Frequently Asked Questions about the 2012 Environmental Education (EE) Regional Model Grants Program
There are currently no open solicitations under this program. The information below may be useful as a reference or resource.
The following questions and answers are for informational and explanatory purposes only and are not meant to amend or change the published 2012 Request for Proposals in any way.
- The EPA Environmental Education (EE) Grant Program
- Application process and instructions
- Clarification of terms and priorities
- Costs and use of grant funds
- Partner organizations and subcontracts
- General information and other questions
- How is the EPA EE Grant Program different this year?
The 2012 Regional Model Grants RFP is fairly similar to previous RFPs in this program, except for the following:
- There will be just one grant awarded per Region (and no grants issued from Headquarters).
- The upper dollar limit for proposed EPA funds for projects is higher than in most previous years ($216,000).
- There is an emphasis on each grant project being developed as a model that could be replicated in a variety of settings.
- The lists of both educational and environmental priorities that the proposals must choose from to focus their projects on are more limited than in past years; but there is less emphasis on the need to focus on just one educational and one environmental priority.
- There is a renewed emphasis on the importance of each grant project finding a way to reach a broad variety and diversity of audiences, included but not limited to minority, low income and tribal audiences (in fact, there is a requirement that each proposal explain how it will support the cross-cutting strategy of "Expanding the Conversation on environmentalism" in the EPA 2011-2016 Strategic Plan).
- I was looking through the information for the recently released Environmental Education grant opportunity on grants.gov. On the "Full Announcement" page, the following message comes up: "There are no attached files." Is there another way to access the full grant announcement?
The "full announcement" page is not used in EPA grant postings on grants.gov. Instead, click on the link provided in the "synopsis". You can also access the complete Request for Proposals document at http://www2.epa.gov/education.
- What is the deadline for submitting a grant application for the current RFP?
December 12, 2012, 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) is the deadline for applications submitted electronically to www.grants.gov. Hard copies may be sent by either U.S Postal Service mail or commercial delivery service to the EPA Regional Office that is responsible for the state(s) in which your proposed project will be located, but either way must be postmarked by December 12, 2012 to be eligible for consideration. Hand deliveries will be accepted up until close of the business day December 12, 2012 in each Regional Office.
- Where do I send my application?
You can submit your application electronically (online) to www.grants.gov or in hard copy format.
If you are going to use grants.gov for your submissions, please designate an Authorized Organization Representative (someone who is authorized to sign applications for federal assistance funds) and make sure that individual visitswww.grants.gov soon in order to register, as the registration process can take a week or longer.
If you are sending your application in hard copy form, it is important that you send it to the correct point of contact at EPA so that your application is not lost or received after the review process has begun. To determine where to send your application, look at the list of Regions and the states they included in Section VII of the RFP and find the Region in which your proposed project will be located. Section VII (Agency Contacts) also contains the complete address information for the points of contact at each of the 10 Regional Offices. (NO applications should be sent to EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.) Please be sure to send an original and 2 copies and include the first and last name of the point of contact in the Regional Office on the mailing label for your application.
Remember, to be eligible your application must be received by www.grants.gov by 11:59 pm EST on December 12, 2012, if submitting electronically, or postmarked by USPS or a commercial delivery service no later than December 12, 2012, or hand delivered by close of the local business day December 12, 2012, in the appropriate Regional Office.
- What are the rules for submitting multiple or repeat applications?
Applicants can submit more than one proposal under this solicitation so long as each one is for a different project and is separately submitted.
Applicants must demonstrate that their proposal is for a project for which they (the applicant) has no been previously awarded a grant by EPA's EE program and a statement to this effect must be included in the first paragraph of the Project Summary; or the applicant must demonstrate that they are expanding, broadening or otherwise enhancing a project previously funded by EPA's EE Grant Program in such a way that it could serve as a replicable model of environmental education practices, methods, or techniques.
- When will I be notified about my application status?
Applicants will receive a confirmation that their proposal was received by EPA within approximately 30 days of receipt.
Approximately 6 months after receipt of applications, EPA will contact finalists to request additional federal documentation.
Applicants who are not selected for funding will receive official notification from EPA approximately 15 days after the decision has been made.
- I have heard there is a new requirement for how to name file attachments in grants.gov. What is the new requirement?
Beginning August 15, 2012, applicants are now limited to using the following characters in all attachment file names.
Valid file names may only include the following UTF-8 characters:
A-Z, a-z, underscore (_), hyphen (-), space, period.
