ProgramCOVID-19 Federal Assistance e311
TopicsCompliance & Reporting, Program Administration
Funding SourceAmerican Rescue Plan Act, CARES Act, CSLFRF, FEMA, HUD, Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act
How can municipalities balance the need to build community capacity with the need to move quickly on grant deadlines?
Grants typically have deadlines to hold municipalities accountable for utilizing the funds awarded to them. For expansive projects, such as those designed to mitigate long-term issues like capital infrastructure resiliency, tight deadlines can have consequences for implementing municipal projects. Below are suggested good practices that can help municipalities balance building community capacity while moving quickly on grant deadlines.
A tight period of performance may intimidate municipalities to not use funds at all rather than tackle the nuances of using the funds appropriately. Municipalities should seek to develop a sound plan to use those funds responsibly, and municipalities should consider proactively identifying needs before grants are made available.
The following good practices are focus areas that can improve a project's implementation timeline when faced with a tight performance period.
Proactively assess needs and try to get a head start
Projects designed to build community capacity require time and effort to determine areas of insufficient capacity and develop a plan to appropriately address these areas of opportunity. Under a tight performance period, municipalities should immediately focus on starting these awareness-building tasks while simultaneously beginning next steps.
Increase capacity to get the job done
For projects with a tight period of performance, resources are essential. In addition to the funds allotted in a grant award, a municipality will need personnel and capital. While a grant may allow for the acquisition of such assets, the materialization of these assets takes additional time.
For tight timelines, municipalities must equip themselves with the resources to fully implement the project as soon as possible, preferably in its early stages. This will allow municipalities to limit delays in the project's implementation phase.
Make an informed decision to outsource administration responsibilities
Where possible, municipalities can consider outsourcing as much as possible to free up time and resources. This allows the project designers to focus on other important areas, such as expanding the project to use more grant funds or addressing challenges that arise from administering the project.
For municipalities pursuing this strategy, making an informed decision on who is contracted to carry out these responsibilities is critical. Quickly contracting with an organization with poor performance outcomes can cost more time and money in the long run. Again, municipalities must make these decisions in the early stages of the project.
Focus on efficiency and resiliency
If the goal of the grant award is to promote community resiliency, municipalities should make this the focus of their efforts rather focusing on spending the full grant award. Though a project may use fewer funds this way, it satisfies the objective more than a larger project. For example, a large project poorly managed could have less resiliency than a smaller project with more intentional scope and focus.
Municipalities must assess their capacity after factoring in the above recommendations, such as outsourcing administrative responsibilities and increasing staff and resources available for the project.
Municipalities should maximize grant awards to provide the most benefit to their constituents. When faced with a short period of performance or tight grant deadlines, municipalities must create a project that reflects their own capacity, even as they try to expand that capacity and build resiliency within the community. This may not always match the funding level allocated toward such projects, but instead focuses on the impact of spent dollars.
Taking the appropriate time to plan, increasing the capacity to complete the project, outsourcing responsibilities where appropriate, and focusing on efficiency and resiliency are strategies to maximize the time available to complete a project. Municipalities should focus above all else on their primary goal— building community capacity.
Last Updated: February 15, 2023