RFA Application Assistance: Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ information below has been updated as of April 2020.
- Q. What is the San Francisco Bay Area Water Quality Improvement Fund (SFBWQIF)?
The SFBWQIF is a competitive grant program aimed at protecting and restoring the water quality and aquatic habitat of San Francisco Bay and its watersheds. To date, EPA has awarded over $58 million in 49 grants, matching and leveraging over $168 million, and involving over 80 partners. Emphasis is on technically sound projects that restore wetlands and improve water quality, are well planned including climate change considerations, track progress towards environmental results, are cost effective, and maximize diverse partnerships.
- Q. What are the SFBWQIF funding priorities?
EPA is seeking technically sound projects to reduce polluted run-off, restore impaired waters and increase wetlands habitat. Achieving significant environmental results is an overall program priority. Therefore, it is most important that environmental results, also known as outcomes, such as those relating to water quality improvements and aquatic habitat enhancements, be quantitatively described in the proposal and a timeframe provided for achieving the results. Anticipated outcomes should not be expressed in general terms; for instance, just referencing "water quality improvements" is not sufficient. For more information on quantifying anticipated water quality results, see Section I.C.2 "Environmental Outputs and Outcomes." For projects that are implementing activities called for in a plan such as a TMDL or a restoration plan with an extended (e.g. 20-50 year time horizon) timeframe, applicants should explain the degree to which the activities move towards the stated long-term goal or outcome.
- Q. Are there new funding priorities this year?
Yes. This year, in addition to long-standing funding priorities such as beneficially reusing dredged sediments and multi-benefit projects that improve shoreline and watershed resiliency, the solicitation describes other priorities including addressing microplastics in the environment and addressing water quality impacts of homeless encampments.
- Q. How much funding is available this year?
There is approximately $5.9 million available this year and EPA expects to award three – five grants.
San Francisco Bay Water Quality Improvement Fund 2020 Request for Proposals Funding Opportunity Number EPA-R9-SFBWQIF-20-01 Available Funds ~$5.9 million Funding Range for Projects $500,000 to $2,000,000 Match (Statutory Authority) 50% Evaluation Criteria (Total of 100 pts)
1. Scope/Approach (20 pts)
2. Environmental Results (25 pts)
3. Budget Detail (18 pts)
4. Programmatic Capability and Past Performance (12 pts)
5. Expenditure of Awarded Grant Funds (5 pts)
6a. Partnerships (20 pts) or 6b. Disadvantaged Communities (20 pts)
- Q. Will there be more funding available in the future?
Funding for the SFBWQIF is dependent each year on allocations in the federal budget approved by Congress.
- Q: How many projects do you expect to fund?
A: EPA expects to fund 3-5 projects with the funds available in 2020.
- Q: When will this grant opportunity be made available again?
A: The SFBWQIF allocation is part of EPA's annual budget. Thus, typically, the grant funds would be offered annually in an RFA. From page 6 of the RFA, EPA does reserve the right to "..make additional awards under this announcement, consistent with Agency policy and guidance, if additional funding becomes available after the original selection decisions. Any additional selections for awards will be made no later than six months after the original selection decisions." This provision was used in 2015 and 2018, resulting in a year gap between RFA's from 2014 to 2016 and 2018 to 2020.
- Q. Where do I start?
You should start by closely reading the funding announcements. Determine your eligibility by reviewing Section III, Eligibility Information. Carefully consider the Program Elements (Section I.B) and Evaluation Criteria (Section V.A) to develop your proposed activities to achieve specific outputs and outcomes in a manner that will address the evaluation criteria.
- Q. What kind of materials do I need to submit for the application?
To be considered for a SFBWQIF grant, EPA requires that each submission contain a set of common elements that are described in Section IV.B (Content of Proposal Submission.) The materials that must be included in the application package include: Application for Federal Assistance Standard Form 424, Standard Form 424A, 12 page Proposal Narrative, and a map of the project.
The full funding package is what is submitted once an applicant has been selected for funding and typically includes the final work plan, a detailed budget and an updated budget (if needed as in the case of partially funded projects).
- Q. What is the application submission deadline?
