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Additional Question Regarding SESP RFP

1. Use of Funds Question (Posted August 20, 2010)
Question: There have been several additional questions regarding allowable use of grant funds, including:
     • Can the grant funds be used to build a building?
     • Can the grant funds be used to purchase land or a building?
     • Can the grant be used to prepare the land for training?
     • Can the grant be used to prepare the building for classrooms?
     • Housing for training participants?
     • Can the grant be used to purchase materials for retrofitting the building?


Answer: Information from SESP grant monitoring officials and applicable regulations and OMB Circulars on Cost Principles indicate the answer to most of the questions above is “No.” Grant funds may NOT be used for “brick and mortar” expenses. The applicable OMB regulations state that capital expenditures for general purpose equipment, buildings and land are unallowable as direct costs. Therefore, the grant funds cannot be used to purchase or prepare the land or buildings for use, when owned by a private entity.

Federal officials and the application regulations, however, indicate that grant funds may be used for preparing an actual classroom for instructional use. For example, remodeling expenditures for adding electrical outlets, computer wiring, desks, white boards, etc., may be allowed. Funds may also be used to create “mock ups” for training sessions. Federal officials advise, however, that even if the training to be provided will include actual retrofitting or energy saving construction activities -- materials used for remodeling the entire building will not be allowed. Officials explain this is due to the fact that upgrading the existing property that is owned by a private entity would not benefit the agency that provided the initial funds, only the owner of the property.

Additional Questions And/or Clarification Regarding RFP Submittals
[Prepared by Grant Officer, August 13, 2010]

1. On-The-Job Training
Question: We are working on an application in our region, and had a question about the use of On-the-Job Training (OJTs) for the training component. We thought we had seen OJTs listed as a possible training route, but upon review again I could not find that section. Could you direct me to that section or let me know if this is not going to be a possibility?
Answer: The original Solicitation for Grant Application (Federal Register DFA PY-08-20, Page 30117) states, in pertinent part, that local and regional teams are encouraged to develop/strengthen relationships with their various partners to identify candidates for training and connect them with employers for ultimate job placement. Local teams should, among other things, aim at establishing “high quality training that leads to a degree or certificate, as appropriate.” The regulations state that, “Training should use methods such as on-the-job training blended with classroom training, customized training with an existing apprenticeship program or labor management partnership, technology-based learning, or other appropriate training strategies.” Please note that Section 4.2 of the Iowa SESP RFP states at page 15 that whatever training strategy is used, the participant must end up with a “certificate awarded in recognition of an individual’s attainment of technical or occupational skill.” The RFP identifies entities that may award such required certificates. Also, please note that grant funds may not be used for subsidizing the wages of the participants!

2. Technical RFP Preparation
Question: I understand that we will have five (possibly six) required attachments: public copy with confidentiality provisions identified (if needed), transmittal letter, budget and narrative, assurances and certifications, and contract authorization. We have several additional attachments: employer letters of support, pathway flowchart (2 pages), pathway terms and definitions, and a workforce LMI needs chart. Are these additional attachments acceptable and would they not be included in the 10 page project description limit?

Related Question: There is no mention made of how to handle additional attachments, such as letters of agreement from partners, etc. It’s possible that you don’t want any additional information beyond the 10-page narrative and budget narrative? However, there is mention made that we need to go beyond letters of support to direct collaboration. We are gathering letters of agreement from our partners on what they will provide to our project (hiring workers, providing training, etc.). Are we supposed to attach copies of the letters or simply make mention that we have the group’s support? Can you clarify this for us? One option is that we could put together a supplemental packet that we have available if the reviewing committee wants to see it. Would this be something the committee would be interested in? We could either hold on to it or turn it in just in case the committee requests more information. Along the same vein, we have some photos of a building that may be donated for a deconstruction project. The reviewing committee may want to see the photos, but would we have to use our 10 pages of narrative to include the photographs?

