How Grants are Made Available
Request for Proposals Process
The Requests For Proposals, also known as 'funding opportunities', each provides specific and related information about the included grant program(s).
Kinds of Grants Available
The five kinds of grants available from the Department are entitlement, allocation, continuation, other non-competitive, and competitive.
Entitlement, allocation, continuation, and other non-competitive grants are reviewed in a similar manner because the amount of funds for which each eligible applicant may apply is known either at the time the RFP is issued or soon after. Approval is contingent upon applicants meeting program requirements as stated in the authorizing statutes or regulations.
Competitive grant proposals are subject to objective assessment of their relative merits and the grants that are recommended for funding must be presented to the Commissioner and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for approval.
Components of the Grant Application
Part III — Program Information (narrative) is required for all competitive grants to provide sufficient programmatic detail on which to base funding decisions. In addition, many entitlement, allocation, and continuation grants must provide program information as a prerequisite for funding. Whenever possible, simplified standard forms are provided to collect this information.
Part IV — Statistical Information may be required for some programs. Its purpose is to collect quantitative information needed to comply with laws and regulations.
All applicants are advised that:
How to Complete the Grant Application
Requests For Proposals contain all the materials and instructions needed to complete applications for Department of Elementary and Secondary Education program grants. The instructions should be used in preparing applications for submission. Additional guidelines follow for completing Part I, Standard Contract Form and Application for Program Grants and Part II, Project Expenditures — Detail Information.
Guidelines for the General Applicant Section
Guidelines for the Budgetary Information Section
Part II — Project Expenditures — Detail Information
Due to federal regulations (34CFR, s.80.20) regarding procedures and standards for financial management of grants, detailed project expenditure pages are required for each proposal submitted.
Part II — Line 9 Indirect Costs — The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education determines an indirect cost rate for each city, town, or regional school district for application to state and federal grants and contracts, unless prohibited by federal regulations. If used, the indirect cost figure must be equal to or less than the currently approved restricted rate. The decision to recover indirect costs using these established rates is a local option. The rates are developed for school districts as the maximum allowable rate for a given fiscal year. For non-school districts, indirect costs rates must be established through an application to the Department's Audit and Compliance unit.
In calculating the indirect cost allowable for a particular grant, note that indirect costs cannot be charged on either capital expenditures or on indirect costs themselves. To arrive at the allowable amount one cannot simply multiply a total entitlement by the indirect rate. Instead, it is recommended that the following formula be used:
The resulting amount is the amount that can be used for grant activities. When this amount is subtracted from the total entitlement, the result equals the amount allowed for indirect cost.
Example: School system A has a restricted rate of .045 and an entitlement of $98,000. There are no capital expenditures. The calculation is:
Note: If indirect costs are recovered, they shall be returned to the general fund of the city or town in accordance with G.L. Chapter 44, Section 53. In the case of regional schools, indirect costs shall be returned to the regional school general fund.
After completing each grant proposal, the applicant should consider the following general questions.
As a final resource for this section, the Review Checklist, that is used by program staff to perform a technical review of all grants, is provided in Appendix K and may be used as an aid in reviewing grants before submitting them to the Department.
How Grants Are Awarded
Completed applications are submitted, according to instructions contained in the RFP, to the Department program unit that administers the grant program(s). The review process includes:
Entitlement, allocation, and continuation grants are signed by the appropriate Department of Elementary and Secondary Education administrator as approved, subject to successful completion of a technical review by Grants Management.
Competitive grants are recommended for approval by the appropriate administrator, subject to technical review by Grants Management, and need to be approved by the Commissioner and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Approved grants are forwarded immediately upon completion of the technical review to Payment Processing, where all the necessary paperwork is done to ensure that grant recipients are sent their funds in a timely manner, according to the required allotment schedule.
Most grants will be submitted for programmatic review and approval during late spring or early summer. Because of state and federal cash management and documentation requirements, an approved grant submitted to Grants Management may take a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks for final approval and payment. This makes it especially important that grants be submitted with all required information completely and accurately filled out, including original signatures.
A standard computer-generated grant Payment Notification form is used to officially inform grant recipients of their awards. (See Appendix E.) This form provides important information about the grant, including project duration, approved amount, amount of the initial payment, project number, and (for federal grants) CFDA number.
Project Number: the twelve-digit project number is unique to each individual grant and provides the following information.