A. Applications must be submitted through Grants.gov as stated in Section IV of this announcement (except in the limited circumstances where another mode of submission is specifically allowed for as explained in Section IV.A) on or before the application submission deadline of 8:59 pm Pacific Time on May 13, 2020.
- Q. How will EPA review applications?
1. Eligible applications will be evaluated by the EPA Region 9 Review Committee which will score and rank the proposals using the evaluation criteria in Section V.A. The Review Committee will consist of EPA staff and may also include representatives from other state or Federal agencies.
2. Final Selections and Awards. The Review Committee will provide rankings and funding recommendations based on the full application scores to the selection official (Director of EPA Region 9 Water Division). Final funding decisions will be made by the selection official who can also take into account the following factors: geographic distribution of funds, diversity of projects, and availability of funds. Proposals selected for funding will be asked to submit a final application package in order to receive funds.
- Q. Are applicants required to follow the format detailed on in section IV B of the RFA under Proposal Submission Content?
A. The format in section IV B of the RFA is provided as guidance intended to be a helpful organization tool to the applicant and is not a requirement for submission.
- Q. Is the $500,000 of the $500,000 – $2 million funding range just EPA dollars or the total project cost?
A. $500,000 is the approximate minimum amount of EPA funds applicants can apply for, not the total project cost.
- Q. How are ‘disadvantaged communities’ identified in this RFA?
A. In Section I.B of the 2020 RFA, we describe disadvantaged communities as underserved communities which include economically disadvantaged or other populations with disproportionate exposure to environmental harm. The RFA also includes a Disadvantaged Communities Identification Map (Figure 1) with highlighted geographic areas that were derived from a combination of census tract areas identified by EJSCREEN and indicators for pollution burden and population characteristics identified by CalEnviroScreen v 3.0.
- Q. How do I decide whether my proposal should respond to the Partnerships criteria or the Disadvantaged Communities criteria?
A. Your proposal should describe EITHER your project’s partnership activities OR its benefits for disadvantaged communities. Applicants who mistakenly address both criteria will be contacted by EPA.
It is up to the applicant to designate roles asked for in the SAMS and grants.gov databases according to their own their internal procedures regarding authorized reviewers and approvers, delegated approvers, etc. If you need clarification, you may use the grants.gov help line at 1-800-518-4726 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EPA accepts electronic signatures using Adobe or other systems that have controls in place to validate a signature.
Your budget form (424A) should reflect a 1:1 match for your grant request. Any additional project funding needed to complete your project should be described in the narrative project description of the application as leveraged resources. Leveraged resources/funding are those funds that are outside the federal grant amount and match but that also contribute to the success of your project. (see also “will a higher than 1:1 match give any advantage to a proposal?” in the “Match Requirement” section of these FAQs)
- Q: Is there a higher resolution version of the Disadvantaged Communities map (Figure 1) available that shows more details such as street names?
A: No, the intent of the map is to indicate general locations of disadvantaged communities based on census tract and other indicators of pollution burden and population characteristics. The map was not intended to show specific streets or landmarks.
- Q. How can I tell if I am eligible to apply for a grant?
A. The following entities are eligible to apply for funding under this announcement unless restricted by the authorizing statute(s): State, local government agencies, districts, and councils; regional water pollution control agencies and entities; State coastal zone management agencies; public and private universities and colleges, and; and public or private non-governmental, non-profit institutions. Non-profit organizations must have documentation of non-profit status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or their state of incorporation, except that non-profits organizations as defined in Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code that engage in lobbying as defined in Section 3 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act 1995 or superseding legislation are ineligible.
- Q. Are federal agencies eligible to apply for SFBWQIF grants?
A. Federal agencies are not eligible to apply for grants, however, they are eligible for subwards and subcontracts where appropriate as partners for a particular project.
- Q. What is ineligible for funding?
A. Projects in the nine Bay Area counties that address water quality issues NOT affecting SF Bay (i.e. areas that drain into the ocean and upper Delta) are ineligible.
EPA also conducts a threshold eligibility review of all proposals (Section III.C). Applicants deemed ineligible for funding consideration as a result of the threshold eligibility review will be notified within 15 calendar days of the ineligibility determination.
- Q. Are preaward costs eligible?
