Communication is Key As OMB Nears Final Rule on Grants Reforms

November 8, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

llave-1173924-mA quick look at the calendar shows that there are only about seven weeks left until the new year (Eeek! Christmas shopping awaits!). Since it issued its grants reform proposal in February, the Office of Management and Budget has stuck by its goal to finalize the proposal, also known as the “supercircular” or “megacircular,” by the end of the year. Time is quickly running out.

However, that said, OMB can receive some credit for keeping key stakeholders informed about the progress of the reforms and have been willing to accept comments and concerns from these stakeholders.

Not long after issuing the proposal this spring, OMB realized extra time was needed to obtain an appropriate number of responses, so it extended the deadline. Smart move. It eventually received more than 300 comments, some consisting of more than 100 pages.

Then, OMB and the Council on Financial Assistance Reform met in October with the National Grants Management Association and several other organizations comprising the Coalition in Support of Innovative Grants Reform to express their concerns that the proposal would not adequately reduce administrative burdens, and in fact would increase burdens. It urged OMB to implement the new guidelines carefully, allowing ample opportunity to provide meaningful feedback in order to decrease the burden on grantees and federal grants offices. NGMA President Stacia LeBlanc said that OMB agreed to continue regular communications with the coalition once the final guidance is released, and that it would attempt to ensure consistent interpretation and implementation by the different awarding agencies by conducting public webinars and publishing Frequently Asked Questions.

The latest word is that OMB will again meet with groups forming this coalition on Nov. 21. Although the meeting is not necessarily planned to discuss the content of the final rule, OMB likely will provide more information to the coalition on how it plans to roll out the reforms. OMB officials told a Federal Demonstration Partnership meeting in September that they would favor all federal agencies adopting the final rule on a single date to ease the burdens on the grants community. Hopefully, this meeting will shed some more light on how OMB plans to approach this.

I have to give OMB credit for attempting to keep stakeholders in the loop. There was no real requirement for them to meet with the coalition, but because these reforms are the biggest thing to happen to administering grants in years, it is understandable why they want to provide information and hear all sides of the issue. After issuing the proposal, OMB hosted a rare webinar to explain some of the key changes, with responses from stakeholders, and it’s likely another webinar will be forthcoming when the final guidance is near.

Communication is key concerning the magnitude of these reforms. Keep it up, OMB. Any details you can share to help the grants community prepare for these changes, the better off we’ll all be.

What do you think of the job OMB has done in keeping the public informed on the grants reforms? Do you think more can be done? Let us know.



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