals should emphasize this "learning" concept, rather than trying to "fix" an environmental problem using a well-established method. Activities should promote learning and understanding.

Top of Page


Award Amount

12. Could you clarify the ceiling award for each awardee? On the first page, it says between $290,000 and $315,000.

EPA currently has a total of $290,000 in funding; the range is provided in case EPA is able to add additional funding before the grant is awarded.

13. Our program budget is larger than the grant. For program activities related to the grant, should we include all expenses or just those that would add up to the grant total (half of $290,000)?

EPA is looking at projects that fit within the grant limit, which is half of $290,000. That could be used to fund a discrete portion of a larger project. EPA would look to make sure the application was for no more than the $145,000.

14. Why not break this down into smaller grants so that more groups can benefit?

In consideration of the costs of administering many small awards, EPA decided to focus instead on two awards each with a broader reach.

15. Is the award listing, "not to exceed $145,000" an annual amount or the amount for the two- year project period?

$145,000 is the total amount for each grant. Project periods may be one or two years.

16. Are matching funds required? Will matching funds make my application stronger?

Cost-sharing or matching is not required as a condition of eligibility under this competition and are not included as part of the evaluation criteria.

Top of Page


Partnerships with Schools and/or Childcare Settings

17. Will formal letters of support be required from the school districts proposed?

No, formal letters of support are not specifically included as part of the evaluation criteria. EPA is looking for past relationships or examples of relationships with schools where applicable. Letters can be included, but they will not be evaluated as formal letters of support or partnership. EPA is looking for a description of your organization's history with the school districts and/or your outreach plan to reach school districts.

18. Would partnerships with schools and childcare settings need to be established prior to application or can these efforts be part of the grant?

Either method is acceptable. If the applicant has an existing relationship with a school or childcare facility that they would like to use, that is welcome. The narrative should include details of the relationship and confirmation that the school or facility would be a willing partner. If the applicant does not have that sort of relationship, EPA would be looking for a plan for reaching those school districts in the narrative.

19. Can you provide an example of target audiences in schools (e.g., principals, teachers, facilities management)?

EPA is looking to build capacity among decision makers, defined as those adults who have authority for school and/or childcare facilities or who control, or influence resources used for school and/or childcare facilities. Beyond that, reach is up to the applicant.

20. What type of materials should applicants provide to demonstrate partnerships with schools?

Applicants should include a summary of the relationship and past projects under "Who" in the project narrative. Formal letters of commitment are not required.

Top of Page


Project Scope

21. What minimum and maximum geographic area should be covered?

There is no minimum or maximum. In the final selection, EPA will make sure the geographic areas are diverse. The geographic area and reach should be included in the project narrative.

22. Is there a minimum number of students or buildings you are hoping to address with each grant?

EPA is trying to maximize the number of entities with maximum effectiveness. That is why the geographic area as well as number of schools impacted are included in the evaluation criteria. EPA is asking applicants to make sure all that information is included as part of their narrative. EPA is not setting specific numbers of students or buildings. No specific quotas must be met.

23. How does geographic reach factor in if the program is to be used nationwide?

Applicants from throughout the United States may apply (i.e., the nationwide competition), but EPA is not expecting each of the two grants to cover the entire nation. EPA is leaving it up to the applicants to define the geographic reach of their specific projects. If the application is for a nationwide project, submit that and define the number of schools and/or childcare settings, and number of people therein, expected to be reached.

Top of Page


Eligible Activities

24. Can projects focus on community settings (e.g. neighborhoods that include schools and childcare facilities) since communities are a key part of children's physical environments?

The project would need to be focused on the school and childcare facilities within neighborhoods. Projects can address both schools and childcare settings.

25. Would training programs to promote awareness include children's and their families' perceptions of health-related risks in the community?

Yes, promotion of awareness among children and families is closely related to one of the example outcomes listed in the RFA, i.e., increased awareness among students and staff about the school environment. Projects must be focused on the learning environment.

26. Does the funding allow for addressing home day cares, such as removing lead-based paint?

The grant scope of work may focus on home day cares, but the focus of the work should be on reaching the home day care facilities about lead-based paint and how to safely remove it, not the actual removal of lead-based paint.

