BEFORE THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
In the matter of the amendment of ARM 8.94.3727 pertaining to the administration of the 2013-2014 Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program
NOTICE OF AMENDMENT
TO: All Concerned Persons
1. On September 19, 2013, the Department of Commerce published MAR Notice No. 8-94-117 pertaining to the public hearing on the proposed amendment of the above-stated rule at page 1646 of the 2013 Montana Administrative Register, Issue Number 18.
2. The department has amended the above-stated rule as proposed.
3. The department has thoroughly considered the comments and testimony received. A summary of the comments received and the department's responses follow:
COMMENT #1: A comment was received – in the form of a question to staff – since CRDCs receive funding from the U.S. EDA for the preparation of comprehensive economic development strategies and other planning activities, can EDA funds be used as match for CDBG planning grant activities?
RESPONSE #1: Guidance in Section IV found on page 7 of the Draft FFY 2013-2014 CDBG Application Guidelines for Housing & Public Facilities Planning Grants identifies that "grants or other cash contributions from other local, state and federal agencies and programs or private organizations are also acceptable forms of match for CDBG planning grant awards." Therefore, funds received from the U.S. EDA for the completion of planning activities for which a local government is also applying for CDBG planning grant funding would be an eligible source of match. The local government would be required to clearly document the source of matching funds in their grant application, as well as provide detailed documentation of what planning activities and products the matching funds paid for, in relation to the overall planning activity funded.
COMMENT #2: A comment was received – in the form of a question to staff – that many CRDCs do planning in rural communities. Since most counties don't have designated planning staff, who takes the lead in planning at the local level? And if CRDCs are doing planning work for a rural community or county, does there have to be a separate RFP process, as normally required for CDBG?
RESPONSE #2: CDBG planning grants are awarded to eligible counties, cities or towns; these eligible entities may apply on behalf of a nonprofit organization, but are required to be the applicant with regard to planning activities utilizing planning grant funds. If a county, city, or town is interested in using a CRDC to complete planning projects, they would be able to do so as long as the local government follows the procurement procedures outlined in Section VIII of the Draft FFY 2013-2014 CDBG Application Guidelines for Housing & Public Facilities Planning Grants.
COMMENT #3: A comment was received urging staff to reconsider allowing CDBG planning grant funds to pay for the preparation of grant applications for funding from other agencies and programs, not just CDBG. Page 5 of the current CDBG planning grant guidelines lists the preparation of grant applications for CDBG housing or public facilities projects, in conjunction with a planning project listed above (under eligible activities within the guidelines).
RESPONSE #3: Application guidelines for CDBG planning grants dating back to 2006 have recognized the preparation of a grant application for a CDBG housing or public facilities project as an eligible expense; the current guidelines are consistent with what has been in place for the last seven years. Other planning grant programs allow for the preparation of project grant applications to benefit communities; the 2015 Biennium Quality Schools planning grant guidelines allow for the preparation of an application for a Quality Schools facility infrastructure grant as an eligible expense, and the Treasure State Endowment Program Infrastructure Planning Grant Administration Guidelines allow for the preparation of a TSEP grant application to count as match toward an infrastructure planning grant.
COMMENT #4: A comment was received – in the form of a series of questions to staff – regarding specific administrative and review processes in the application. These questions included clarification under Section VIII as to what the 500-word limit applies to; clarification of what 'activities' refers to in Exhibit 2 – Proposed Budget & Justification Narrative; clarification of postmark date; and when the final version of the application guidelines will be posted.
RESPONSE #4: Under Section VIII of the application – Detailed Project Proposal – the '500 words or less' requirement applies to all subsections under A, B, and C. The term 'activities' in the table in Exhibit 2 – Proposed Budget & Justification Narrative – encompasses the general project and does not need to include the entire statement/breakdown of work. Any applications sent via standard mail must be postmarked November 1, 2013 – staff recommends the applicant e-mail application materials, if possible, on November 1 to ensure the application is received as soon after the cycle opens as possible; the original signature page and documents can be mailed to Commerce following submittal via e-mail. At minimum, the month and year of the activity to be completed should be included in the implementation schedule attached to the application (Exhibit 1). It is anticipated the finalized guidelines and application will be posted on the Department of Commerce's web site no later than October 25, 2013.
COMMENT #5: A comment was received voicing concern that there is not sufficient turnaround time between the end of the comment period and the beginning of the application cycle on November 1, 2013.
RESPONSE #5: Due to the use of electronic media and the amount of interest surrounding the CDBG planning grant cycle opening this fall, the Department of Commerce felt confident that one week was a sufficient amount of time. Comments received to date did not result in significant alterations to the draft guidelines that were posted on September 19, 2013 and made available to potential applicants. Had there been significant changes to the application and/or guidelines as a result of the public process, the department would have considered postponing the opening of the application cycle. Furthermore, if applications are received that are incomplete as a result of any changes made during this process, Commerce staff is committed to assisting applicants in working through these deficiencies to produce a complete application that can be considered for funding.
/s/ Kelly A. Lynch /s/ Meg O'Leary
KELLY A. LYNCH MEG O'LEARY
Rule Reviewer Director
Department of Commerce
Certified to the Secretary of State November 4, 2013.