For example, project number 240-007-5-0332-B indicates the following:
If at the conclusion of a programmatic and technical review of entitlement grants or a competitive process to determine which discretionary grants to fund, the decision is made not to fund a particular grant or to withhold funding at any time, the approving authority must notify the grant applicant. If the applicant wishes to request a hearing, the applicant must inform the Commissioner of Education within thirty days of such notification. The request for hearing must include:
The hearing, conducted by a hearing officer designated by the Commissioner, takes place within thirty days and with at least seven calendar days notice to the applicant. No later than ten calendar days after the hearing, the hearing officer issues a written decision confirming or rescinding the Department's determination that funds should be withheld. An applicant for federal funds may appeal the final decision to the U.S. Secretary of Education within twenty calendar days after written notification of the hearing officer.
How to Manage Grants
After a grant has been awarded, either as an entitlement or through a competition, it is the responsibility of grant recipients to ensure that it is implemented in compliance with any applicable programmatic requirements. In the administration of grants, recipients must use fiscal controls and fund accounting procedures that will ensure proper disbursement of, and accounting for, grant funds received under any funding award. (See Appendix O for checklist of standards for financial management systems.) What follows are the standard procedures to be used when requesting funds, making amendments, and final reports on grants.
State Finance Regulations
In accordance with state finance regulations, grant recipients can only expend funds from the date their grant was entered as approved into the Department's Grant Management system. This means that if a district wishes to expend grant funds as of a certain start date, the grant must have completed a programmatic review, and been submitted as approved to Grants Management prior to that start date. Districts may not use local funds to cover initial costs for a grant prior to receiving official approval from the Department, with the intent to reimburse themselves after receiving the award notice. Audit exceptions may be taken for any grant funds used for periods not covered by the award letter, leading to districts needing to pay back the misused grant funds.
For example, districts that wish to begin expending grant funds as of September 1,are advised to:
The Department will develop a standard process of informing the Superintendent of any contacts made to the identified local contact person to insure that the district is informed of any possible delays in the approval process.
Federal Grant Appropriation System
Due to the federal "partial advance funding" practice which can impact the major entitlement programs including, Titles I, II-A, special education (IDEA), and Perkins grant programs, the Department will receive an initial FY award letter in July from the United States Department of Education (USED) authorizing the distribution of a portion of each federal grant through September 30, of that year. The Department will receive a second award letter for the balance of the allocations in early October.
Therefore, for federal grants needing September 1 start dates:
The Department will prorate initial allocations to districts in amounts not to exceed the amount received from USED. These amounts will vary from program to program depending on the actual percentages the Department receives in the July awards for each program. The initial award letter issued from Grants Management will indicate a reduced total award amount, as well as a prorated initial payment. For grants approved prior to September 1, this initial award letter will be for the full year grant period.
The Department expects to receive the allocation balances from USED in early October, and districts may submit requests for second payments by the October RF-1 payment period according to program need. Federal and state cash management requirements that grant funds be distributed on an as needed basis are still in effect, however, the allotment schedule detailed on the standard Request for Funds form (RF-1), should be adjusted accordingly for this payment.
Should you have any questions regarding this, please contact the Grants Management payment office, (781) 338- 6572.
Request for Funds Process — Effective 7/1/2007
As shown in the Flow Chart , once grants are approved and deemed technically correct, the Grants Payment unit will complete the process to generate an initial payment authorization by the State Comptroller. The payments for grants are determined based on the following standard allotment schedule.
Upon approval, a Payment Notification (See Appendix E.) is generated and sent to the authorized signatory and the listed 'control user' for each grant. This notice provides important basic information about the grant, such as the project number, project duration, approved grant total amount, and amount of the initial payment.
The initial payment is the only one that is sent to recipients automatically. To ensure that funds are distributed on an "as needed" basis in accordance with both state and federal cash management requirements, the balance of funds must be requested according to the above schedule.
Form RF1 for requesting funds through an on-line process has been developed to document the Department's distribution of funds on an "as needed" basis. (See Appendix F.) The requests should be based, as much as possible, on actual expenditures, rather than what is obligated. Unexpended monthly balances should not exceed 10% of funds received to date. It is incumbent upon grant recipients to observe their expenditures closely and submit their RF1 forms within the designated timeframe, usually the last two weeks of the month, for requesting cash advances. Grant recipients may make requests in excess of the allotment schedule but must include a justification explaining the need for additional funds and additional documentation may be required.