27. Can you give examples of funding that can be provided to schools given that funds can NOT be used for school-based projects?

Funds cannot be used for fixing the school building or a project of that sort. Funds can be used for developing trainings, technical assistance, creating best practices, or fostering collaboration networks.

28. We are an environmental education center that partners with school districts, and our partners also oversee childcare centers. Would a project such as a training program for these partners be an eligible project?

Yes.

29. Would updates to a visitor center, to include an interactive exhibit regarding environmental issues, be permitted? Can you clarify some of the differences between promoting awareness and implementing programs? Are educational programs not directly covered?

Educational programs (at visitor centers, for example) are not directly covered because the grant is focused on reaching the decision makers who can effect change or change attitudes in their schools or childcare facilities. Student awareness should be a byproduct rather than a focus of the grant application.

30. Can we address Higher Ed schools in our application?

No. For the purposes of this solicitation, schools include public, private, charter, parochial and K-12 schools; childcare settings include early care and education, such as nurseries, preschools, pre-kindergartens, centers, child development programs, Head Start, Early Head Start, and in-home childcare facilities.

31. I own a childcare center. Am I eligible for funding? Can funding be used for my mortgage or payroll? Can I use the funding to install air conditioning in my center?

Childcare centers may be eligible if they meet the criteria in Section III.A. Note that the evaluation criteria include reach, or number of students potentially affected by the funded activities. Note that funding cannot be used for building improvements or payments or for general staff payroll.

32. Our organizations works with policymakers and school boards to help draft policies that ban the use of toxics in school and park lands. Are these activities eligible under this grant?

Lobbying or political activities as defined in 2 CFR Section 200.450 are ineligible under this grant.

Top of Page


Allowable Costs

33. Are indirect costs included in the grant award?

Indirect costs may be budgeted and charged by recipients in accordance with 2 CFR Part 200. If indirect charges are budgeted, indicate the approved rate and base. Provide the percentage rate used and explain how charges were calculated for this project. Recipients who have never received an indirect cost rate may charge 10% de-minimis rate based on Modified Total Indirect Costs as provided in 2 CFR Part 200. Additional indirect cost guidance is available in RAIN-2018-G02, "Indirect Cost Guidance for Recipients of EPA Assistance Agreements." (See RFA pg. 30)

34. Can salaries be covered under the grant?

Regarding salaries that can and cannot be covered under the grant: Personnel includes only direct costs for the salaries of those individuals who will perform work directly for the project (paid employees of the applicant organization). Personnel costs do not include: 1) costs for services of contractors; 2) personnel of subrecipients; or 3) effort that is not directly in support of the proposed project. See page 29 of the RFA for details on what you need to include in your Budget Detail.

35. Will the grantee be able to subcontract?

Subcontracting is allowed. RFA section 4 provides details, including a clause about subcontracting and how that is evaluated. Contracts will have to be competed except in limited circumstances. Please review the "Contracts and subawards" solicitation provision available at https://www.epa.gov/grants/epa-solicitationclauses. Refer to EPA's Best Practice Guide for Procuring Services, Supplies, and Equipment Under EPA Assistance Agreements and Subaward Policy and supplemental Frequent Questions for additional guidance.

36. Are subawards to key project partner organizations allowed?

Funding may be used to provide subawards of financial assistance, which includes using subawards to fund partnerships, provided the recipient complies with applicable requirements for subawards including those contained in 2 CFR Part 200 and EPA's Subaward Policy. EPA has also posted Additional Resources on Subawards for applicants to consult. Applicants may not use sub-agreements to transfer or delegate their responsibility for successful completion of their EPA assistance agreement.

37. Related to the budget, do food costs for approved, relevant meetings/long training sessions belong under "Contractual" instead of "Other"?