A. In certain circumstances, costs incurred within 90 days prior to the grant award may be eligible for reimbursement. However, this does not include any costs associated with responding to this solicitation or in finalizing the application package. If costs are incurred before the award, they are incurred at the applicant's own risk.
- Q. What kinds of LID projects are eligible?
A. The following are some examples of LID-related institutional capacity building and on-the-ground activities that are eligible under the RFA.
Institutional Capacity Examples
- Develop and carry out laws, ordinances, and incentive programs to implement watershed programs such as systematic implementation of low impact development, land acquisition, and transfer of development rights.
- Enhance and implement watershed protection and land use plans, stormwater controls and/or land development standards to achieve water quality objectives and maintain native vegetation and natural hydrology. Tools expected to be part of these improvements include watershed models predicting hydrologic impacts of alternative, future land cover conditions, development scenarios, and anticipated climate change impacts.
- Implement watershed-based, interagency monitoring and project tracking systems to foster coordinated adaptive management to achieve TMDL and aquatic resource protection goals.
- Increase data and information available to local decision-makers who write and implement laws, ordinances, and permits.
- Implementing BMP's to reduce impervious surfaces in watersheds and drainages to protect and/or restore water quality and downstream beneficial uses, etc.
- Restoring a floodplain and/or wetlands to buffer effects from high flow events and enhance habitat.
- Systematically improve and/or replace urban drainage systems (e.g. culverts) with green infrastructure to improve natural hydrology and capture pollutant loads in stormwater.
- Q. Is land acquisition eligible as a project type if it meets the RFA criteria?
A. Land acquisition is not explicitly prohibited, thus it is an eligible project activity. We would stress, however, that the land acquisition would have to be directly linked to or demonstrated to be a key factor in restoring wetlands or improving water quality conditions in impaired waterbodies. To date, SFBWQIF funds have NOT been used for acquisition.
- Q. Could a SFBWQIF grant be used as seed money to start a revolving loan fund for water quality improvement projects?
A. Developing a revolving loan fund is NOT an eligible activity under this grant program.
- Q. Can the funding be used to meet municipal stormwater permit requirements under NPDES permits if the proposed activities meet the grant criteria?
A. Yes. The funding can be used to meet the municipal stormwater permit requirements under NPDES permits if the proposed activities meet the announcement requirements and criteria. EPA is encouraging proposals that address stormwater to go beyond the regulatory requirements of the permit. Examples of the types of stormwater system improvements that go beyond stormwater permit requirements on a watershed scale could be:
- Retrofitting existing development to reduce stormwater impacts.
- Systematic preservation and restoration of streams and wetlands critical to maintenance and restoration of watershed hydrology.
- Removal of local institutional barriers to facilitate the systematic implementation of LID.
- Incentive programs for private homeowners to incorporate LID measures.
- Changes to future land use patterns and practices.
- Q. Is advocacy an eligible activity?
A. Advocacy is sometimes used as a term for lobbying, so applicants should be aware that there are prohibitions on the use of federal funds as follows: any recipient of funding must agree to comply with restrictions on using assistance funds for unauthorized lobbying, fund-raising, or political activities (i.e., lobbying members of Congress or lobbying for other federal grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts).
- Q: Are planning and design activities eligible activities?
A: As stated on page 3 (Section 1.B) of our RFA, "proposals for pre-project planning and assessment will be considered for funding; such proposals should provide details of a specific commitment to future implementation and discussion of known hurdles to implementation."
- Q: Are monitoring activities eligible activities?
- Q: Is public access an eligible activity?
A: Yes, public access, such as additions to the Bay Trail, can be component of your project, but may not meet all evaluation criteria if it is proposed as the primary activity.
- Q: If a pilot system (e.g. infrastructure, an asset, etc., valued above $5,000) will be built by the recipient using an EPA grant, will EPA own the system at the end of the grant period?
A: Capital expenditures for special purpose equipment (e.g. infrastructure for pilot projects) are allowable as direct costs, provided that items with a unit cost of $5,000 or more have prior written approval from EPA.
- Q. What are "Outputs and Outcomes"?
