Grant Writing Confidential header image 2

FEMA Fails to Learn New Tricks With the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program

February 1st, 2009 · by Jake Seliger · 1 Comment

Last year I railed about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s inability to post the Assistance to Firefighters Grants program RFP on Grants.gov in a timely fashion in “FEMA Tardiness, Grants.gov, and Dealing with Recalcitrant Bureaucrats.” In addition, I sent a nastygram to FEMA about this failure, which someone named “R. David Paulison” responded to seven months later, as noted in the third bullet of January Links. That it took seven months to respond to a letter complaining about timeliness might be indicative of further problems.

You might imagine that FEMA would’ve solved the problem this year—in which case you’d be wrong. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program 2008 Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (warning: link goes to a .pdf) program RFP was issued on Jan. 29, but it’s still not on Grants.gov as of this writing. Furthermore, the RFP doesn’t even include a Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number attached—which it should, since, according to the CFDA website, “As you know, the CFDA provides a full listing of all Federal programs available [...]” and all federal programs are supposed to have a CFDA number in the body of their RFPs.

(As an aside: the CFDA website isn’t working at the moment because “We are upgrading our site to provide increased transparency, greater access to assistance information and to better support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” Isaac tried to visit it earlier this week and found it dead. This is somewhat strange because every other website, including ours, would leave the old version up until the new one is ready to go; only the government would take down the old website and leave nothing in its place. I’ve never seen Amazon.com intentionally prevent me from buying books because they wanted to improve the interface. Keep this in mind when contemplating the various proposals that have been floating around regarding government-mandated electronic medical records.)

Nonetheless, a print version of the CFDA lists the AFG’s CFDA number as 97.044. I took that to Grants.gov’s search page and tried the CFDA number and variations on AFG. No dice. In other words, the CFDA and Grants.gov websites must not talk to one another, since AFG appears in the CFDA but not in Grants.gov. More importantly, FEMA still hasn’t posted the AFG RFP to Grants.gov. Maybe FEMA will three days before the deadline, as they did last year. I’m really glad Tucson isn’t susceptible to hurricanes.

But there is some good in this mess, which you can find on page 10 of the RFP: “Applicants are allowed to hire, or otherwise employ the services of, a grant writer to assist in the application process.” Great news! Great, but unnecessary—funders can’t prohibit or forbid grant writers; how you prepare your application is your own affair. Typically, you just can’t charge expenses to a contract before you have a contract to charge them to, and you can’t hire grant writers on a contingent-fee basis. But no ethical grant writer will work on a contingent-fee basis, as we explain in our FAQ.

Tags: Advice · Grants · Grants.gov