The federal government issues hundreds of billions of dollars each year in grant funding to state and local governments, but managing that money and meeting grant requirements to keep it is one of the most complex tasks government must undertake. Two vendors in the grant management and cost allocation space — eCivis and CostTree — made two announcements March 29 aimed at making the process easier. Part one of the announcement was a partnership that gives customers of either company access to the services of both. Part two was the launch of a new website packed with free resources to help state and local governments understand one of government’s most misunderstood jobs.
“It is like expense reports. You don’t want to do it, but you need to do it in order to operate your business,” said James Ha, CEO of eCivis. “Most state and local government leaders look at grants management as a complete mystery. The federal government said that $100 billion out of the $600 billion of federal financial assistance is mismanaged, so one in every six dollars. Part of that is they don’t have the resources, they don’t have the tools, and the lack of that really impacts local communities. So our goal is to support state and local government's work in local communities.”
Once many governments get federal funding, they treat the funds almost as the same as their general funds, which is a mistake, Ha said. Leaders may understand grant management, he said, but staff members often have trouble negotiating the requirements and a technology marketplace filled with overlapping solutions.
“Staff members are being asked to deploy multiple solutions at the same time, so if we take solutions that are already extracting data or information or supporting a process, bringing those companies together and finding the overlap so we solve some of the issues that staff folks don’t really have time to figure out, then we feel like technology in the public sector, particularly state and local government, will have a better chance of succeeding,” he said.
The new website, GrantsCase.com, is a collection of resources compiled by the two companies that will help remedy government’s education problem, Ha said. The site's first section is a uniform guidance quick reference.
“The uniform guidance is grant reform and legislation that all organizations receiving federal funds need to follow,” Ha explained, adding that the information is typically available in paper form, but they've done the work to simplify and digitize it.
The site also features a video series of a past training seminar hosted by the cities of Los Angeles and Houston and led by Senior Policy Analyst Victoria Collin of the White House Office of Management and Budget. The two companies produced and published these previously inaccessible videos, Ha said.
A collection of PDFs, excel files, videos and infographics represents some of the best resources in grant management available, according to Ha.
“Our collective mission is really about local communities. Grant funding makes up such a large portion of the projects and programs that are delivered through state and local government to actual citizens, and what they accomplish is massive. How they are managed is not well understood. It’s an area that could improve.”
Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.