Are you letting your CARES Act funding go to waste?
To any grant or public procurement professional in local government, Dec. 30 may seem like an impossible sprint to the finish line. According to the Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Grant Guidance, any governments receiving CARES Act funding, specifically those under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), must ensure those are incurred before that day.
While the Department of Treasury and other federal entities have tried to provide as much guidance as possible, there are still many gray areas intended to give local governments the flexibility to spend funds on their most urgent needs. The downside to these gray areas? They can lead to much fear and confusion–even contributing to decision paralysis. This is especially true when organizations are doing their utmost to avoid audit findings and having to pay back the federal government.
While the urge to avoid risk at all costs is understandable, local governments may be diminishing the impact of their CRF dollars by not using them to the fullest. There are two key reasons as to why governments at the city and county level may be under-utilizing critical funding that’s available to them: difficulty managing performance of funding and the urge to discount technologies as discretionary costs when they can actually be fundamental to business continuity.
Trouble managing performance of funding
For city and county governments acting as grantors of COVID-19 relief, navigating different funding streams and tracking their own compliance and administration requirements can be especially challenging. Not to mention they must manage recipients of funding and ensure their success or risk paying back the federal government from their own pockets.
For the city of Atlanta, these challenges were compounded by cross-departmental efforts to manage grantees, including vendor contracts and different payments to manage. The city also had to navigate reviewing and scoring applications remotely with the onset of mass telework.
To reduce administration time and streamline compliance, Atlanta turned to cloud-based grants management software. As a result, the city was able to expedite processes that would have previously taken 6 to 8 months down to mere weeks. Additionally, Atlanta was able to grow revenue by increasing the number of qualified grant proposals by 44 percent over the previous year.
Cutting mission-critical technologies out of the budget
In the wake of states experiencing nearly $650 billion in revenue shortfall over the next three years, it’s no surprise that governments are doing everything they can to cut costs. Too often, however, some of the first things to be eliminated from budgets are technologies considered as “discretionary costs.” Given the new realities of mass telework and virtual collaboration across all workforces, it’s clear that the right technologies can actually be essential, especially those that digitize mission-critical processes like grants and procurement–so governments can get services faster to those who need them the most.
In fact, investing in digitization now can save significant time and costs in the long-term. In a recent report on the State of Public Sourcing, 73 percent of public agencies indicated they are prioritizing digital procurement processes to ensure business continuity and streamline manual and operational tasks. By digitizing core procurement processes, public procurement agencies have seen at least $225,000 in cost savings–due to increased vendor competition, faster project cycle times, and access to peer data and insights that facilitate more strategic procurement decision making.
Governments that are making the most of their CRF funding
Digital transformation can, in fact, serve as a force multiplier, driving greater impact even with limited funding and staff. Additionally, the modern grant and procurement software solutions come with built-in compliance with Uniform Grant Guidance as well as Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), reducing the risk of audit findings.
For example, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in San Francisco knew their existing hard-copy and paper-based scoring processes were holding them back. By digitizing their entire sourcing process, MTC was able to cut procurement project times as much as 67 percent by allowing their teams to run complex RFPs in a month versus the typical 60 to 90 days. Plus, MTC saw 200 percent faster project cycles compared to old processes.
The California Department for Housing and Community Development (HCD) used a digital grant management solution to integrate its state financial system as well as HUD’s federal reporting system to help streamline the distribution and tracking of funding. Now, HCD is managing over 7 programs and 100 subawards as well as disbursing over $3.5 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and CDBG-DR (Disaster Recovery) funding across the state. Centralizing the tracking and distribution of grant funding means local government recipients will receive their relief in a timelier manner.
Ultimately, local governments should resist the urge to divert funding elsewhere when it comes to moving grants administration and procurement to the cloud. By digitizing these essential processes, they can amplify impact and deliver critical services to communities faster than ever before while enabling long-term fiscal health.
James Ha is President and CEO of eCivis. Corry Flatt is the founder and CEO of Bonfire.