Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

August 29, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Although the headline to this blog post may sound somewhat flippant, I have to applaud the National Science Foundation for trying to keep its constituents informed about the latest on their Recovery Act programs at an increasingly stressful time.

Jean Feldman, head of the policy office of NSF’s Division of Institution and Award Support, told attendees at a recent Federal Demonstration Partnership meeting that the agency is nearing its deadline to submit its waiver requests to the Office of Management and Budget. Last September, OMB issued Memorandum 11-34, which directed federal agencies to accelerate the spending of remaining Recovery Act funds and reclaim all unspent funds as of Sept. 30, 2013.

Some agencies, however, had Recovery Act grant programs that had extended beyond September 2013. Feldman said that NSF had more than 350 awards that had expiration dates after 2013. A waiver provision in the OMB memorandum allows federal agencies to request a waiver under certain circumstances, including situations where contractual commitments prevent adjusting the spending timeline, where a project must undergo a complex environmental review that cannot be completed within the timeframe, or where programs are long term by design. According to the memorandum, agencies must submit the waiver requests to OMB by Sept. 30. That’s only a month away.

Feldman did note that NSF was notified by OMB recently that it will extend the deadline to Nov. 30 before it will consider the waiver requests. She said the “phones have been ringing off the hook” from NSF grant recipients wanting to know if their program will be included in the waiver request.

“We have in place an important process to make sure each project was considered and which project must have waivers requested to OMB,” she said. “NSF will reach out to principal investigators to let them know, as well as organizations to let them know the status. We will reach out to you in the next couple of weeks to let you know” which programs were included in the waiver request.

The dollars at stake here are tremendous, not just for NSF but all grantor agencies, so for programs that are long-term, these waivers are critical. Kudos to NSF for wanting to keep its grantees up-to-date and for ensuring that they won’t be left in the dark. Hopefully, other agencies are taking a similar approach.

Do you have a Recovery Act award threatened by the September 2013 deadline? Are you hoping your agency includes your program under a waiver? Let us know your experiences.


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