Related Question: Page 18 of the RFP, Section 4.3.3, indicates that we may add a separate table of partnerships and responsibilities. The statement references “this attached page” not counting against our 10 page total. Do you literally mean one page, or can it extend beyond a single page? Our list of partnerships is in table form (when we include any details about their responsibilities) goes beyond one page. Similarly, Page 12, Section 3.1.4, says, “Attachments shall be referenced in the proposal.” There is no indication of what those attachments can/can’t be. Of course, we have the mandatory attachments (assurances, etc.), so we’re not sure exactly which ones we need to reference or if it’s implied that we can attach additional attachments if we reference them. Are there any other allowed attachments that we haven’t asked about?
Answer: Although the questions above cover a plethora of examples of what a project team may attach to its RFP submission, it comes down to one question – are you able to submit additional pages of documentation beyond what was specified in the original SESP RFP? Please see Attachment 2 of the SESP RFP, which is titled, ‘SESP Grant RFP: Checklist of Proposal Contents.” It can be found at page 25 of the RFP. You will see that the “Project Description” component of the proposal contents has a 10-page limit, which would thus include any pictures, charts or documentation of terms and definitions. A team will NOT be allowed to provide a supplemental informational packet to that project description.

Also, Section 4.3.3, as you referenced (found at page 18 of the SESP RFP), refers to an “attached page,” meaning a single page that describes the partnerships and responsibilities.

Section 3.1.4 of the SESP RFP (found at page 12) states that “Attachments shall be referenced in the Proposal.” Attachment 2 of the SESP RFP (found at page. 25) provides the “Checklist of Proposal Contents.” Letters of support and photographs are not included in that checklist of separate documents. Thus, the letters of support and photos would have to be mentioned or be part of the Team’s 10-page “Project Description.” The RFP does not imply that any other attachments are allowed, other than those specified in the Checklist of Proposal Contents found at Attachment 2.

3. Use of Funds:
We notice in the “Documents to Assist With RFP Proposal” section on the website, the “Allowable Grant Funds Expenditures and Participant Eligibility” document states that grant funds could be used for the following: “Supportive Services, such as Transportation, Child Care, Dependent Care, Housing, Needs-related payments that are necessary to enable an individual to participate in training activities funded through this grant.” However, we don’t see this category listed in the allowable training costs on page 16 of the SESP RFP. Can we include funds for participant supportive services in the grant if we so choose? This would be in addition to our partnership with our local Workforce Office.
Answer: Although specific items for support services were not all specifically identified on page 16 of the RFP, the expenses you reference are allowed pursuant to the SESP Grant regulations, found at the Federal Register Vol. 74, No 120, June 24, 2009, at page 30120, Column 3, under subheading, “Use of Funds for Supportive Services.” The Project Budget and Budget Narrative Document found at Attachment 3 of the SESP RFP (page 26) also contain an entry for “Support Services.” It should be noted that these support services payments are necessary to “enable an individual to participate in training activities funded through the grant.” The regulations also stipulate that grantees may only use grant funds to provide such support services if participants are unable to obtain services through other programs that provide support services. Grantees may use no more than 5% of their grant funds for these types of support services. It is possible that “leveraged resources” could be used for support services.

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RFP Questions posed to SESP Grant Manager by June 30, 2010
[Prepared by Grant Officer]

1. Question: When we had our initial sector team meeting, we came up with some additional names that we would like to add as being on our team. Do we need to update the list that we sent you? If so, do we follow the same online form format that we previously used or do we simply give you the additional names in a document format?
Answer: New members may be added to the list of original team members as needed in order to accomplish the goals of the training project proposals. Please provide a Word document to Deb Ostrem, Grant Officer, which lists the name of the team, lead member, e-mail, phone and the names of the new members. Please indicate a revision date for the team changes.

2. Question: As a part of our grant request, can we set aside part of the funds to hire a grant coordinator or someone to fulfill the ongoing reporting requirements?
Answer: Yes, personnel costs are allowed expenditures under the terms of the grant. A maximum amount for administrative costs is limited to 10 percent of the grant proposal. However, if the manager will also be performing program duties (e.g., keeping/updating current participant files, preparing program reports), a portion of the personnel costs could be allowable under the program costs. [In a related matter, expenses for “support services” for participants, such as child care, transportation, are limited to 5 percent of the grant proposal].