Meals provided through a caterer (separate from a facility rental cost) belong in the contractual category. More information is available in the Interim General Budget Development Guidance for Applicants and Recipients of EPA Financial Assistance (Section VI. B. 2. a. through e). (PDF)

38. Does EPA set salary caps for allowable personnel or consultant costs?

i. EPA participation in the salary rate (excluding overhead) paid to individual consultants retained by recipients or by a recipient's contractors or subcontractors shall be limited to the maximum daily rate for a Level IV of the Executive Schedule, available at: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/. This limit applies to consultation services of designated individuals with specialized skills who are paid at a daily or hourly rate. This rate does not include transportation and subsistence costs for travel performed (the recipient will pay these in accordance with their normal travel reimbursement practices). More information about EPA general terms and conditions (PDF).

ii. Salary costs may be questioned as unreasonable under 2 CFR 200.404(e) if the recipient compensates employees at a higher rate when their time is charged to EPA grants than for work that is not Federally funded. More information on personnel costs is in Section II.A of the Interim General Budget Development Guidance for Applicants and Recipients of EPA Financial Assistance.

39. Can funding be used to provide stipends?

Stipends are generally allowed as program support costs. See EPA's Interim Guidance on Program Support Costs for details. 

Top of Page


Application Assistance

40. What are the key differences between the "Management Capability and Staff Expertise" and "Programmatic Capability and Past Performance" sections?

The difference between management capability and programmatic capability is detailed in the project narrative and evaluation section of the RFA criteria. The past performance and programmatic capability criteria are designed to consider an applicant's experience and past performance with prior grants (e.g., timely submission of reports) to give an indication of risk. Management capability is more forward-looking and considers an applicant's resources and ability to perform this project, including organizational experience for overseeing projects similar in size and complexity to the proposed project (i.e., past projects not funded by federal grants).

41. Is the "Programmatic Capability and Past Performance" section part of the Work Plan or an appendix?

Under section "Content of Submission," E4, management capability (and project performance) is part of the project narrative.

42. Some of the guidance in the RFA under project narrative descriptions seems to repeat. For example, under "What," you ask for key staff responsibilities and qualifications, etc. Yet this has a section of its own: "Management Capability and Staff Expertise." Should we repeat information or refer to other sections?

Applicants need not repeat information since there is a page limit. Instead, refer to other sections.

43. I'm having issues submitting the application on Grants.gov.

Please contact Grants.gov at 1-800-518-4726 before the application deadline.

44. On Budget Summary, Section A, Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number. Where do I find this?

This CFDA for this opportunity is 66.609.

45. On Budget Summary, Section B-6, Object Class Categories. What are these?

Object class categories are the headings listed on form 424A: personnel/salaries; fringe benefits; travel; equipment over $5000; supplies; contract costs; other costs; and indirect costs.

46. On Application, question 19. "E.O. 12372 REVIEW: Is Application Subject to Review By State Under Executive Order 12372 Process?" How/where can I find the answer on this?

Yes. Under CFDA 66.609, applications are eligible for intergovernmental review.

Top of Page


COVID-19

47. Regarding questions about COVID-19 and if schools are still closed in the fall; can the funding be used for teachers to educate students about the home environment?

This grant is not targeted at educating the students or addressing the home environment. The grant is to be directed to those with the responsibility to improve school settings. Increasing awareness among students and their families can be part of the project but should not the primary or sole focus. Applicants may decide whether services can be provided virtually.

48. Do you want us to include air and surface disinfection and training related to COVID-19 and re-occupation?

Training and capacity building in terms of indoor air quality and cleaning and disinfection could be covered in the proposal; however, it is not required.

49. Are there any accommodations for timeline due to COVID-19? (e.g., it's hard to get letters or statements of support from schools within the timeframe requested; schools have competing priorities in dealing with COVID-19)

Applications are due June 1, 2020. Due to funding cycles, EPA is unable to extend the application deadline. Letters of support are not required and will not be evaluated.

Project periods can be up to two years and can include both in-person and/or virtual events and activities where applicable. Specific needs for project extensions can be negotiated with EPA after award. EPA can extend the period of performance for grants to address the impacts of COVID-19, consistent with applicable law relating to the availability of appropriations or otherwise, 2 CFR 200.308, equivalent provisions of 40 CFR Part 35, and the General Term and Condition "Transfer of Funds" for recipients if necessary. For more information on grants and COVID-19, please see EPA's FAQs.

Top of Page