Competition for Assistance Agreements
On this page:
- Competition for Assistance Agreements
- Ranking Criteria
- Where can I find a RFA or RFIP?
- Timeliness of Applications and Proposals
- Evaluations of Applications and Initial Proposals
- Notifying Unsuccessful Applicants
- Federal Grant Opportunities
Competition for Assistance Agreements
It is EPA policy to promote competition in the award of assistance agreements to the maximum extent practicable. When assistance agreements are awarded competitively, it is EPA policy that the competitive process be fair and open and that no applicant receive an unfair competitive advantage. The blue section in the back of the manual contains a copy of EPA's Policy for Competition in Assistance Agreements (EPA Order 5700.5A1).
There are two types of competition at EPA; Simplified and full and open.
Simplified competition is used when a headquarters or regional program office decides to use a competitive process when funds available for award(s) are less than or equal to the competition threshold, currently $15,000.
Full and open competition is the preferred method of competition under EPA's Policy for Competition in Assistance Agreements (EPA Order 5700.5A1).
To be considered for support, an applicant must be an eligible entity and must submit a complete application in accordance with established receipt dates (i.e., deadlines). Information to be submitted typically includes a project description, budget and budget justification, biographical sketches of key personnel, and other information specified in the application kit, in the solicitation, and/or in program guidelines, if any. Applicants should consult the cost principles and general administrative requirements for grants pertaining to their organizational type in order to prepare the budget and complete other parts of the application. Applicants may be required to provide proof of organizational eligibility (such as proof of non-profit status), trainee or fellow eligibility and citizenship, or other eligibility information.
Applications must also demonstrate compliance (or intent to comply), through certifications or other means, with a number of public policy requirements.
In 1977 Congress passed the Federal Program Information Act. This act established a comprehensive and centralized foundation for the annual publication of federal domestic assistance programs. The General Services Administration (GSA) maintains the federal assistance information data base from which the CFDA is published.
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance is a government-wide compendium of federal programs, projects, services, and activities which provide assistance or benefits to the American public. It contains financial and nonfinancial assistance programs administered by the departments and establishments of the federal government.
The primary purpose of the catalog is to assist potential applicants in identifying programs which meet their specific objectives and to provide general information on federal assistance programs.
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) always contains the most current published information.
The ranking criteria to be used to evaluate applications and proposals must be established by the EPA program office before the Request of Applications or Initial Proposals is published. The criteria should assure that reviewers will be able to differentiate applications or proposals on the quality of the applications or proposals. The criteria must be included in the Request for Applications or Request for Initial Proposals. EPA will not make funding decisions on the basis of undisclosed threshold or evaluation criteria.
Where can I find a RFA or RFIP?
EPA will publish the RFA or RFIP at the Grants.gov website and on an EPA website, allowing generally 45 days before the application deadline. Additionally, EPA may supplement notification in the Federal Register or web site publication by:
- Publication in newsletters, trade journals, general circulation newspapers, or other written media or by mass mailing.
- Providing RFAs or RFIPs using electronic means other than web-sites such as through list servers or facsimile mailing lists that are periodically updated. New potential applicants, upon request, may be added to the lists.
- Mailing copies of RFAs or RFIPs to eligible organizations on EPA mailing lists that are periodically updated. New potential applicants, upon request, may be added to the lists.
- Using other methods that are reasonably calculated to ensure that likely interested parties will be notified.
If EPA changes the requirements of a RFA or RFIP before the application deadline, potential applicants will be notified in the same manner that the original announcement was publicized or announced.
EPA may authorize an application deadline extension when justified by appropriate circumstances. EPA will notify potential applicants of the extension, in the same manner the original notice was publicized, or such other manner as to assure all potential applicants are notified.
Timeliness of Applications and Proposals
Generally, to be considered timely, applications and initial proposals must be postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service, hand-delivered, or electronically delivered to the Agency, or include official delivery service documentation indicating EPA acceptance from a delivery service, on or before the deadline date published in the RFA or RFIP.