3. Question: Is the money allocated for targeted training available to statewide initiatives or only regional?
Answer: The grants awarded through this RFP are to serve Iowa workers. Although the concept of the local sector teams was to provide specific training in specific energy sectors, the State SESP Board recognizes that: (1) it may be more efficient to run a statewide program; and/or (2) there are times when eligible participants will need to travel to a centralized training facility.

4. Question: Does the fiscal agent for the grant need to be a 501C?
Answer: No, the SESP Board decided at its last meeting that the fiscal agent does NOT have to be a 501C. However, according to the rules stated in the RFP, each appointed fiscal agent must be able to demonstrate the ability to handle federal grant funds. This entity will be the responsible contractor and will receive, disperse and monitor the grant funds awarded by the SESP Board pursuant to an RFP response submitted by a Local Sector Project Team. However, there is one exception – a 501(c) (4) that engages in lobbying activities cannot be the fiscal agent for a project financed with these SESP grant funds. Please note that according to the rules stated in the RFP, each appointed fiscal agent must be able to demonstrate the ability to handle grant funds. This entity will be the responsible contractor and will receive, disperse and monitor the grant funds awarded by the SESP Board pursuant to an RFP proposal submitted by a Local Sector Project Team.

5. Question: Is there a cap on the grant dollar request?
Answer: No. The SESP Board decided it would not impose a cap; however it reserved the right to fund all, part or none of any submitted proposal by a Local Sector Project Team.

6. Question: What is the role of the Central Iowa Energy Board in the grant application process and does a team need to get pre-approval of its grant application before submitting it to Iowa Workforce Development?
Answer: Grant applications must be submitted by a Local Sector Project Team to the State SESP Board. The Iowa SESP Board is the entity that will be receiving and voting on all submissions. There is no intermediary board between the local teams and the Iowa SESP Board.

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Green Jobs Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Who can apply for grant funding?
A. Grant funds will be awarded through the Request for Proposal (RFP) process to qualified local sector teams only. (See the “Partners” page to view the composition of the local sector board).

Q. Will there be a specific number of local energy sector teams?
A. No – however, the intent of the grant is to provide funds throughout the state for training in the various energy sectors. Additional RFP scoring points will be awarded to proposals that include: a) counties identified as having been impacted by the automotive industry downturn; and b) counties with an unemployment rate higher than the Iowa average and those proposals that include achieving the NCRC Certificate.

Q. Will there be any qualifications for local energy sector team members?
A. The State SESP Board has determined that the Regional Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Manager will be a member of each local team within their region (see “Partners” page for the Iowa Regional Map, which includes the names and phone numbers of the regional WIA manager).

Q. Shall the State SESP Board require a letter of intent to apply for grant funds?
A. Yes. The State Board has determined that each team will be required to submit a “Notification of Local Sector Project Team Formation”. The form provided on the SESP home page is a fillable PDF that provides the Board with the names and organizations of all team members. The State Board will review the notifications to determine if the requisite local community members are included as partners (see the “Partners” page for description).

Q. Will there be funds set aside for subsequent RFP opportunities or will all the funds be released in the first round?
A. The State SESP Board reserves the right to fund any, all or none of the proposals submitted in the first round of competition. Therefore, it is imperative that any local sector team desiring to obtain funds from this grant apply during the first round. Until the first round proposals have been funded, it is uncertain as to how much, if any, funds will be available for future opportunities.

Q. Can a local sector team submit more than one proposal?
A. Yes. Multiple individual proposals from a single regional sector team are allowed. However, if a single proposal contains multiple sector disciplines/components, the proposal must show how the multiple sectors are connected.

Q. When will the RFP be released?
A. The RFP was posted on the website on June 17, 2010 and applications will be taken until August 20, 2010. Grant funds are tentatively scheduled to be granted by October 1, 2010 (see “Timeline” on the home page of the SESP website).

Q. What type of training will be allowed under the grant?
A. All training that is provided under the SESP grant must address - and provide evidence of demand for - training in one or more of the nine energy sector areas: wind energy; solar energy; Smart Grid and electrical transmission; biofuels; energy efficient construction and building retrofits; deconstruction, haz-mat abatement, and materials re-use; energy assessment and audit; manufacturing of energy efficiency products; and sustainable agriculture. Training must result in participants receiving a portable credential or certification and also result in sustainable employment.

 

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