After what seemed like an eternity after pressing the submit button, DHS has finally cut through all of the red tape and has begun to send out what we like to call the pre-award notifications. I know it's been a frustrating wait, but we have to remember that not only do we as the grant applicants bound to abide by the laws governing the AFG program, but so does DHS. This year there were some delays, but since things have started to move now, let's not waste time talking about the past.
So what are these pre-award notifications you ask? The one that started appearing on September 5 is the Update 1199A link. The SF-1199A for is a federal direct deposit verification form, used to ensure that any money transfers are going to the appropriate bank accounts. If you see this link appear in this year's AFG application status box, follow the directions and get it sent to DHS as soon as possible. Award winners from prior years might not get one of these, but if they are in line for an award they can find the 2006 AFG application number on the previous 1199A.
If you have been awarded before, you may not get an Update 1199A link, they will make the assumption that nothing has changed, but give you the opportunity to make changes if needed. If this is your first award then you need to make sure all of the information is correct online.
One of the more common mistakes is not ensuring the name listed on the form is the name of someone authorized to handle funds on that account. Normally it will be a treasurer, Chief, or in the case of city based departments perhaps the mayor or city administrator. Once all of the information is correct, use the Save button and a new page will load for printing. Take the printed form to the bank and have the branch manager sign it which will verify that all of the information is correct from their perspective and the organization's representatives listed are truly authorized on the account. Then send it up to Washington DC at the provided address. DO NOT use a 39 cent stamp to mail this form. You want to ship it in a manner that will give you confirmation that they received it. This will save many headaches as well as delays in awarding later.
The next sign that Rudolph the Greenback-Carrying Reindeer might be coming is an e-mail or phone call from DHS asking 10 very important questions. The gist is that they want to know that if they picked you for the award, would you still want it. This may sound like a dumb series of questions; because of course, everyone wants the money. We didn't spend hours refining our application just for posterity, show us the money!
But seriously, departments do turn down awards for various reasons from lack of local support for the funding or just not knowing what to do. If you find yourself about to decline an award, make sure you have a highly valid reasoning for it before saying no. You can't change your mind later. And so everyone is aware, you are not required to have the matching funds available at the time of the award. You have all 12 months of the "Performance Period" to raise them if you do not have anything in savings.
Announcements & Bidding
Once your department name finally appears and you have been officially awarded, now is the time that the work starts. To comply with the competitive bidding regulations of the AFG program award winners must request at least two bids for their project components. Note it says request, not receive. It is a hair splitting, but in our free market society you can't force a business to give you a price on anything.
If they don't want to bid, do yourself a favor and cover your butt with a statement from them to the effect that they are respectfully declining to enter a bid for your business. I would still make an attempt to get other vendors with comparable equipment to give you pricing, but in some cases this may not be possible. They are rare, but the most important thing to remember is make an effort to get yourself the best possible package of equipment, price, and service. I'm a firm believer that anyone can sell you something, but it's the companies that are there after the sale that truly earn business and keep it.