The gift: How does the Federal Government Shutdown affect the grant programs?

The Fund Finder News

by Kurt Bradley, Senior Grants Consultant

Our Federal government is now in the longest shutdown in our country’s history. Concerned departments nationwide have been calling me and asking the same question: “Is this government shutdown going to affect grants?”

No simple answer

I wish there was a simple answer to that question. Unfortunately there is not. I will, however tell you what to expect. The news here may be a little better than what you expected, as long as you look at it from the right perspective.

First, everyone needs to take a deep breath. Remember, this is not the first time the government has shut down. Nor will it be the last.

Shutdowns have happened before

Partisan politics aside, the government has endured several past shutdowns (or “spending gaps,” to more accurately label them). In fact, there have been 18 government shutdowns since 1976. Each one has lasted anywhere from several days to several weeks.

Key point: Not one shutdown has resulted in any incidents deemed catastrophic in nature.

I personally have been a taxpaying adult, either employed by the government directly (military service), or in local government, or the private sector. I can say that none of those shutdowns ever affected me significantly either professionally nor personally.

How the shutdown is affecting federal grants

So, what is the shutdown doing to affect the grant programs? Well, I can tell you that the staff at FEMA, in the offices that cover our primary grants, are operating on a skeleton staff. Historically, during these shutdowns, several things will be or are occurring:

  1. They are operating with a skeleton staff, so emails may not be answered, phone calls are probably not being returned, amendments may not be moving through approval/disapproval status, EHP reviews are on hold and, certainly, no new grant programs will open while the shutdown is in effect.
  2. Drawdowns of awarded money may be delayed.
  3. Previously stated opening dates for programs will be pushed back.
  4. Peer review panels for the 2018 AFG grants will be delayed (as of this writing the 2018 AFG peer review panel has been moved to Feb. 24, 2019).
  5. SF425 and semi-annual performance reports will continue to be due on their respective dates.

The gift you’ve been given

Now, as soon as the shutdown is resolved things will get back on track and return to business as usual. But the news is not all that bad here folks, if you take a different perspective.

You have been given the gift of time!

The one thing that you have the least amount of control over as a public safety employee is your time. This shutdown is affording you additional time to prepare for 2019 grants. Remember, if you fail to prepare, you can prepare to fail when it comes to grant applications.

What to do with this gift of time

The question is, though, what should you be doing with this gift of time?

You should be making use of this time to plan out your upcoming projects for 2019 and 2020. Here are a few ideas:

  • Do some better research on your critical infrastructure
  • Dig into your data deeper
  • Update your department and community description
  • Develop and send out those surveys you need to win a Fire Prevention and Safety grant
  • Find out exactly how much putting a new fireman on the payroll is going to cost
  • Try to figure out where additional money can be identified that could be used to offset SAFER money and give you a stronger sustainability plan
  • Dig in and figure out how many times you are or are not complying with NFPA1710-1720

You should also be thinking about getting yourself and your department properly trained to incorporate proper grant strategy into your overall financial planning. Pick a school and go find out what the other folks are learning so your applications win more often. Explore the possibilities available to you by consulting with a true public safety grant consulting firm. Doing so can truly make a difference in your overall outcomes.

This too shall pass

This government shutdown will be over before you know it. In the meantime, take advantage of the extra time that it is affording you: Use this gift of time to get ready for upcoming grants in 2019 and 2020.