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Frequently Asked Questions

General

Q— What kinds of funding opportunities are offered by NIFA?

A— NIFA offers three types of funding opportunities: competitive grants, formula-funded grants, and special line-item grants. NIFA's funding opportunities are considered federal financial assistance. Consequently, all NIFA awards are governed by the appropriate federal and agency-specific regulations (for example, OMB Circulars and the Code of Federal Regulations).

Q— How do I know if I am eligible or my organization is eligible to apply for a NIFA grant?

A— Eligibility for any NIFA grant program is determined by the authorizing and annual appropriation legislation. For competitive grants, you can check the "Eligibility" section of the appropriate Request for Applications (RFA) (located in Part III, A). For formula-funded grants and special line-item grants, NIFA notifies eligible grant recipients directly.

Pre-Award/Award

Q— What is a Request for Applications (RFA)?

A— NIFA announces funding opportunities by publishing Requests for Applications (RFAs). RFAs provide potential applicants with detailed information about particular funding opportunities (including purpose, eligibility, restrictions, focus areas, evaluation criteria, and regulatory information) and instructions on how to apply.

Q— How are RFAs or funding opportunities announced?

A— RFAs are announced in the “Funding Opportunities” section of the NIFA Web site and made available through the governmentwide grants.gov Web site. Occasionally, when legislatively required, RFAs are published in the Federal Register, but these RFAs are posted on the NIFA Web site and grants.gov Web site as well.

Q— How do I know when to expect publication of an RFA?

A— Most programs publish RFAs on an annual basis during the same month each year. NIFA uses listservs and its bi-weekly publication, NIFA Update, to notify potential applicants that an RFA has been published. The agency sometimes issues press releases when a new funding opportunity is accepting applications.

Q— Where can I get a copy of an RFA and the application forms necessary to apply for a funding opportunity?

A— You can access RFAs and application forms in the “Funding Opportunities” section of the NIFA Web site. You can download grant application forms directly from the Application Forms page. If you need a hard copy of an RFA or application form, you may contact the Proposal Services Unit at 202-401-5048 or e-mail psb@nifa.usda.gov.

Q— Does NIFA accept unsolicited grant applications?

A— No. NIFA receives annual appropriations that require the agency to fund very specific areas of agricultural research, education, and extension. Therefore, NIFA cannot accept or consider unsolicited grant applications for funding.

Q— When I have completed my application, do I send a hard copy or an electronic version to NIFA?

A— For now, you must refer to Part IV, E. of the RFA for a particular program to find out the required mode of submission for grant applications. For some programs, NIFA has begun requiring that applicants submit their information electronically through the governmentwide grants.gov Web site. Expansion of the agency's plans for electronic submission of applications is contingent on the success of these initial grant programs.

Q— Who should I contact if I have a question about a specific RFA?

A— If you have a programmatic question, please contact the individual(s) listed in the “Agency Contact(s)” section (Part VII) of the program's RFA. If you have an administrative question, please contact the Awards Management Branch, Office of Extramural Programs, at 202-401-4986.

Q— How do I know when my application is due and where I should send it?

A— Program-specific deadline dates are identified in the “Submission Dates and Times” section (Part IV, C.) of RFAs. Addresses for application submission (both express mail and regular mail) are identified in the “Other Submission Requirements” section (Part IV, E) of every RFA. All applications are processed by NIFA's Proposal Services Unit.

Q— What information needs to be included in my Budget Narrative?

A— Instructions for completing the Budget Narrative are included on the Budget Narrative form.

Q— What are indirect costs?

A— Indirect costs are those costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project (for example, depreciation and use allowances for an organization's building and equipment, operation and maintenance expenses, sponsored projects administration, and departmental administration). (Note: see Indirect Cost Limitation for FY 2006 and FY 2007.)

Q— May I include indirect costs in my application budget?

A— Yes. Some competitive financial assistance programs supported by NIFA allow indirect costs. However, the amount is usually limited by law to 20 percent of the total federal funds provided under a grant award. Applicants should consult the “Funding Restrictions” section (Part IV, D.) of the RFA for a particular program to determine the amount of indirect costs that they may request.

Q— How do I obtain an indirect cost rate agreement?

A— The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been designated by the Office of Management and Budget as the cognizant agency responsible for negotiating indirect cost rate agreements for a significant number of organizations receiving federal financial assistance awards. An organization's office of sponsored research or business office can assist the applicant in applying the correct rate. If an organization does not already have an DHHS-negotiated indirect cost rate, please contact NIFA's Office of Extramural Programs at 202-720-9181.

Q— Once I have submitted my application, how will I know that NIFA has received it?

