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Innovation Within Grants & Emergency Management


In this Q&A, Rory Costello and May Boucherak, principals at KPMG and national leaders within the firm’s grants management practice, share their perspectives on how agencies can enhance grants management and maximize the impact of federal dollars.

From public health emergencies to natural disasters, state and local governments regularly face crises that can have profound impacts on constituents and communities. These events call for more effective emergency management, but they also demand better grants management as agencies deploy federal aid to support recovery efforts.

In this Q&A, Rory Costello and May Boucherak, principals at KPMG and national leaders within the firm’s grants management practice, share their perspectives on how agencies can enhance grants management and maximize the impact of federal dollars.

Q: How have grants management challenges intensified recently?

Costello: During the pandemic, we saw the largest increase in federal grants to states and localities since 2009, when Congress approved the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This unprecedented federal funding, combined with the sheer diversity of funding programs, deadlines and the complexities of regulations, has made grants management more challenging. However, it’s still a cornerstone of successful program implementation and cannot be overlooked.

Q: What risks do agencies face with managing all this money?

Costello: Many agencies find that previous processes were not set up to deal with the size, complexity and speed of today’s funding demands. This increases the risk of underutilization of funds and therefore potentially reduces the impact the funds can make on communities. There is also an increased risk of fraud and potential clawbacks of funding when you have speed and complexity.

Q: How can technology help agencies address these risks?

Boucherak: First, it improves trust. Having a tailored compliance methodology, with a trusted validation method, and enhanced oversight and monitoring can provide a higher standard of integrity for grants management.

Second, technology can facilitate a risk-based approach, include built-in governance models and provide a full audit trail to help agencies reduce risk.

Finally, technology can improve the applicant experience. It can help applicants submit documentation, enable agencies to provide realtime feedback on applications and streamline constituent interactions.

Q: What process changes will agencies need to implement? How can technology support these changes?

Boucherak: Technology is just a means to an end, and we really need to think about all the ways process change can happen. You don’t want to automate a process that isn’t working — it’s garbage in, garbage out.

When you look at the grants management lifecycle, from outreach to eligibility determination to payment, these key processes need to be re-examined. A lot of them are manual and time consuming. There needs to be more effort on streamlining processes and better agency coordination, and technology can help with this.

Q: How can working with a strategic partner help agencies modernize grants management?

Costello: Strategic partners have often seen what works and what doesn’t. They’ve worked with multiple clients and have a sense of the talent, tools and technology that agencies need. They also employ an outcome-focused approach to government recovery efforts.

A good partner is always looking for ways to improve speed and accuracy and reduce fraud. They may have more robust data management, analytics and automation capabilities to provide a clearer risk picture; share tailored recommendations to remediate risks; and support informed decision-making.

We’re [KPMG professionals] often residents of affected communities. The professionals we hire are personally committed to making a difference and to the “art of the possible” in communities.

Q: Why is it important for agencies to modernize grants management?

Costello: Unfortunately, we will see more disasters. Any state or local government in areas where the risk is increasing must be prepared to handle a large volume of federal dollars and have the right people, processes and systems in place.

There’s a famous saying in disaster recovery: “Don’t ever waste a disaster.” I cringed when I first heard it, but it’s true. You never want to experience one, but over the last several years, we’ve experienced more than our share. The resulting funding provides an impetus for changing processes, technology and infrastructure that agencies previously might not have had. For many agencies, it now makes sense to take a step back and think about grants and emergency management modernization to mitigate risk and ultimately better serve constituents.

Learn more about driving innovation in grants and emergency management at