Q and A from ARC Webinar on Stimulus Grants, March 18, 2009
Question: Is there any funding for private schools in the ARRA?
Jeff Schwartz: The bulk of the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF), 81.8 percent, is for "public elementary, secondary, and higher education…" schools. However, the other 18.2 percent has not yet been defined. The SFSF summary on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site includes $650 million in competitive award[s] under the "Invest in What Works and Innovation" fund and says "these awards will reward LEAs or nonprofit organizations that have made significant gains in closing achievement gaps to serve as models for best practices." Presumably, "non-profit organizations" would include private non-profit schools. It is not clear from the U.S. Department of Education's Web site whether non-public schools that currently receive ESEA (No Child Left Behind Act) Title I or IDEA (special education) funds will be eligible for ARRA funds. You will need to check with your state education agency.
Question: Are there any education funds targeted specifically at energy-related education?
Jeff Schwartz: Under ARRA, the U.S. Departments of Energy and Labor both include funds for workforce training targeting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) jobs. For example, the Department of Energy weatherization program solicitation allows for the training of contractors. Also, the U.S. Department of Labor has a program of competitive grants for worker training and placement in high-growth and emerging-industry sectors; $750,000,000 is provided for that program. Of the total, $500,000,000 is to be used for research, labor exchange, and job training projects that prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable industry industries. (See http://www.dol.gov/recovery/implement.htm) Labor has not yet issued any information on this program. They anticipate doing so in the near future. We will post a link on the ARC Web site as soon as that information becomes available.
Question: Are there any funds for non-profit organizations that conduct educational programs?
Jeff Schwartz: Yes, there likely will be. The SFSF summary on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site includes $650 million in competitive awards under the "Invest in What Works and Innovation" fund and says "these awards will reward LEAs or nonprofit organizations that have made significant gains in closing achievement gaps to serve as models for best practices." And to the extent that you currently receive or are eligible for Title I and/or IDEA funding, you may be able to receive ARRA funds. You will need to check with your state education agency.
Question: When you address workforce, is it technical workforce or is it research driven?
Jeff Schwartz: The answer to your question depends on the context and the specific program being referenced. Many programs specifically include both. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor "Program of Competitive Grants for Worker Training and Placement in High Growth and Emerging Industry Sectors" includes $500,000,000 to be used for research, labor exchange, and job training projects that prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable industry industries. (See http://www.dol.gov/recovery/implement.htm) Labor has not yet issued any information on this program. They anticipate doing so in the near future. Other programs may be more narrowly targeted toward one or the other.
Question: What about funds through the U.S. Department of Labor for RFPs to training providers such as community-based job-training grants? Will there be more available?
Jeff Schwartz: The Department of Labor does not say whether they will continue the community-based job training grants program. And this program was not mentioned in ARRA. If you have a program that is currently, or was previously, funded by the Department of Labor and you wish to increase capacity, I would suggest calling your state department of labor. Much of the ARRA funding that they will be receiving through the formulas could be used for training and they will need to obligate it very quickly. The Department of Labor will soon develop guidelines and possibly an RFP for the "Competitive Grants for Worker Training and Placement in High Growth and Emerging Industry Sectors" program, which is mentioned in ARRA. We will post a link on the ARC Web site as soon as that information becomes available.
Question: Can CDBG stimulus funds be used to build a town hall?
Molly Theobald: Probably not. The CDBG program covers a wide range of activities intended to create suitable living environments, provide decent affordable housing, and create economic opportunities, primarily for persons of low and moderate income. If a specific activity couldn't be funded under the CDBG program in the past, it's not likely it could be funded under CDBG with the stimulus funding. You should check with your state CDBG program office to determine a project's eligibility.
Molly Theobald: EPA issued a memorandum to the states in early March on how to award and administer the ARRA funds appropriated to the state revolving fund (SRF) programs. Included in Attachment 7 (page 45) of that memo is a set of examples that may qualify for the "Green Project Reserve."
Question: So they may waive the low- and moderate-income requirement? What do you refer to when you say "limits to funding" with CDBG? Will the same match and threshold requirements be in place for CDBG?
Molly Theobald: Projects funded under CDBG must meet one of the National HUD Objectives: 1) Project targets low/moderate income—through area benefit, job creation/retention, housing, or clientele; 2) Project targets a slum/blight condition, or 3) Project targets an urgent need. A project that does not meet one of these criteria cannot be funded under CDBG, which is what I was referring to when I said "limits to funding."
The ARRA includes language that gives the HUD Secretary the option to waive or specify alternative requirements for any provision of any statute or regulation in connection with the obligation of the stimulus funds (except for requirements related to fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and the environment). HUD has not announced any changes to their current requirements. An announcement of whether or not there will be any changes to the requirements is expected soon. It's always a good idea to contact your state CDBG program office for additional guidance.
Comment: It would save the local entity some time if they contacted their local EDD (i.e., regional planning and development council/planning organization) directly to develop an EDA Project. If they contact their EDA Regional Office, they will probably be directed back to the State EDR or State EDD in which they are located.
Eric Stockton: Thanks for this suggestion. The Economic Development Administration has a network of sub-state economic development districts in some but not all areas of Appalachia. In addition, economic development representatives (EDRs) on EDA's staff are assigned to each state. Contact information for the EDRs and other EDA staff can be found on EDA's Web site.
Question: Has USDA/RUS made any mention of the expected split between grants and loans? Will grants be tied to loans rather than stand-alone grants?