A— Within 60 days, you will receive an e-mail acknowledging receipt of your application. If you have not indicated an e-mail address in your application, an acknowledgment letter will be sent to your mailing address. If you have not received an acknowledgment e-mail or letter, you may contact the Proposal Services Unit at 202-401-5048 or e-mail psb@nifa.usda.gov.

Q— Where can I send comments about a particular RFA to be considered in the development of the RFA for the next fiscal year?

A— Any interested party may e-mail written stakeholder comments to RFP-OEP@nifa.usda.gov or mail comments to:

Policy and Program Liaison Staff
Office of Extramural Programs
NIFA, USDA
STOP 2299 1400 Independence Avenue, SW.
Washington, DC 20250-2299

Q— What happens after my application is received by NIFA?

A— Your application will go through a peer review process to evaluate its technical merit. If your application is recommended for funding, a NIFA national program leader (NPL) will notify you. At that time, the NPL also may request additional information. After all the NPL's requests for programmatic information have been satisfied, he/she will forward your application to the Awards Management Branch (AMB) for review and execution of the award. A member of the AMB staff will conduct an administrative review of the recommended award and may ask you for additional information. After AMB's requests for administrative information have been satisfied, the award will be signed in AMB by an authorizing official. An official notification (Form NIFA-2009 - Award Face Sheet) will be sent to the authorized organizational representative of your institution.

Q— How do I contact the Awards Management Branch (AMB)?

A— The phone number for AMB is 202-401-4986. The fax number for the AMB is 202-401-1804. The regular mailing address for AMB is:

Awards Management Branch
NIFA, USDA
STOP 2271 1400 Independence Avenue, SW.
Washington, DC 20250-2271

The express mail address for AMB is:

Awards Management Branch
NIFA, USDA
Room 2183 Waterfront Centre
800 9th Street, SW.
Washington, DC 20250

Q— I am a new grantee for NIFA grant funds. Will I need to provide any additional information to NIFA before my award can be approved?

A— Yes. You will be required to submit additional organizational information for NIFA to determine whether you are eligible to receive funds. An AMB staff member will request this information from you as part of the negotiation process. You will be asked to complete and submit NIFA Form-665, Assurance of Compliance with USDA Regulations Assuring Civil Rights Compliance, and NIFA Form-666, Organizational Information.

Payments

Q— I am a new grantee for NIFA grant funds. How will I receive my funds?

A— NIFA funds are made available for electronic funds transfer through the Department of Health and Human Services' Payment Management System (DHHS-PMS) which is one of the two grants payments approved for the federal government. You will need to establish an account at DHHS, even if your institution or organization is receiving grant funds through DHHS-PMS from another federal agency (even if that agency is another USDA agency).

Q— How do I set up an account at DHHS-PMS?

A— The first step in establishing an electronic funds transfer with DHHS-PMS is to establish a direct deposit account with your financial institution. You will need to complete an SF-1199A, Direct Deposit Sign-Up Form, a Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification, and the Primary Contact Person Form. On the Primary Contact Person Form, please be sure to indicate the person who will serve as the primary contact person for the payment. The completed SF-1199A, W-9, and Primary Contact Person Form should be returned to the Funds Management Section (FMS).

The regular mailing address for FMS is:

New Accounts
Funds Management Section
Office of Extramural Programs
NIFA, USDA
STOP 2298 1400 Independence Ave., SW.
Washington, DC 20250-2298

The overnight mailing address for FMS is:

New Accounts
Funds Management Section
Office of Extramural Programs
NIFA, USDA
Room 2235 Waterfront Centre
800 9th Street, SW.
Washington, DC 20024

Please note that the SF-1199A must have original signatures. DHHS-PMS will forward a user's guide and communications instructions for your use in setting up this process after FMS receives these forms. If you have further questions, you may contact Khaliah Whittington.

Q— How do I get the grant funds for a specific grant?

A— NIFA provides funding authorizations by grant account to DHHS-PMS. The grant accounts are identified by what DHHS-PMS refers to as subaccounts, which are derivatives of NIFA's grant numbers. Most NIFA awards are made prior to the grant start date to allow time for funds to be made available at DHHS-PMS. NIFA transmits batches of funding authorizations periodically throughout the year, depending on the various grant program start dates. As needed, NIFA will process manual funding authorizations. As your funds are made available at DHHS-PMS, NIFA will notify you that funding authorizations have been made available at DHHS-PMS via a Letter of Authorization. The Letter will be numbered sequentially and mailed to the primary contact person identified when the account was initially established. NIFA can notify only one primary contact person. Therefore, procedures should be in place at your institution or organization to share the information with those who need to know. Within the next year, NIFA hopes to have an e-mail and Web-based information system for these letters of authorization.

