Is your city grant ready?

What was once considered the "old reliable" method for funding many municipal projects changed significantly in 2010. The "earmark" ban, put in place by Congress in 2010, effectively moved the decision-making power Congress used to have to the executive branch.

With the earmark ban, the dynamics for municipalities seeking federal funds shifted and changed the way things operate on Capitol Hill. The process is becoming more and more "competitive" and may seem to be an onerous undertaking for some.

Instead of working with congressional office staffers at the local or field office level, municipalities now deal with professional staff in executive agencies in Washington who sets the criteria for awarding funds that were once appropriated directly by a municipality's representative or senator. 

In an Annual Meeting breakout session, Britton Bonner, an attorney with Adams and Reese in Mobile, Alabama and Washington, DC, will outline how a city can increase its chances of success in accessing federal dollars by taking several proactive steps to be "grant ready."

Devote resources"A comprehensive approach to seeking federal grants is not a simple process. It is more than just writing a polished and focused application. The only way to access grant funds is to compete, and the only way to successfully compete is to know what grants are out there now, what has been available in the past, and what will likely become available in the upcoming fiscal year.  

Identify projects"By identifying projects early on, a city or town can take a project-by-project approach to funding then look at multiple funding sources for each project. Most successes come from looking at funding options from multiple agencies and funding various components of each project from multiple sources.

Be diligent"In a town's search for grants, the key is to constantly research what is available and anticipate what will be announced in the upcoming quarter. If an application is not successful, it is important to follow up and find out why the grant was not awarded and what needs to be addressed in the next application process to increase the chances of success.

Coordinate with congressional offices"Have an open line of communication with your congressional representative. Each congressman and senator has devoted resources in his office to assist municipalities in the grant process. Make sure their offices are aware of the city's comprehensive plan for seeking grants and of all specific grant applications.

Look for the state component"Be sure to look at both state and federal grant sources as a substantial portion of federal dollars are made available to municipalities though various state agencies. Make sure the city has done the research on the front end and has identified how and where a state agency may play a role in any grant application or project funding effort.

Demonstrate leverage"As often as possible, show how you are leveraging the federal dollars and the multiplier effect that one dollar of federal funds will have for the success of a project. This includes being willing to partner with other groups or municipalities for a regional approach when appropriate.

Integrate economic development and governmental relations"Always be cognizant that economic development and governmental relations go hand-in-hand, not only in the project development phase, but also as a component of a comprehensive grant strategy. Most successful economic projects today utilize and tap into grant funding at multiple levels and with multiple state and local agencies.

Learn more about making your city "grant ready" in an Annual Meeting session on Friday, July 11, at 2:30 p.m.