If applicants use any other characters when naming their attachment files their applicants will be rejected.
- Is a local government agency eligible to apply for a grant?
The RFP states that "any local education agency...may submit a proposal." The Environmental Education Act does not define a "local education agency". The term is defined in section 9101 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. If there is any question as to whether you are a local education agency, you can check with the state department of education in the state in which you are located. For purposes of applying for a grant through this RFP, make sure it is clear in your application that you have the authority to conduct education programs. You can demonstrate this authority by providing documentation from your state department of education, referencing the law or bylaws that establish your agency, quoting your current official mission statement, and/or showing us proof that your authority has been set by practice of education programs in the past. Be sure to include this information in a succinct statement in the Project Summary and in the Project Description, as well as in detail in the Programmatic Capability and Past Performance section of the application.
- Am I eligible to apply for a grant?
Any local education agency, college or university, state education or environmental agency, non-profit organization as described in Section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or noncommercial educational broadcasting entities, as defined and licensed by Federal Communications Commission may submit a proposal. Applicant organizations must be locate din the United States or its territories and the majority of the educational activities must take place in the United States; or in the U.S. and Canada or Mexico; or in U.S. Territories. A teacher's school district, an educator's nonprofit organization, or a faculty member's college or university may apply, but an individual teacher or faculty member may not apply.
"Tribal education agencies" that are eligible to apply include a school or community college which is controlled by an Indian tribe, band, or nation, which is recognized as eligible for special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians and which is not administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Tribal organizations do not qualify unless they meet that criteria or the non-profit criteria listed above. The terms of eligibility are defined in Section 3 of the Act and 40 CFR 47.105.
- Are county governments eligible?
Yes, education or environment agencies within county governments are considered eligible as defined in the eligibility requirements.
- I am a college student and want to apply for an EPA EE grant. Am I eligible to apply if I am going to use the funds for my own education or environmental issues?
No, individual students are not eligible to apply for grants under this program.
- May an organization apply for 501(C)(3) status at the same time as they apply for a grant, or do they have to have the status approved before they submit their application to EPA?
An organization may apply for 501(C)(3) status at the same time that they apply for a grant, but the organization must have its 501(C)(3) status already approved by the IRS to be eligible for an award under this grant program. If an applicant becomes a finalist for a grant but does not have its 501(C)(3) status approved by the time of the award, it will not be eligible for the award.
- Regarding eligibility for the EE grants program, one eligible type of agency is a "tribal education agency." Does this mean a school of some kind, or could a federally recognized tribe's Environmental Health Department be considered a "tribal education agency"?
No, an entity like a tribal health department is not considered an eligible agency. Only schools or a community college which is controlled by an Indian tribe, band, or nation, including any Alaskan native village which is recognized as eligible for special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians, and which is not administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is eligible.
- My organization has never received an EE grant from EPA for a project that we've run for several years. Would our project be eligible for funding from EPA?
Yes, your organization would be considered eligible for a grant through the EE program assuming that you meet all of the eligibility requirements as defined in the RFP.
- My organization has received funding for an EE grant in the past. Are we eligible to apply again?
Applicants must demonstrate that their proposal is for a project for which they (the applicant) has no been previously awarded a grant by EPA's EE program and a statement to this effect must be included in the first paragraph of the Project Summary, or the applicant must demonstrate that they are expanding, broadening or otherwise enhancing a project previously funded by EPA's EE Grant Program in such a way that it could serve as a replicable model of environmental education practices, methods, or techniques.
- What kind of restrictions does your grant program put on construction projects? Would the installation of a rain garden qualify? Or a playground that was built to instruct children how a certain environmental principle works?
The solicitation notice specifically prohibits using EPA funds for construction. The creation of something like a rain garden or a playground should be peripheral to an education project, not its main activity and not the major expense of the budget. The solicitation doesn't allow the funds to be used, for example, for the construction of a building, even to hold environmental education classes or house environmental displays, etc. So if expenses to install a rain garden or playground dominate the budget and the project period and require something like heavy equipment purchase or rental, then most likely the project is more construction than education and therefore ineligible. (Note: The solicitation gives an example of a nature trail or a bird house as allowable expenses, but even these would have to be part of a larger education project, not the primary focus of the project and/or expenditure of the budget.)
- What are ineligible activities?