Q— How can I track the progress of my funding authorization or find out if I have been authorized funds for a specific grant?

A— For research and education grants (including SBIR grants), please contact Pia Miller. For extension grants, please contact Priscilla Bosco.

Q— What do I do if I know the funds are available at DHHS-PMS, but I have not received a copy of the letter of authorization?

A— To obtain a copy of a letter of authorization, please contact the appropriate person identified below:

  • Khaliah Whittington, Accounting Technician
    Financial reports for research and education grants at AL, AS, AR, DC, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, Micronesia, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, TN, WA, WV, WY
  • Selene Gates, Accounting Technician
    Financial reports for extension grants (all grantees)
  • Ann Tucker, Accounting Technician
    Financial reports for research and education grants at AK, AZ, CO, Northern Marianas, NC, ND, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, PR, UT, VT, WI
  • Sophia Wilson, Accounting Technician
    Financial reports for research and education grants at CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, GU, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, RI, SC, SD, TX, VI

Q— Who can I contact with questions about funds that are "on hold" for a particular formula grant?

A— If you have questions about formula funds being "on hold" for a particular formula-funded grant, please contact Arnita Cross. Formula funds are put "on hold" or not released to the DHHS-PMS for failure to submit an approved Plan of Work, an Annual Report of Accomplishments and Results, Certification of Offset, Program of Research, SF-272, Federal Cash Transaction Report, SF-269, Financial Status Report, etc. Upon receipt of these outstanding items, FMS will release these funds within 2-5 days through the DHHS-PMS.

Q— Who do I contact to update my institutions's POC information?

A— For formula grant programs, please contact Arnita Cross and for all non-formula grants, please contact the applicable accounting technician identified above.

Post-Award Administration

Q— How do I change the project director (PD) on an existing grant award?

A— Depending on the situation, follow the appropriate set of instructions below:

a. If the project director's (PD's) absence is temporary, the authorized organizational representative of your institution must notify the Awards Management Branch in writing of arrangements for the continuing conduct of the project (such as identifying who will be in charge during the PD's absence and including his/her curriculum vita and his/her written concurrence).
b. If the PD is no longer affiliated with the institution, the authorized organizational representative must request, in writing, NIFA's approval of the replacement PD and must include a copy of his/her curriculum vita and a Current and Pending Support Form for the replacement PD. This request also must contain the signature of the proposed replacement PD signifying his/her willingness to assume leadership of the project.

Q— How do I request a no-cost extension of time?

A— If this is a first-time request for an extension lasting up to 12-months, the grant has not expired, and you are under General Terms and Conditions A or Federal Demonstration Partnership, your authorized organizational representative (AOR) may approve a one-time no-cost extension of time. The AOR must provide a written notification of this action to NIFA-AMB. If you require more than one no-cost extension of time or an extension of more than 12 months, the extension(s) must be approved by NIFA. An AOR of your institution must prepare and submit a written request to NIFA. This request may be faxed to the Awards Management Branch (AMB) of the Office of Extramural Programs at 202-401-3237 or 202-401-6271. The request must be received by AMB at least 30 days prior to the expiration date of the award and must contain:

a. The length of additional time required to complete project objectives and a justification for the extension.
b. A summary of progress to date or a current Form AD 421 - Research Work Unit/Project Description-Progress Report;
c. An estimate of funds expected to remain unobligated on the scheduled expiration date.
d. A projected timetable to complete the remaining portion(s) of the project.
e. Signature of the authorized organizational representative and the project director.
f. A status of cost sharing to date, if cost sharing, is applicable.

Q— Will I be notified that my no-cost extension has been approved?

A— You will be notified in writing if NIFA approves your request. However, award recipients under General Terms and Conditions A or Federal Demonstration Partnership Terms and Conditions will not be notified regarding a first-time request for a no-cost extension of time of up to 12 months because the institution has the authority to approve such an extension of time.

Q— How can I transfer my grant if I move to a new institution?

A— To transfer your grant, the relinquishing grantee organization must submit an original and two copies of the following documentation to the designated national program leader (NPL):

a. A statement signed by the authorized organizational representative relinquishing the grant.
b. A summary of progress to date or a current CRIS Form AD-421 - Research Work Unit/Project Description-Progress Report.
c. Form SF-269, Financial Status Report, which reflects the total amount of award funds spent by the awardee and those remaining to be transferred.