A. Outputs and outcomes are explained in Section I.C.2 of the RFA. The terms outputs and outcomes are derived from the EPA's increased focus on environmental results (EPA Policy Order 5700.7 Environmental Results). Therefore, EPA's priority is to support projects that are likely to achieve quantifiable outcomes. Applicants must include specific statements describing the environmental results of the proposed project in terms of well-defined "outputs" and "outcomes".
Outputs are the activities or deliverables that are to be accomplished as a result of a grant. Outputs are generally described as deliverables or milestones in a workplan or timeline. EPA project officers track the completion of outputs to monitor the progress of a grant. Outputs include things like workshops held, volunteers trained, studies, watershed management plans, outreach materials, etc.
Outcomes are the environmental impacts or results of the work of the grant. While outputs are accomplished during the life of the grant, outcomes may occur after the completion of the grant. It may be useful to categorize outcomes as short-term and/or long-term. Documenting environmental outcomes can be challenging, so a wide range of methods can be utilized including estimation, modeling and monitoring.
- Q. Are there environmental outputs and outcomes for projects that are not on-the-ground?
A. Yes. We encourage local governments and partners to propose outputs related to projects that establish institutional capacity, such as those that involve land use zoning, sub area plans, development standards, regulatory measures in comprehensive plans, and other regulations (or incentive based regulatory programs) to implement stormwater controls, and low impact development (LID). Outcomes in the long term could include projected estimated pollutant load reductions through modeling or providing a range of potential improvements. All outcomes must be quantitative and outcomes to be achieved beyond the assistance agreement funding period should be included.
- Q. How important is describing a logic model in the proposal?
A. Applicants are not required to include a logic model in their proposal. However, the SFBWQIF website provides example logic models as a planning tool that can be useful to applicants. The RFA evaluation criteria take into account well-planned projects. You may choose to provide a logic model framework to describe your project and its environmental outcomes.
- Q: Where can examples of outcomes tables be found?
A: Appendix B of the SFBWQIF Progress Report includes "outcomes tables" for each of our funded projects.
A. QAPPs are usually triggered by data collection. If the modeling exercise will generate data that would inform the project’s subsequent activities or determination of success, a QAPP is required. Please see EPA’s guidance and model QAPPs at: Guidance for Quality Assurance Project Plans for Modeling EPA QA/G-5M. The EPA Region 9 QA office can assist with any questions and concerns regarding the drafting of a QAPP.
- Q. Given the high cost of water quality monitoring, what alternatives will EPA consider?
A. In the case of water quality monitoring for LID projects, estimating pollutant load removals based on existing literature and/or modeling may be acceptable, depending on the BMP and size of the project. For other types of projects, other monitoring approaches, such as photo monitoring, can be proposed by the applicant for consideration.
- Q. Does EPA have a preferred method or guidance for estimating sediment load reductions from restoration or erosion control actions?
A. It is up to the applicant to determine the appropriate method for estimating sediment load reductions as long as it is a standard protocol and is scientifically defensible.
- Q: Does EPA provide guidance on how to estimate costs for monitoring and what monitoring should entail?
A. EPA expects the applicant to be able to budget out appropriate monitoring costs associated with measuring success of a particular project, using appropriate scientific expertise and current methods. EPA encourages collaboration with partnership organizations that have expertise in monitoring if an applicant needs assistance in determining appropriate indicators or measures of success. Please review the overall guidance on how to develop Quality Assurance Project Plans for the monitoring that is appropriate to your project.
- Q: Does a detailed QAPP need to be submitted as part of the proposal?
A: No, if selected for funding, a detailed QAPP will be requested to be submitted to EPA for approval. Your proposal should include the expected tasks of preparing the QAPP in your workplan, budget and timeline.
- Q: How long does EPA approval of a QAPP usually take?
EPA's QA Office estimates a month for an individual QAPP's approval.
A: There are no current requirements in the RFA for specific O&M regimes or easements related to green infrastructure projects.
- Q. Why is EPA emphasizing that implementation be based on TMDLs, appropriate climate change scenarios, watershed plans and other quantitative water quality assessments and plans?
