Regional AFG grant applications: What you need to know
Eligible regional activities under AFG are Vehicle Acquisition, Training, Equipment, Wellness and Fitness, and PPE activities
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) allow fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations the opportunity to apply for grants utilizing a regional approach for their project. Eligible EMS regional activities under AFG are Vehicle Acquisition, Training, Equipment, Wellness and Fitness, and PPE activities. A nonaffiliated EMS organization is an agency or organization that is a public or private nonprofit emergency medical service entity providing medical transport that is not affiliated with a hospital and does not serve a geographic area in which emergency medical services are adequately provided by a fire department
BENEFITS OF REGIONAL AFG GRANT APPLICATIONS
As EMS agencies try to determine whether a regional approach to their Assistance for Firefighters Grant application is the best route to take, it helps to start by focusing on what benefits your agency and region will experience should the grant be approved. Questions to consider include:
- Will a regional application result in a cost savings for the departments involved? To determine this, contact the vendor and ask for the price for a single item. Then inquire if there are price breaks for buying in bulk and at what points do these breaks occur. For example, you should get a better price if you are purchasing 100 AEDs than if you were just buying 2 for your department. Cost savings can go beyond just price of the product or service – there may be savings in utility costs, transportation, or building rental and maintenance. For example, if you’re proposing a shared training simulator, how much will your departments save in not having to send members to external training?
- Will the proposed project support regional efficiency and resilience? The partners in your regional application should be agencies you run with on mutual or automatic aid calls. Responding with the same type of equipment allows you to operate more efficiently on an incident. When agencies have the same equipment, training exercises are also more efficient because you don’t have to spend unnecessary time familiarizing every provider with multiple types of equipment.
- Does your project benefit two or more departments in more than one jurisdiction? Two departments in the same municipality don’t meet the definition of a regional applicant. Regional activities should achieve cost effectiveness, support regional efficiency and resilience, and benefit more than one local jurisdiction (county, parish, town, township, city or village) directly from the activities implemented with the grant funds – page 66 of the NOFO.
DO WE HAVE TO PURCHASE THE SAME THING?
One of the questions I get asked the most about regional AFG grant applications is, “Do all departments in a regional application have to buy the same thing?” The short answer is yes. The objectives of the AFG program are laid out in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). Those objectives are to provide critically needed resources that equip and train emergency personnel to recognized standards, enhance operational efficiencies, foster interoperability and support community resilience. It becomes difficult to foster interoperability and enhance operational efficiencies if departments are purchasing different types of equipment. FEMA made it easier for regional partners to understand when on page 69 of the 2020 AFG Notice of Funding Opportunity it clearly states, “To align with the stated program objective of fostering interoperability, departments and agencies party to regional applications must use the same vendor.”
WHAT IS AN MOU?
The host and all partnering departments involved in a regional AFG grant application must develop and execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that details the host and individual partner responsibilities, the distribution of grant assets, the duties of all participants and their EIN numbers. If desired the MOU may contain other specifics related to the project. The MOU must be in place at the time the grant is submitted. If the project is funded by FEMA, the MOU survives the application and is used as the guidance document for the participating departments. If the grant application is rejected, the MOU ceases to be in force.
All partnering departments must be in good standing and must be compliant with AFG Program requirements, including being current with past grants, closeouts and other reporting requirements. The host department should verify that all participating agencies meet these criteria before the application is submitted.
BE IN THE KNOW
All partnering departments should read and review the regional application before it is submitted. Similarly, participating departments should read and agree with everything contained in the MOU before they sign it. It is too late to make changes to either one of these documents once the grant is awarded. Far too often, participating departments don’t realize until after the award is made that the operation, administration and procurement connected to the grant is the sole responsibility of the host. A NAEMS organization that serves as a host regional applicant can only host other NAEMS organizations.