3 Policy Trends and Why You Should Care

June 27, 2011 | By Adrianne Fielding | Post a Comment

Mention the word “policy,” and you’ll start to see eyes glaze over and hear snoring.  (In fact, that’s a great trick for getting yourself out of most unwanted conversations — just try it sometime.  Unless you’re in D.C., of course, where it may be considered a mating call.)  However, as the undercurrent and anchor of federal spending, policy is a critical element of the context for those who work with grants, with concrete and material consequences. A number of current policy debates and developments are teed up to have significant consequences on federal funding and those impacted by it:

  1. The federal debt ceiling — You may have heard that the federal government is bumping up against the debt ceiling and that the bag of juggling tricks that’s been used to buy time for a decision may run dry around August 3.  What does this have to do with grants?  The vigorous debate in Washington over whether to raise the debt ceiling has fired up the whole enchilada about budget savings through federal spending cuts (including major cuts to many of the agencies and programs that award grants) versus raising additional revenues through tax increases — one of the primary battles that largely falls along partisan lines.  With the debt ceiling and budget negotiations reaching an impasse last week, culminating in Congressional leaders walking out of their talks with Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama is meeting with several Congressional leaders at the White House today to see if they can make any progress. Serious grant dollars hang in the balance here.
  2. Improper payments — Isn’t this about preventing Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment insurance and other payments from going to individuals who are ineligible to receive them?  Well, yes.  However, Washington’s renewed fervor over cutting “waste, fraud and abuse” has begun branching out into grant programs, helped by recent reports about grants and contracts going to entities that owe back federal taxes. I’ve heard more chatter at federal and stakeholders meetings lately over increasing access to IRS data on non-payers and developing a federal “Do Not Pay” list that would presumably complement the Excluded Parties List System and be consulted by federal agencies prior to award decisions, to minimize the number of grants and contracts awarded to problematic entities.  If the figures are large enough (as many have suggested), proactively saving federal award dollars from waste, fraud and abuse could have an interesting impact on future budget/debt ceiling talks.
  3. Grant streamlining — As they dovetail with the oversight phase of Recovery Act programs and the scheduled 2013 expiration of the Recovery Board, the two policy areas above are bringing new energy to federal and stakeholder discussions around streamlining grant-related procedures and activities.  From federal agency award decisions and oversight processes to the ways that grant-related systems and data are organized, reported and made available to the public, Washington is expressing real interest in opportunities to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of federal grant programs.

What impacts would these have on your grant-related work?

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