By submitting a request the grantee certifies that the request is in compliance with the "Cash Management Act" (31CFR part 205) and EDGAR regulations (34 CFR part 80.20 and 80.21), which allow for cash advances provided grantees maintain procedures to minimize the time elapsing between the receipt and disbursement of grant funds. Additionally, the grantee certifies that the obligations incurred under this project for which funds are requested, were made within the period of availability (project duration) stated in the grant award notice. The grant records in support of each request must be in sufficient detail to properly substantiate all claims for payment and expenditures made under the grant. Although these grant records are not required to be submitted with each monthly request, they must be available for inspection by Department staff at any time.
Adjustments to grant payments are made in the final payment. For example, the amount of money Grants Management sends directly to the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System (MTRS) on behalf of school systems is deducted from the final payment on their federally-funded grants.
In general, grants are awarded for a period of one school year at a time. Because of differences in the state and federal fiscal years, there will be differences in the grant duration between state and federal grants. Typically, a state funded grant will have a start date in July or August, with an end date of the following June 30th, which is the end of the state fiscal year.
Most federal grants will more closely follow the federal fiscal year (October 1, to September 30), and usually start September 1, and end the following August 31. Regardless of the funding source, the final payment on all grants must be requested before the end of the state's accounts payable period, which is August 31. In the month(s) before the accounts payable deadline, Grants Management will send notice to all grantees with remaining unclaimed funds reminding them that failure to claim in time may result in the loss of those funds.
Amendments are required when:
Amendments are not required when:
When it is determined that an amendment is required, the grant recipient should fill out the standard amendment form (Form AM1, Appendix G),attach revised budget pages and submit it to the appropriate program liaison. After the amendment request is submitted, the following review and approval process takes place.
In preparing an amendment for submission, the following checklist should be consulted:
Final Reporting Process
At the conclusion of grant activities, recipients must submit a final financial report to the Department, accounting for the expenditure of funds received. Grants Management has developed an online process and standard form (FR1) for collecting this information. (Please review the Powerpoint Presentation Appendix H.) The FR1 form should be submitted to Grants Management within sixty (60) days of the end date of the grant. Grant recipients should file their reports after carefully reconciling all figures with their city auditor, town accountant, or agency business manager.
Grants Management checks these reports to ensure that the expenditure of funds for each line item corresponds to the amount budgeted for that line. Note that over-expenditures that fall at or below the $100, 10% or $10,000 line item increase thresholds specified in the Department's amendment policy will be allowed and the final report will be filed. Increases in line items, without approved amendments, that exceed these thresholds, will be subject to possible audit exceptions and the required return of any funds that were expended inappropriately.
For Federally-funded Grants Only
The Department has developed an additional form (Form FR1 A, Appendix I) to aid in reconciling expenditures for MTRS. This form can be used to assist in calculating the additional MTRS liability beyond the 80% of the budgeted MTRS amount the Department pays directly to the MTRB for any federal project containing funds budgeted and paid for the salaries of staff who are members of MTRS.
When the additional liability is calculated by subtracting the amount paid directly by the Department to MTRS from actual liability, this amount should be paid to MTRS. No checks for this add additional MTRS liability should be sent to The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Unexpended Funds and Preliminary Expenditure Review
Grants from the Department are generally awarded for a period of one fiscal year at a time. For all grants, unexpended funds must be returned with the Final Financial Report (FR-1) each year. For grants funded with state money, unexpended amounts must be returned to Grants Management and these funds revert to the state at the conclusion of the fiscal year and cannot be reused. Unexpended amounts of $1.00 or less do not have to be returned. For all grants, the FR-1 and any unexpended funds must be submitted to Grants Management within sixty (60) days of the end date of the grant.
Most federal grants contain a provision known as the Tydings Amendment, which means that the funds are awarded to the state for use within a 27-month period. For grants funded with federal money, the Department currently has two different methods of ensuring that funds are expended within a twenty-seven month period so that money that has to be returned to the federal government is kept to a minimum.
Return of unexpended funds
Although the expectation is that grantees will fully expend grant funds within the year they are awarded, the Tydings Amendment provides flexibility to sub grantees for most federal entitlement programs such as NCLB Fund Codes: 140, 180, 305, and IDEA 240. The Amendment allows recipients to reapply for any returned funds as an extended use (carryover) grant. In such cases, the program office will issue guidance to recipients as to the procedures they must follow for this reapplication. Recipients should contact the program office if they are unsure whether or not a particular grant allows this reapplication process.
Title I Policy
Currently, the Title I-305 program has a specific carryover limitation within the program regulations. This means that for these grants, recipients with unexpended balances, within certain limits, retain access to those funds for the remainder of the Tydings period. Title I limits the amount a recipient may carry over to 15% of the original entitlement. If the amount of carryover exceeds this limit, a waiver is usually required in order to retain access.