Evaluations of Applications and Initial Proposals
Evaluations of Applications and Initial Proposals will generally be done by a panel. The panel will review and rank or prepare a list of qualified and unqualified Applications or Initial Proposals for which qualified applicant's will be invited to submit final proposals. The ranking must be based on the evaluation criteria and relative weights included in the Request for Proposals or Request for Initial Applications. The panel will also review and rank or list final proposals in response to a request that selected Initial Proposers submit final proposals. An approval official must determine, from the qualified final Applications, which to approve.
Panels may be made up of EPA and other Federal Agency employees, as appropriate. Non-federal personnel may also participate in the review process, but final decisions on the relevance of a proposal to program needs and the selection of recipients must be made by EPA staff. The panel selection process must ensure that individual reviewers do not have a conflict of interest with regard to a particular applicant, application or initial or final proposals.
Notifying Unsuccessful Applicants
EPA will notify unsuccessful applicants in writing, generally within 45 days of selection, that they will not be receiving awards. If requested by the applicant, EPA will provide a written explanation as to why the applicant did not receive an award, including a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the application or initial proposal or final proposal.
Unsuccessful applicants may request review of final finding decisions in accordance with the dispute resolution process.
Contents of Requests for Applications or Requests for Initial Proposals
Requests for Applications(RFA's) and Requests for Initial Proposals (RFIP's) issued by the EPA currently must, as applicable, include the following information:
- The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number and title for the program or project to be funded, where available. (If the request for assignment of a CFDA number is pending, the announcement should indicate this.)
- An estimate of: the amount of Federal funds that may be available for award; the number of individual awards; the amounts or range of individual awards; the amount of funding per award; and the project periods for the awards. Whether applications for supplemental awards of existing projects are eligible to compete with applications for new awards should be addressed as well.
- Applicant eligibility requirements.
- Background information on the types of projects the Agency is interested in supporting, including any limitations on the scope of the statutory authority for the planned award. The Agency's funding priorities or the technical or focus areas in which the Agency intends to provide assistance must be described.
- Matching or cost sharing requirements, if any.
- Subjects that the applicant must address in the application, or initial proposal including related content and forms and formats. (The list or description of subjects must be consistent with the evaluation factors.)
- Process, procedures, due dates, and local time for submitting applications or initial proposals.
- The availability of pre-application assistance, if any, to ensure that all applicants have the same opportunity to obtain assistance.
- Whether a grant or cooperative agreement will be used, if known, and for a cooperative agreement competition, the anticipated substantial involvement between the Federal government and the recipient.
- Any threshold "pass/fail" criteria that an applicant must meet to be considered for an award, such as the need for certain legal authorities to carry out a project.
- The evaluation criteria that will be applied to the review of applications or initial and final proposals and the relative importance of each criterion.
- Other factors that will be considered in making award decisions after applications are initially evaluated, such as the geographic distribution of funds.
- The process that will be used to evaluate applications or initial and final proposals.
- The dispute resolution process in accordance with 40 CFR 30.63 and Part 31, subpart F.
- Applicable regulations and cost principles, and other administrative requirements.
- A statement that applicants should clearly mark information they consider confidential, and that EPA will make final confidentiality decisions in accordance with Agency regulations at 40 CFR. Part 2, Subpart B.
- A statement indicating the applicability of Executive Order 12372, Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs.
- A statement that EPA reserves the right to reject all proposals or applications and make no awards.
- For RFIPs, a clear explanation that EPA will invite only applicants whose initial proposals are selected to submit detailed final proposals.
- Title of RFA or RFIP if different from CFDA title.
- RFA or RFIP number or other information which identifies the announcement, if available.
- The Program Office name and mailing address with zip code.
- The name of the Program Office contacts including telephone number, if appropriate, fax number, and e-mail address.
- The address to request application forms (Standard Form 424) and related information or Internet address where materials are accessible. For RFIPs, application forms (SF 424) generally are required only with final proposals.
- Information regarding funding restrictions in order to allow the applicant to develop an application and budget consistent with program requirements (e.g., allowable activities, limitations on direct costs such as foreign travel or equipment purchases, and limitations on indirect costs).
- Other information which may be required in guidance issued by the Competition Advocate.
The Policy for Competition of Assistance Agreements page is designed to inform applicants of possible funding opportunities. The site is linked to other useful tools used in the process of applying for a grant.