Environmental education funds cannot be used for:
- Technical training of environmental management professionals;
- Environmental "information" or "outreach" projects that have no educational component, as described in Section I (B) of the RFP;
- Advocacy promoting a particular point of view or course of action;
- Lobbying or political activities as defined in OMB Circulars
- Non-educational research and development; or
- Construction projects - EPA will not fund construction activities such as the aquisition of real property (e.g., buildings) or the construction or modification of any building.
- Does EPA have a definition or example of a "replicable model of environmental education practices, methods, or techniques"?
EPA does not have a formal definition of this term, nor do we have examples of previously funded grants that served as "replicable models" because we have not issued a solicitation for this type of grant before. We are looking for projects that would add to or enhance the field of environmental education and that could be easily duplicated in other settings - i.e., in a variety of geographical locations, with various audience types, in different educational settings (formal and/or non formal), etc.
- Is there any guidance you can give our organization regarding what kids of activities EPA will fund to train educators?
EPA has funded various kinds of projects focused on the training of environmental educators. A resource to help guide projects that address the training of environmental educators is the Guidelines for the Preparation and Professional Development of Environmental Educators developed with EPA funds. You may download or order a copy of this publication by going to EPA's web site at http://www2.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-publications.
- Does this program fund the development of environmental education materials or curriculum?
EPA strongly encourages applicants to use existing quality environmental education materials rather than developing new ones because many quality materials are available and some are under-utilized. When determining what educational materials to use, EPA recommends you review “Environmental Education Materials: Guidelines for Excellence” developed with EPA funds. You may download or order a copy of this publication by going to EPA’ web site at http://www2.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-publications. This publication provides guidance on developing, evaluating, and selecting quality environmental education materials.
EPA will consider funding the development of new materials where the applicant demonstrates that there is a need (e.g., that existing quality educational materials cannot be adapted to a particular local environmental concern or audience or existing quality materials are not available). You should specify what steps you have taken to determine this need (e.g., you may cite a conference where this need was discussed, the results of inquiries made within your community or with educational institutions, or a research paper or other published document).
- How do I evaluate and select high quality environmental education materials among the many existing choices that seem relevant to my project?
When determining what educational materials to use in your project, EPA recommends you review “Environmental Education Materials: Guidelines for Excellence”, which can be downloaded or ordered by going to EPA’ web site at http://www2.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-publications. If you don't know yet which materials you will use as part of your project, you should identify in your proposal what steps you will take to search for and select those materials.
- How does EPA define "students" as part of the target audience of a grant funded project - for example, are university students considered an eligible target audience?
Yes, university students are considered “students” under the eligibility criteria for projects in the EE grant program. In fact, “students” in EE projects funded by EPA may be any age and the term may be used to refer to students of informal education programs as well -- for example, programs held in nature centers, zoos, or science centers.
- If an applicant does not have an Indirect Cost Rate Agreement with the government, then what costs cannot be included in their proposed budget?
Without an Indirect Cost Rate Agreement, applicants cannot include overhead costs that are not directly attributable to the performance of a specific task in the proposed project. Organizations with an Indirect Cost Rate Agreement may include such expenses as rent and administrative support for their offices on the “indirect costs” line of their proposed budget. Organizations without such an agreement cannot account for such costs in their proposed budget because those costs are difficult to document as being directly related to specific activities in the grant project.
- Does an applicant have to have an Indirect Cost Rate Agreement in place when they apply for funds from this grant program?
No, an applicant can begin the negotiations for an Indirect Cost Rate Agreement at the same time that they apply for a grant to this program, or within 90 days of the date of an award of a grant under this solicitation. However, recipients are not allowed to seek reimbursement for indirect costs until an approved indirect cost rate is obtained.
Note - new in 2012:If the recipient does not have a current negotiated indirect cost rate or proposal, and if EPA is the recipient’s cognizant agency, EPA can allow the recipient to charge a flat indirect cost rate of 10% of salaries and wages (see 2 CFR Part 230, Appendix A). Recipients that opt to use the 10% flat rate are obligated to use the flat rate for the life of the grant award.
To find more information on indirect cost rate agreements, go to http://www.aqd.nbc.gov/services/ICS.aspx.
- Is there a matching funds requirement?
Yes, applicants must provide non-federal matching funds of at least 25% of the total cost of the project.
Matching Funds Explanation:Non-federal matching funds must be at least 25% of the total cost of the project. The match must be for an allowable cost and may be provided by the applicant or a partner organization or institution. The match may be provided in cash or by in-kind contributions and other non-cash support. In-kind contributions often include salaries or other verifiable costs and this value must be carefully documented. In the case of salaries, applicants may use fair market value for your locale. If the match is provided by a partner organization, the applicant is still responsible for proper accountability and documentation. All grants are subject to federal audit.
