By Michael Neibauer
Washington, DC (March 5, 2009)- The District’s ability to rake in millions more in federal stimulus dollars could depend heavily on a grant management system that auditors consider to be a weak link in the city government.
City Administrator Dan Tangherlini recently told the D.C. Council that the administration was targeting competitive funding in areas such as school improvement, neighborhood stabilization, enhanced fuel efficiency, and job training.
As much as $300 million in grants may be available to D.C. on top of the $390 million the city is slated to receive for budget stabilization and increased Medicaid reimbursements. Virtually every penny of stimulus money has strict requirements tied to it. “We have been working to ensure that we can spend down federal formula dollars under the tight time frames that will apply and also that we are prepared to submit very high quality competitive applications for those funds that will be distributed on a competitive basis,” Tangherlini told the council.
In some cases, D.C. must apply for a capital or operating grant and demonstrate it is ready to spend the money immediately on a “shovel-ready project.”
The Urban Forestry Administration, for example, is seeking $500,000 to hire and train nonviolent offenders as invasive species specialists, who will identify and eradicate destructive plants and pests. The project can be initiated within seven days. “For any competitive grant that we have good projects for, we will absolutely be in the queue,” said George Hawkins, director of the D.C. Department of the Environment. “Our goal is to be first in line.”
Some stimulus cash will be also distributed through pre-existing formulas. The Environment Department, for example, is slated to collect $20 million for its ongoing State Energy Program, 65 times what it received in the standard 2009 allocation.
The dollars are available, but the District has had trouble in the past applying for, managing, and monitoring grants. Those problems have cost the city millions of dollars and threaten future allocations, according to the D.C. inspector general. The inspector general’s office cited grant management as a “persistent problem” in its 2009 audit plan.
DC Examiner- DC angling for stimulus grants