A. EPA's national experience overseeing state nonpoint source (NPS) programs has led us to conclude that significant environmental results are more likely where Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and associated assessments and plans provide detailed information to identify priority activities to achieve water quality objectives and beneficial uses within a specific time frame. The most effective plans should contain sufficient accountability and feedback mechanisms to allow for adaptive management to ensure ongoing progress. Such specific information helps ensure that limited resources can be directed, and leveraged, to address the most significant pollutant sources. For this reason, proposed activities in response to this announcement are expected to be based on data, analysis and information contained in TMDLs, climate change models, watershed plans and related assessments. Evidence should be provided that sufficient planning and assessment has been completed to ensure that the proposal is undertaking priority activities that will achieve significant and sustainable environmental results.
For more information concerning watershed plans you may want to refer to the Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect our Waters (March 2008)
- Q. Should a proposal only address one watershed or can it address several watersheds (e.g., for comparative purposes) as long as the watersheds, or the sub-units, have clearly defined boundaries?
A. A proposal can address one or more watersheds. EPA wants to see applicants address and discuss the watershed plan, appropriate climate change scenarios, sea level rise, fire risk, TMDL and/or associated documents that provide the rationale for the project using a watershed approach.
- Q: What are examples of "existing plans" that the RFA states are important for implementation projects?
A: There are many types of plans that implementation projects can be built on, e.g. SFEP's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), a TMDL, the Baylands Goals Update, a local watershed restoration plan, a local green infrastructure plan, etc...
- Q: Must a project address an adopted TMDL or 303(d) impairment?
A: EPA is not mandating that a project address an adopted TMDL or 303(d) impairment. However, under Section I.B. of the RFA, implementation projects should be based on existing plans, such as a restoration plan, a TMDL, or a stormwater/green infrastructure plan. Restoration plans or green infrastructure plans could identify other water quality problems that a proposed project could address.
- Q. Is there a match requirement?
A. Yes. There is a 50% match requirement, essentially a one-to-one match. The match may be in the form of cash or in-kind contributions. Monies from other federal sources, unless specified by law, may not count toward the match.
- Q: Will a higher than 1:1 match give any advantage to a proposal?
A: It is not recommended that applicants include an overmatch in their proposed budget because if they are selected for grant funding but are unable to meet the overmatch amount, this could jeopardize their grant award. If applicants wish to contribute additional funds or resources above the 50% match requirement, such funds or resources should be characterized as leveraged funds/resources and should be described in the proposal narrative in the context of the overall project and evaluation criteria, but should NOT be included in any of the budget tables (e.g. in the SF 424 or SF 424A). It is possible that applicants might receive more points under the applicable evaluation criteria if they describe how they will leverage resources through partnerships or other means.
- Q. Regarding the 50% match requirement, what exactly does "of the total project cost" mean?
A. In the solicitation announcement, EPA states that the match must cover 50% of the total cost of the project. This indicates that the federal government will not pay more than half of the total project cost, essentially a 1:1 match.
Calculating match is a common mistake in proposal submissions.
Example Formula: (Total Project Cost X .5 = Match)
If you know your TOTAL project cost is, FOR EXAMPLE, $2,000,000, then multiply that amount by .5 to find the required match, $1,000,000, and the REMAINDER, $1,000,000, is the federal amount to be requested, which provides 50% of the project total.
- Q. Can the state provide some of the match?
A. Yes. All or part of the match can come from the state. It can be in the form of cash or in-kind contributions.
- Q: Is “land value” eligible as match?
A: Whether land value can be used as match for the proposed SFBWQIF project will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. Match requirements are addressed in 2 CFR Part 200.306. The requirements regarding match include but are not limited to the following:
- Must be authorized and approved by EPA
- Must be verifiable from the grantees records
- Must not be included as contributions for any other Federal award
- Must comply with the requirements of the Federal cost principles of 2 CFR Part 200, Subpart E
- If the purpose of the grant is to assist in the acquisition of land, the aggregate value of the donated property may be claimed as a match
- The value of donated land must not exceed its fair market value at the time of donation to the grantee as established by an independent appraiser and certified by a responsible official of the grantee
- Q. What is considered to be an in-kind match?
A. In-kind contributions can be an organization's staff time, the use of volunteers, and/or donated time, equipment, expertise, etc., consistent with the regulations governing matching fund requirements (40CFR 31.24 or 40 CFR 30.23).
