There's Gold in That There Capitol Hill...

Unless you've been really hiding under a rock, the budget trouble in DC is finally over and first-responder funding has for the most part survived the cuts. In addition to both AFG and SAFER being funded at $405 million for the 2011 go-rounds, Congress is already in the works on renewing the legislation for 2012 through 2016. While the pre-economic slump goal of renewing both programs for those year at $1 billion or more was a nice thought, at least we'll still have the programs even if the amount the programs get each year will be up for debate as they've always been.

Even though things have been appearing to run slow at DHS to those of us on the outside, there has been quite a bit of progress. 2010 AFG has basically been wrapped up and is all over but the crying for those that have no pre-award signs on their applications. Denials are coming, but as is the case with anything being sent out from a government agency when there are changes the approval process takes a bit of time. The nice thing is that we're looking at a June 13th application period opening so there is plenty of time from hearing the official turndown until something else has to be ready to go. Last year it was about 4-5 days from the 2009 denials until the opening of 2010 so there wasn't much time to get things turned around for those that procrastinated. 

And I say procrastinated because if you're waiting for the results of one grant to make any plans for the next application, you're procrastinating. After all I don't know many departments that have only 1 need, so there's no reason that preparations shouldn't be readied. After all there are only 2 results to a grant application, so it's a short decision tree:

A) we get funded, so we need another project.
B) we don't get funded, so are we doing the same thing with updates or something different?

That's it as far as results and decisions go, so why is anyone waiting to develop a 2011 application? Not having the guidelines? Not an issue! After all the gist of the programs haven't changed in 10 years, and even this year's changed won't move anyone's cheese that badly. The main ones in 2011 are pretty simple:

- PPE and SCBA are back into the regional project eligibility zone after being pulled in the 2008 AFG. Still included are Training, Communications, and Water Supply (LDH & related fittings)

- Ambulances are now in the Priority 1 Vehicle Category. This does not mean they are the top priority, it just means that these now might have a chance at being reviewed. After all, any FD asking for an ambulance ($120k) that has newer fire apparatus ($300k+) has to deal with the financial question of how can the vehicle that handles 80% of the calls and costs less be the one you can't afford to purchase?

- Any department with more than one station can ask for more than one vehicle, maximum of 3. In past years this was only for Urban or Suburban departments, not Rural.

- Peer Reviewers will have the option of removing projects from the application and awarding the other items. So if someone asks for PPE (Priority #1), SCBA (Priority #2), and a station generator (about at the bottom of the priorities if not the bottom) then they can award the PPE and SCBA and pull the generator. In past years it was an all or nothing in Peer Review. BUT don't think this is a license to put together a shopping list, the computer scoring is still a package deal so the more low priority items you toss in the less likely it is that Peer will see your application.

 - The last major update is the Program Guidelines themselves. Now everything will be marked with either an H, M, or L in a square as far as the statements explaining the priorities go. That means that if you are reading the guidelines and identify under a project type that you have more in common with statements that have L's next to them, that means you are not going to score very well at all and might want to find something else to ask for.

Of course to add the legalese to this blog since it involves the government, nothing is actually official until it's official. But let's be real, by the time the advisory committee makes these recommendations there is little chance that they won't go through.

So if there's nothing else you take away from this blog, it should be this: get off your butt if you need the money, it's a 30 day window that takes the unprepared at least 30 to get ready for, and we're almost 30 days from Opening. Simple math says let's get it going today so we don't miss any opportunities for funding.

Happy Granting - Brian

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