IMPORTANT: The matching non-federal share is a percentage of the entire cost of the project. For example, if the entire budget for the project is $288,000, then the grant recipient must provide $72,000 of those funds, and the request for federal funds would be $216,000. One way to assure that your match is sufficient is to divide the federally requested amount by three (e.g., $216,000/3 = $72,000).
Other Federal Funds: You may use other federal funds in addition to those provided by this program, but not for activities that EPA is funding. You may not use any federal funds to meet any part of the required 25% match described above, unless it is specifically authorized by statute. If you have already been awarded federal funds for a project for which you are seeking additional support from this program, you must indicate those funds in the budget section of the work plan. You must also identify the project officer, agency, office, address, phone number, and the amount of the federal funds.
- May a college (or other entity) submit a proposal with a budget that contains less than its federally negotiated indirect cost rate and then claim the rest of that percentage rate as part of its required cost match?
Yes, as long as a written copy of the current negotiated indirect cost rate is submitted along with the proposal.
- Do the required matching funds have to be in cash, or can they be in-kind donations and services, e.g., volunteers' or teacher's time working on the project?
n-kind contributions of services, and other items like equipment, can count toward the required 25% cost match. Please see Section IV(C)(4) of the RFP for a complete matching funds explanation. As stated in the RFP, “the match must be for an allowable cost and may be provided by the applicant or a partner organization or institution. The match may be provided in cash or by in-kind contributions and other non-monetary support.”
- What is "program income" and how and when may it be used by the recipient?
Program income is defined as the money a grant recipient earns as a direct result of a grant-supported activity. For example, registration fees charged for any conference or training course supported with grant funds are considered program income. A terms and conditions document will be issued by the Project Officer after an award is made to indicate how the program income shall be used. In most cases, program income will be used to pay for specified grant costs that are eligible and allowable and that further the project’ goals. It may also be used to finance the non-federal share (match) of the project. Please see 40 CFR 30.2(x), 40 CFR 30.24 and 40 CFR 31.25 for more details on this topic.
- May an applicant use program income as part of their non-federal cost share/match?
Yes, program income may be used to finance the non-federal share of the project.
- When is it allowable for a grant recipient to use grant funds to pay for meals?
Generally, when a speaker or a presentation/panel is provided or other work is being done during breakfast or lunch at a conference/workshop or field trip, it is allowable to use grant funds to pay for meals for the participants. It is also generally allowable to use grant funds to pay for light refreshments/snacks offered during breaks at conferences/workshops or field trips. The specific event at which meals and/or light refreshments/snacks will be provided must be described in the scope of work and the plan for the event, including the provision for refreshments, must be pre-approved by the Project Officer.
Meals and light refreshments provided at a grant recipient’ staff meetings are not allowable, nor are refreshments for evening receptions. Meals and receptions where alcohol is served are not allowable even if the grant funds are not used for the alcohol. Generally, banquets (especially evening banquets) paid for with grant funds are not allowed, nor is any EPA-funded entertainment. Also not allowed are any sort of EPA-funded events that conduct any fund-raising or involve strategies to solicit contributions, endowments, gifts or bequests.
Please note that a determination of reasonableness and necessity of costs for light refreshments/snacks and meals will be made on a case by case basis and included in a Terms and Conditions document at the time of the award of a grant.
- Can we use EPA grant funds to purchase items for our grant project participants that will assist the participants in taking positive environmental actions that align with EPA's environmental priories? (For example, can we purchase with grant funds and provide to our participants stainless steel water bottles to prevent excessive plastic water bottle use?)
Yes, as long as the cost is a relatively small percentage of the total amount of federal funds requested and the reasoning/relevance behind the purchase is explained in the detailed budget in the original application/proposal.
- Under this grant program, may a for-profit company be included as a partner?
Yes, as long as the grantee (grant recipient) does not use grant funds to hire the for-profit company to provide services. For example, it is acceptable to use the value of a volunteer teacher or a mentor’ services as a match to the extent allowable under 40 CFR Part 30 or Part 31. An organization applying for a grant under this RFP must ensure that they do not partner with an entity that provides goods or services that are available in the commercial marketplace in order to obtain those goods and services in a non-competitive transaction.
- May an applicant subcontract work on part of the proposed project?