- Q. How do I "certify" my match?
A. The procedures relating to match certification are standard for all EPA grants. In general, the nominee should verify that a match is committed by appending letters from the party (on its own letterhead) that is supplying the match and the amount of the commitment.
- Q. Regarding in-kind contributions, can contributions from activities that are on-going or have been completed count toward the match requirement?
A. The value of the in-kind contributions must be an estimate of future contributions that will be utilized during the project period. Services that have already occurred can be helpful in determining what the estimate should be but cannot count toward the 50% match requirement.
- Q. The solicitation announcement states that federal funds cannot be used toward the match unless authorized by the statute governing their use. What does this mean?
A. This means that funds obtained via another federal grant cannot be factored into the 50% match calculation. These funds can certainly be used to support or supplement the work being done and can be calculated as leveraged resources, but cannot be considered "matching funds".
- Q: Can the source of matching funds be changed after a grant is awarded?
Yes, a grant recipient can adjust the sources of its matching funds during the project period if other eligible matching funds become available that would benefit the overall management of the project. Documentation of such changes in sources of match is required of the grant recipient by notifying the EPA grant project officer in advance.
- Q. What is the value of volunteer time?
A. EPA's policy has been that volunteer time is worth whatever hourly wage you would pay an individual if you were to go out and hire a person to do the work that you are asking a volunteer to perform.
- Q. Can resources (e.g. in-kind services, cash) expended for a mitigation project be used as match for a SFBWQIF project?
A. There may be instances where an applicant's proposed SFBWQIF project involves activities associated with a mitigation project/activity. Whether the mitigation project/activity can be used as match for the proposed SFBWQIF project will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. However, if the applicant is proposing to perform the mitigation project to comply with a Consent Decree or Administrative Order the mitigation funds/resources cannot be used as a match for the SFBWQIF project. If an applicant wants to use the match for a mitigation activity above and beyond the work that is required under the grant, the activity might be considered out of scope and therefore not eligible as a match. To be eligible for match, the mitigation project-related activities must be allowable under the terms of the grant, must comply with the Federal cost principles found at 2 CFR Part 220, 2 CFR Part 225 or 2 CFR Part 230, and be conducted during the grant's project period.
- Q. Can existing equipment count towards the required 50% match?
A. Equipment is eligible as match as long as it is pertinent to the project's expected environmental outcomes. Details on matching fund requirements can be found at 40 CFR 31.24 or 40 CFR 30.23. Use of equipment as match is not commonly used and its suitability as match will likely be determined on a case-by-case basis. For further guidance, please contact us directly with your example.
- Q. Does EPA consider partners to be only entities receiving EPA funds? Or could partners be sources of match?
A. EPA awards a grant to one entity. That entity, the grantee, may choose to partner with other entities. Those entities may be able to receive funds from the grantee through a contract or a subaward (also referred to as a subgrant). However, if an applicant names a specific contractor (also referred to as subrecipient) in its application then the applicant must ensure that it has complied with the applicable procurement regulations in 40 C.F.R. Part 30 or Part 31. If a grantee partners with another Federal agency, Federal agencies may receive payment through a reimbursable agreement.
State, local, nonprofit agency partners, and in limited cases federal agencies, may provide match.
- Q. Are Clean Water Act 319 grants an eligible source of match for SFBWQIF grants?
A. No. Clean Water Act 319 grants are not an eligible source of match for SFBWQIF grants.
- Q: Does the match need to be raised prior to applying?
A: Yes, as part of your proposal, your budget information must include how you can provide the 50% match to be eligible and competitive.
- Q: Can funds already spent on a project be used as match?
A: No, project matching funds must be spent during the project period. However, as stated in Section IV.D. of the RFA, EPA may consider the selected applicant's request to be reimbursed for costs incurred prior to the grant award. These are known as pre-award costs. Pre-award costs are not guaranteed, and must be approved by EPA. Information on pre-award costs is provided in the FAQ "Eligibility" section.
- Q: Can letters of support or letters documenting match be submitted after the deadline?
A: No, all information as part of your proposal package must be submitted through grants.gov by the deadline.