Title III Policy:
In the case of Title III grants (fund code 180); the grant period is stated in the Request for Proposals (RFPs). The Title III grant is for support of programs for students with limited English proficiency, and the data used to determine the allocations for this special population are often delayed at the start of the grant cycle, but most grants to districts are still usually in place by the start of the regular school year (September 1st). Carryover is permitted; however, grantees must return to DESE any funds that are not expended within the stated grant period. Upon return of the funds, districts may reapply for the funds for the following year, consistent with Title III and Department guidelines and timelines.
Pursuant to Section 3114(c) of the ESEA, when Title III funds allocated to a grantee under that section are not or will not be used by the grantee for the purpose for which the allocation was made, DESE will reallocate the funds to other eligible entities in the State that DESE determines will use the amount to carry out Title III purposes. DESE will prioritize the reallocation of these funds to Level 3 and Level 4 districts based on the needs of district LEP and immigrant students, as determined by ESE. DESE reserves the right to determine the criteria for re-allocating Title III funds in this regard.
Perkins Vocational Ed Program Policy
For the Perkins (Fund Code: 400) Vocational Education grant, the program regulations do not allow carryover and for most non-entitlement programs, the returned funds are tracked in terms of their fiscal year but they are no longer considered as belonging to a particular school or district. They simply become part of the pool of old money available to the Department for redistribution. Each program has its own requirements governing how these funds are reallocated within the remainder of the 27 month Tydings period.
As with all grants, the FR-1 and any unexpended funds must be submitted to Grants Management within sixty (60) days of the grant end date.
Preliminary Expenditure Review
Although it is sometimes unavoidable that grant funds are drawn down but not expended, grantees are reminded again of the importance of close monitoring of grant expenditures and maintaining compliance with the "cash management" requirements cited above, and are only drawing funds on an as needed basis.
Many recipients of federal carryover grants often plan to limit spending in a current grant year in order to have carryover funds available to cover possible shortfalls the next year. Because of the extended time lag of 60 days (or longer) from the end date of a grant, through submission of the final report and return of funds, and submission of a carryover grant application, grantees usually lose a significant amount of the Tydings time for use of those funds.
In an effort to reduce this lag time, as well as assist in generating more timely and accurate final reports, the Department strongly recommends that grantees conduct A Preliminary Expenditure Review. The intent is to encourage recipients to review grant expenditures within a timeframe (April/May) that allows for a reasonably early determination of which grants will end with an unexpended balance that will have to be returned.
At this point in the grant's lifecycle, a reduction amendment will be required to be submitted for certain carryover grants, to reduce the grant by the projected unexpended amount. For all those grants that allow for some form of carryover, reducing the current grant total by the carryover amount in advance will free those funds for access at the start of the next year's grant cycle, rather than several months into the new school year. Such a reduction will also lessen the likelihood of grantees unnecessarily drawing down funds, and creating a possible cash management violation.
Due to restrictions within the Massachusetts state accounting system, any such reduction amendments must be approved (by the appropriate program unit) and submitted to Grants Management no later than May 15theach year. Amendments submitted after that date may not be processed in time to change the original grant encumbrance.
All grants, whether carryover eligible or not, would benefit from the preliminary expenditure review, and if appropriate, submission of a reduction amendment to eliminate the need to return funds that clearly will not be used by the end date of the grant.
Evaluating grant programs is an important tool in helping to improve the quality of programs, and a number of federally funded grant programs require that evaluations be conducted on a regular basis. In general, grant programs should be evaluated in accordance with the program design and complexity. The overall purposes of evaluation are to:
Auditing is another management tool for evaluating whether operations are executed economically, efficiently, and effectively. Audits of grant programs should be conducted on a regular basis. For most recipients of federal funds, the audit requirements will be satisfied by the federal "Single Audit" conducted each year. Be advised that recent changes to the Single Audit Act (31 U.S.C. 7501 et seq. as amended) have raised the threshold which triggers the audit of federal funds from $25,000 to $500,000 or more in federal dollars received from all sources and expended in a given fiscal year.
This change will mean that many recipients (those who receive less than $500,000 total federal dollars from all sources), will not be required to have a Single Audit done each year, although they may still be subject to an audit under state regulations. All recipients, however, are required to maintain for purposes of audit or review, records, books, reports and any other data pertaining to a grant award for a period of seven (7) years, beginning on the first day after the final payment is received for that award. These books and records must be in sufficient detail to properly substantiate all claims for payment and expenditures made under the grant.
Last Updated: January 26, 2015
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.