The new or receiving grantee organization should submit an original and two copies of the following documentation to the NPL:

a. Form NIFA-2002, Proposal Cover Page, containing original signatures of the project director and authorized organizational representative.
b. Form NIFA-2004, Budget, and narrative for the amount of award funds being transferred (this amount should agree with the amount reported on the relinquishing organization's Form SF-269, Financial Status Report).
c. Form NIFA-2008, Assurance Statements, if applicable;
d. CRIS Forms AD-416 and AD-417 (from the new institution), if applicable.
e. Form NIFA-2005, Current and Pending Support;
f. Form NIFA-2006, National Environmental Policy Act Exclusions.
g. A project summary/work statement covering the work to be completed under the project. The objectives must be the same as those outlined in the application approved under the former grant. Please note that cost-sharing requirements of the original award transfer to the new organization and should be included in the new proposal.
h. A copy of the project director's updated curriculum vita.
Contact Wanda Edwards for additional information

Q— How do I request a budget change?

A— For those grants awarded under General Terms and Conditions-A or Federal Demonstration Partnership, approval from NIFA is not required unless funds for an item have been withheld on the award budget or you intend to subcontract (a) more than 50 percent of the total award to another party(ies), or (b) you intend to subcontract with a federal agency. However, if your grant was awarded under General Terms and Conditions-B and your budget change is greater than 10 percent, NIFA approval will be needed. All grants awarded under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) must have prior written approval from the national program leader. To request approval, prepare a letter outlining a brief description and justification of the requested changes to the budget. Include the signatures of the authorized organizational representative and the project director and a revised budget and narrative.

Q— How do I get funds released that were previously withheld?

A— Refer to the “Provisions” section of your Award Face Sheet (Form NIFA-2009) to determine why funds were withheld and what is needed to release them. Once you have made this determination, submit the required information to the administrative point of contact listed in Block 12 of the Award Face Sheet. If you are unable to determine what is needed, please contact the administrative person listed in Block 12. NIFA should send you a letter notifying you of the release of funds approximately 30 days after NIFA receives the necessary information. As these requirements are met, the Awards Management Branch will notify the Funds Management Section that a specified amount of funds can be released. Within 2-5 days of the date of your notification letter from the Awards Management Branch, these additional funds will be made available through the DHHS-PMS. If you have any questions about a particular research or education award, please contact Pia Miller. If you have questions about a particular extension award, please contact Priscilla Bosco. These funding authorizations are processed manually, and you will receive a letter of authorization for the additional amount.

Q— Where can I find a list of FDC codes by fiscal year?

A— Click here to view a list of FDC codes for FY 2006 sorted by FDC.

Financial Reporting Requirements

Q— What are the financial reporting requirements for NIFA grants?

A— All grantees are required to file an SF-272, Federal Cash Transactions Report, on a quarterly basis to DHHS-PMS according to the deadlines and instructions established by DHHS-PMS. The due date for the report is 45 days after the close of the quarterly reporting period (for example, for the quarter ending 12/31/05, due date was 2/14/06. In addition, grantees are required to submit a SF-269, Financial Status Report, within 90 days of the grant termination date. Currently, these reports are still being received in hard copy format. NIFA will be working on electronic submission of the SF-269 reports. These reports should be forwarded directly to the Funds Management Section (FMS). The regular mailing address for FMS is:

Funds Management Section
Office of Extramural Programs
NIFA, USDA
STOP 2298 1400 Independence Ave., SW.
Washington, DC 20250-2298

The overnight mailing address for FMS is:

Funds Management Section
Office of Extramural Programs
NIFA, USDA
Room 2235 Waterfront Centre
800 9th Street, SW.
Washington, DC 20024

Please note that annual SF-269s, Financial Status Reports, are due annually for the formula grant programs. The 1862 and 1890 land-grant institutions are required to submit these reports for research activities (supported with formula funds) by December 31. The 1862 land-grant institutions are required to submit these reports for extension activities (supported with formula funds) by April 1, while the 1890 land-grant institutions are required to submit these reports for extension activities (supported with formula funds) by December 1.

Q— What happens if I fail to submit the SF-272, Federal Cash Transactions Report, to DHHS-PMS?

A— Unless you have made prior arrangements with FMS and DHHS-PMS, any future drawdown requests will not be processed. Therefore, it is important that you submit these reports promptly and, if necessary, work with FMS and DHHS-PMS staff to receive an extension to submit the report.

Q— What happens if I need an extension of time to complete the SF-269, Financial Status Report, but I don't need a no-cost extension of time to complete the project?

A— You need to submit a request to Wanda Edwards. The request should include the grant number, new requested due date, and an adequate justification.

Q— What happens if I need an extension of time to complete the annual SF-269s, Financial Status Reports, for the formula grant programs?

A— At least 30 days prior to the reporting due date, you need to submit a request to Wanda Edwards. The request should include the grant number(s), new requested due date, and an adequate justification.