A: There is no minimum or maximum number of letters. We expect applicants to submit the number of letters as appropriate to reflect partners’ involvement and financial commitments.
- Q: Are State Revolving Funds (SRF) an eligible source of match for SFBWQIF grants?
A: Potentially. Generally, a grantee may not use funds received under one federal grant program to meet its nonfederal share under another federal grant program. SRF is a federally-derived source of funding and thus would typically fall under this preclusion. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule (e.g. certain federal statutes expressly permit funds to be used as a match). Under EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF Programs, EPA provides capitalization grants to States and Puerto Rico so that they can provide loans to eligible entities for water infrastructure projects. When the loans are repaid to the States’ or Puerto Rico’s CW or DW SRF Programs, such funds may then be used for new loans to eligible entities. The repaid funds that are loaned a second or third time, are referred to as “recycled” funds, and remain subject to certain Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act restrictions and must still be used only for purposes that are consistent with the underlying SRF statutes. However, EPA does not consider “recycled’ funds to be federal funds since the funds are not derived directly from federal grants. Therefore, it might be possible for an SF Bay grant recipient to use Clean Water SRF and Drinking Water SRF loan funds to finance its cost-share portion of an SF Bay grant funded project if:
- the project costs are eligible under both the SRF and SF Bay programs; and
- if information is provided that show the funds from the SRF are “recycled” funds.
If the SF Bay grant recipient received a subaward (sometimes referred to as a subgrant) from the State of California under the State’s SRF program, the recipient would not be able to use the funds under that subaward as a match for the SF Bay grant because subaward funds are derived directly from a Federal grant and are considered to be federal funds.
- Q. Can grant funding be used by the applicant to make subawards, acquire contract services, or fund partnerships?
A. Yes, funds can be used for contracts and subawards in accordance with the Contracts and Subawards/Subgrants requirements in Section IV.H of the announcement. EPA awards funds to one eligible applicant as the "recipient" even if other eligible applicants are named as "partners" or "co-applicants" or members of a "coalition" or "consortium." The recipient is accountable to EPA for the proper expenditure of funds and reporting requirements.
- Q. How will an applicant's proposed subawardees/subgrantees and contractors be considered during the evaluation process described in Section V of the announcement?
A. Section V of the announcement describes the evaluation criteria and evaluation process that will be used by EPA to make selections under this announcement. During this evaluation, except for those criteria that relate to the applicant's own qualifications, past performance, and reporting history, the review panel will consider, as appropriate and relevant, the qualifications, expertise, and experience of named subawardees/subgrantees and/or named contractors during the proposal evaluation process as long as the applicant complies with the requirements in Section IV.H.
- Q. May EPA grant recipients enter into agreements with federal agencies to carry out tasks/activities under the grant work plan?
A. Reimbursable Agreement- Grant recipients may enter into reimbursable agreements with federal agencies as long as those federal agencies are authorized under applicable federal laws to enter into such agreements with federal grant recipients. This is the mechanism by which a grant recipient can work with a federal agency as a partner. Reimbursable agreements do not have to be competed, but grant recipients must provide a brief explanation as to why they are selecting a federal agency to carry out the work.
Grant recipients MAY NOT enter into subgrants with federal agencies as part of their project activities. The only way to partner with a federal agency is through the reimbursable agreements described above, which is a type of contract.
- Q. What are EPA's bonding requirements for contractors?
A. EPA's bonding requirements can be found at 40 CFR §31.36(h). These requirements apply to local government grant recipients, not to State government or non-profit grant recipients. States and non-profits follow their own procurement rules with respect to bonding. 40 CFR §31.36(h) states:
(h) Bonding requirements. For construction or facility improvement contracts or subcontracts exceeding the simplified acquisition threshold ($100,000), the awarding agency (EPA) may accept the bonding policy and requirements of the grantee or subgrantee provided the awarding agency has made a determination that the awarding agency's interest is adequately protected. If such a determination has not been made, the minimum requirements shall be as follows:
A bid guarantee from each bidder equivalent to five percent of the bid price. The "bid guarantee" shall consist of a firm commitment such as a bid bond, certified check, or other negotiable instrument accompanying a bid as assurance that the bidder will, upon acceptance of his bid, execute such contractual documents as may be required within the time specified.