Yes, as long as all federal rules and procedures (or state rules, if the applicant is a state agency) for procurement are followed, then the applicant may subcontract for part of the work of the project. EPA will consider the qualifications of the subcontractor when evaluating the proposal.
- May work on a proposed project be subcontracted to a non-profit organization?
Yes, as long as all federal rules and procedures (or state rules, if the applicant is a state agency) for procurement are followed, then the applicant may subcontract for part of the work of the project. EPA will consider the qualifications of the subcontractor when evaluating the proposal.
- May a partner or subcontractor provide any or all of the 25% cost share requirement?
Yes, provided the costs are allowable under 40 CFR 30.23 or 40 CFR 31.24 for third party contributions. Please note that a third party’ indirect costs may not be counted toward a cost share.
- May we award sub-grants as part of the project funded under this solicitation?
Yes, applicants that plan on using project funds for contracting or subawards must comply with the requirements described in Section IV(F) of the solicitation. Note that no sub-awards for amounts of $5,000 or less may be made under this particular solicitation notice.
- What are you looking for in the Partnership Letters of Commitment?
It is very important that partners provide letters that clearly describe the role they will play in the proposed project. If funds, equipment/supplies or in-kind services will be provided, the dollar amounts or specific equipment/supplies or kinds of services need to be described in detail in the letter. The more detailed and specific the letter is, the more points it will likely receive from reviewers. It is not enough to simply name partners in the proposal; all partners must provide letters of commitment or they will not be given consideration by reviewers. If no letters are provided, it will be assumed there are no partners for the project.
- What if we don't have a partner for the proposed project?
While partnerships are not required for a proposed project to receive a grant from this program, it is important to note that EPA’ EE Program considers partnerships to be a valuable contribution to the success of most projects and awards up to 6 points in its evaluation process for letters demonstrating partners' commitments. If you will not have any partners for your project, be sure to explain in your proposal how you anticipate reaching your goals successfully on your own.
- Will EPA consider proposals for 2-year projects?
Yes, as stated in the RFP in Section II(C) - Start Date and Length of Project Period, EPA will accept up to two year project periods; the proposal must demonstrate clearly how the project will be completed in the time frame proposed. Funds for 2 year projects will be restricted to the same limits as those for projects of less than 2 years; i.e., no more than $216,000 total for the entire length of the project.
- How many grants/dollar amounts are usually awarded?
Funds available for these grant projects are anticipated to be approximately $2.16 million nationwide. This grant program generates a great deal of public enthusiasm for developing environmental education projects. Consequently, the competition is very intense and EPA receives many more applications for these grants than can be supported with available funds.
Regional Grant Offices: Under this solicitation each of the EPA’s 10 Regional Offices will fund one grant for an amount no greater than $216,000.
Note: There will be no grants issued from Headquarters.
- Where can I find information about EPA's Strategic Plan?
See EPA’s 2011-2015 Strategic Plan at http://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/strategicplan.html.
- Do you have guidelines for developing successful grant applications?
Yes, you can find them at http://www2.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-grants
- How can I find out about upcoming solicitations?
You can sign up to receive an e-mail notification at http://www2.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-grants.
Solicitations for environmental education grants are provided at http://www2.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-grants.
- Can I talk to someone about my idea for a grant?
EPA staff are not permitted to discuss potential grant ideas with potential applicants. The point of contact in Headquarters may answer only technical questions that are not addressed here or in the RFP and must do so in writing only (via email at email@example.com) - no phone calls please.
- In Section IV(C)(3)(a), Project Description, it appears an item was deleted or left out from the list included in the "What" paragraph. Is there an item #3 or was the list of items numbered incorrectly?
The items were misnumbered in that section. There is no item number 3.
- We have included a number of citations in the text of the proposal. Do we need to include a references section with full formal citations in the 7-page work plan? Or can we include the references as an appendix outside of the work plan's page limit?
Any literature or research citations should be included in the body of the work plan and are therefore subject to the 7-page limit. It sometimes helps to create footnotes in a smaller font, or in some other way include the citations in a smaller font or more compact format so that you do not take up too much space in the work plan. We do not need a lot of detail in the citations or a formal presentation of them. If we need more information, we will make a request later in the process.
- Will there be any other means through which I can receive more information about this grant program and how to apply for funding?
EPA hosted two webinars/conference calls for potential applicants interested in additional information about the application process. A consolidated list of questions answered on these calls are available in the transcripts provided below.