4 things to know about police grants in 2018

There are lots of changes on the horizon; being aware of what‘s coming will help your department have grant success

As 2017 comes to a close, I would like to share some key information police leaders and police grant writers need to be aware of as we move into the New Year.

1. Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office may be on the chopping block

Early in 2017, a report was released stating that the Trump transition team recommended the elimination of the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office.

Traditionally, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) COPS program enabled state and local police departments to hire police officers, test new strategies and acquire innovative technology.

In recent years, the COPS office also provided resources to address gang violence, heroin, and methamphetamine uses in the United States.

The Law Enforcement Leaders, which includes the chiefs of Los Angeles and Seattle and nearly 200 current and former commissioners and leaders nationwide, issued a position paper advising the new president and the newly-appointed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions how to build upon recent gains against crime nationwide. Specific to the COPS office, the leaders stated that such a move would cut off local programs and a vital information clearinghouse.

In 2017, the COPS office approved the allocation of $98.5M to fund 802 police officer positions for the next three years. The COPS hiring program is not listed by name in the proposed FY18 budget and very little information can be found from the user community. At this time, we are uncertain of the future of this valuable resource.

Does this mean that there will not be funds available to hire and/or retain police officers? No, not exactly. It could mean that funding will shift to other program areas such as the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG).

We will continue to monitor the status of the budget and the fate of the COPS office to provide updates when they are available.

How has the COPS Hiring Program helped your community? Share your comments below or email editor@policeone.com.

2. Program priorities shifting and oversight agency roles changing

Going into 2018, we are expecting a shift in program priorities, as well as a potential change in the oversight agency roles.

  • The proposed bill funds DOJ at $29 billion, an increase of $349 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
  • The Byrne Justice Assistance Grants are listed at $500 million, an increase of $104 million.
  • There is no mention of the traditional COPS grants (hiring, anti-meth, development), instead programs formerly administered by the BJA appear as “COPS Program.” This includes some reentry programs, active shooter training, and initiatives to improve police-community relations.
  • The open grant application period for most criminal justice-related grants will be open in spring 2018.

3. Be ready to submit your application before grants open

For nearly 20 years, I have worked with various components of the criminal justice system. With each change in administration and at all levels of government, grant consultants and individuals responsible for grant administration must remain knowledgeable about trends in the grant landscape.

A recent press release announcing the FY17 COPS Hiring awards made me do a double take. For the first time in my professional career, it was specified that extra points were given to departments that agreed to comply with grant terms that every awardee would be required to comply with to accept the award.

The difference is these departments sent in signed documents at the time of application, as opposed to sending as a part of a post-award package. For this particular grant, those points were given to applicants who agreed to report on immigration status.

At a time in which the open period to apply for a grant can range from 4-8 weeks, it is imperative for departments to be prepared for application submission before the grant even opens. Many grants require signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) if impacting two or more departments. Also, nearly every federal justice grant must contain a certification, signed by the city/county attorney, which confirms reporting compliance for immigration.

Unless things have changed drastically in the past few years, it is nearly impossible to obtain this type of documentation in such a short period of time. Knowing this, the COPS Office made allowances for departments to submit their applications without the certification forms included as long as the applicants agreed to submit the forms if awarded. There was no mention of the forms being a scored element of the application. Notice of the change in scoring was announced in September, two months after application submission.

While we can’t go back and make changes for FY17, departments can prepare for the upcoming grant cycle. I would encourage them to work with their grants team to put systems in place to obtain the required information.

Review previous request for proposals to see what has been needed in the past. Assign specific tasks to team members and set up a mechanism for the sharing of key documents between the partners to streamline future efforts.

4. Federal applications submission process changing

Have you received the following notice?

For years, applicants have applied for federal grants by submitting a package of PDF forms. But on Dec. 31, 2017, Grants.gov will officially retire the legacy PDF package as a method to apply for a federal grant. Why? There’s now a fast, easy and secure alternative to apply for federal grants called Workspace.

Grants.gov Workspace is an online environment optimized for applicants who are collaborating on an application.

Forms can either be completed online within a web browser or downloaded individually and uploaded to Workspace.

Applicants who have already made the switch say Workspace is saving them time and making the application process easier.

Chances are you or someone within your agency received an email regarding this change. There is a high probability that the delete button was utilized or the email was closed with the intent of “dealing with it later.” Waiting much longer could lead to major stress and missed deadlines as the FY18 grant cycle kicks off.

I remember many late nights, and a few four letter words, when the Grants.gov system first got started after the stimulus packages in 2009. It never occurred to me that I, the county grant administrator, should loop in the IT department regarding a process that would impact millions of dollars for the County.

Our IT department was meticulous in its efforts to protect vital systems. So much so that the firewalls blocked my attempts to submit the PDF version of grant applications that had been worked on offline for weeks. When it was time to submit, the form never made it past my hard drive. Panic set in. Staff had to be called after hours. We blew up the grants.gov helpdesk line trying to troubleshoot the source of the problem as the minutes ticked away for the deadline to be met.

Eventually I rushed home with a flash drive and logged into my unsecure home system. The confirmation message documented submission at 11:57 pm – a mere two minutes before all of the work would have meant nothing.

The next day I submitted a request to IT to review the technical requirements that had been prominently displayed every time I logged into grants.gov. Amazingly, reading the instructions eliminated problems for future submissions. Note to self – always contact IT when other agencies that impact your job are changing their systems to make sure the two systems are compatible.

For the past few months, the folks behind Grants.gov have encouraged users to switch to the new Workspace system instead of using the PDF application package. The benefits of the cloud-based system include allowing multiple users to work collaboratively on an application at the same time. Only the person preauthorized to manage the workspace will be able to submit the application. User roles need to be carefully selected to ensure a seamless transition to the new process. Make sure that all team members can access the information.

As the year comes to an end, now is a great time to review internal policies and procedures for all grant administrative tasks. Don’t get caught off guard. The Grants.gov Download Legacy PDF Application Package option to apply retires December 31, 2017. Make it a great 2018 for securing funds to keep your community safe.

Click here for additional information: Introducing Workspace Functionality on Grants.gov

A few bonus tips

Get started early! The DOJ has already posted its FY18 Program Plan along with the estimated release dates for request for proposals to be published. This resource will enable departments to begin to build their programs, collect statistical data, solidify key partnerships, and begin the writing process ahead of the open period.

Confirm eligibility. New grants.gov application submission requirements take effect on January 1, 2018. Make sure all accounts are up to date so that deadlines are not missed.

Search for alternative funding. Most states offer grants, in addition to corporate and community foundation giving programs.

For additional support, contact the Experts@policegrantshelp.com

Happy holidays from the GrantsHelp Team!

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