Sneak Preview: Funding Continuation Issues Hinder Promise Program

July 23, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Government Accountability Office is urging the Department of Education to clearly explain to those recipients who received planning grants under the Promise Neighborhood program that they may not necessarily receive a subsequent implementation grant.

The Promise program coordinates related neighborhood grant program efforts at five federal agencies. ED’s Promise Neighborhoods program aims to improve educational and developmental outcomes for children in distressed neighborhoods. Promise grants fund community-based organizations’ efforts to collaborate with local partners to develop and evaluate services for children from birth through their eventual employment as an adult.

ED uses a two-phase strategy for its Promise grants. It offers one-year planning grants to organizations to help them better understand their communities’ needs so they have time to engage partners and can best align services for students. ED subsequently offers five-year implementation grants on a competitive basis to eligible planning grant recipients that can best demonstrate they are ready to implement their plans.

From fiscal year 2010 to FY 2012, ED awarded 46 planning grants, but only 12 implementation grants, GAO said. ED officials said when they launched the program, they were not sure which neighborhoods had grantees capable of implementing Promise program services. ED determined that the planning grants “allowed ED to invest in the capacity of communities to take on this work, while the implementation grants were only awarded to those [grantees] that demonstrated they were ready for implementation.” After the first round of planning grants were awarded, some applicants did not receive implementation grants, in part because they had applied for the implementation grants before their planning efforts were complete. ED also said that Congress by FY 2012 had appropriated less funds than were requested, thereby decreasing the number of implementation grants ED could award.

GAO found that although ED informed grantees there was a possibility they would not receive an implementation grant following the planning grant, it did not provide any information about the likelihood that this would occur. “Planning grantees, especially those concerned about building trust with their communities and partners, may have been better served if ED had provided a more transparent, realistic picture of the fiscal reality of the Promise program and its potential impact on implementation grant funding,” GAO added. “Lack of clear communication about the expectations ED had for planning grantees who did not receive implementation funding made it difficult for these grantees to develop specific plans to continue their efforts without future Promise funds.”

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