A performance bond on the part of the contractor for 100 percent of the contract price. A "performance bond" is one executed in connection with a contract to secure fulfillment of all the contractor's obligations under such contract.
A payment bond on the part of the contractor for 100 percent of the contract price. A "payment bond" is one executed in connection with a contract to assure payment as required by law of all persons supplying labor and material in the execution of the work provided for in the contract.
- Q. May recipients apply local geographical preferences (also known as "local hire" preferences) for contracts procured using EPA grant funds?
A. The answer depends on whether or not the grant recipient is a state government, local government or non-profit organization.
- State government recipients generally follow their own procurement rules. If the State rules allow geographic preferences they may utilize this option. However, States must comply with other EPA procurement rules including the Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) Rule (see EPA's Small Business Programs Resources and Training).
- Local government recipients may not include geographical preferences in the evaluation of bids or proposals (see EPA grant regulation 40 CFR §31.36 (c) (2). This applies to both EPA grant funds and match dollars.
- Non-profit organization recipients are not prohibited from utilizing geographical preference in their EPA funded contracts, but they must comply with other procurement rules including the DBE rule.
Note: EPA grantees/subgrantees may not hire contractors who have been debarred or suspended.
- Q. Please provide examples of expenses that would be included under the "construction" line of the SF 424 A if construction goes on the "contractual" line.
A. The "construction" line of the SF 424 A should remain blank. If you are doing the construction in-house, i.e. with your own staff, then that should be reflected under "personnel." Otherwise, construction should be listed under contractual.
- Q. What information should go in questions 5a & b of the SF 424 A budget summary?
A. These questions should be left blank.
- Q. What is the answer for the Executive Order 12372 question (Box 19 of the 424)
A. The SFBWQIF (Program) is covered by Executive Order (EO) 12372. The appropriate answer for this box is A. If your proposal is selected for a grant award, then you will need to send a copy of your SF 424 to the California Grants Coordination State Clearinghouse.California Grants Coordination State Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 3044, Room 212
Sacramento, CA 95814-3044
Telephone: (916) 445-0613
FAX: (916) 323-3018
- Q: If the grant request is a small part of a larger project, how should that be reflected in the budget?
A: Budget Form 424A should only reflect the grant request and the 50% match. If other funding is contributing to the successful completion of your project, please provide that information narratively in your project description. It may also be information added to the detailed budget table, but should be kept in separate column from activities identified as being funded by the grant or match.
A: There is no specified font size requirement, but proposals should be easily readable. We recommend using a 12-point font with 1-inch margins.
- Q: How much time does a recipient have to complete construction once the grant is awarded?
A: Construction, like any other project activity, has the extent of the grant period to be completed. We recommend projects plan activities anticipating a four-year project period, with the understanding that with justification, project time periods can be extended beyond that.
- Q. What are indirect or overhead costs?
A. Indirect costs represent the expenses of doing business that are not readily identified with a particular grant, contract, project function or activity, but are necessary for the general operation of the organization and the conduct of activities it performs (source: Indirect Cost Overview, Dept. of Education). In order to charge indirect costs to the grant, the applicant must have an up-to-date approved indirect cost rate agreement with its cognizant agency (the federal agency the applicant receives the most funding from). EPA does recognize indirect cost agreements negotiated with other federal agencies. For more information visit EPA’s indirect cost rate proposal information website.
- Q: Do projects funded by the SFBWQIF require an Environmental Impact Document (EID) or a permit from EPA?
A: SFBWQIF projects are funded under the authority of Section 320 of the Clean Water Act, and are exempt from NEPA compliance. Therefore, applicants are not required to prepare an EID. While NEPA does not apply to SFBWQIF projects, other Federal cross-cutting authorities, such as the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, may apply. Applicants may also be required to comply with state regulations.
- Q. How do I submit an additional question that has not been addressed in this document?
A. We are able to respond to questions from individual applicants regarding threshold eligibility criteria, administrative issues related to the submission, of the proposal, and requests for clarification about the announcement. You may submit your questions via email to Erica Yelensky (email@example.com). Additional answers to questions will be posted on this page.