AmeriCorps RFP FAQs 

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AMERICORPS*STATE PROGRAM
REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS
Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions and answers refer to the AmeriCorps*State 2014-2017 Request for Proposals.

List Updated: November 1, 2013 - 11:10am
The answers to these questions are based on how the Serve Illinois Commission staff interpreted the questions. Any answers that conflict with the language in the RFP, NOFA, or application instructions should be ignored. If potential applicants still have questions, please email us.

*NOTE: Question 16 mentioned a MSY cap of $13,600.  The actual cap is $13,300.

Application
  1. If we have to apply every year, are the contracts only for one year, too?
    1. N. Project/Award Period (Page 11 of the RFP)
      The Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS) and the Serve Illinois Commission (SIC) generally make grant awards for three years, with funding in annual increments. Grantees will be eligible for continuation funding in the second and third year contingent on the availability of appropriations, compliance, and performance. AmeriCorps members may not begin service until the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Illinois Department of Human Services issues the grant award and contract. A program may not certify hours a member performs prior to the award being issued.
  2. If we are currently in year 1 of the 2013-2016 grant cycle under Formula, in year 2 can we apply for Formula and Fixed? If we go to Fixed are we giving up year 2 & 3 of our contract?
    1. You can only have one Program (Formula or Fixed) so if you are selected for a Fixed Competitive Grant, you will not be considered for Formula funding.
  3. If we apply for the Governor-Mayor initiative and do not get selected, will we be moved over to the Formula category?
    1. The Governor-Mayor initiative is part of the competitive process. Any competitive applicants that do not receive funding will be moved to the formula pool for consideration.
  4. If called to send in a Competitive grant, do you still qualify for a Formula grant if not successful at the national level?
    1. If recommended for Competitive funding but not selected, the original application will be considered for Formula Funding.
  5. Will national organizations be penalized for applying at the State and National levels? For example, will state applications be de-prioritized if a national grant is submitted?
    1. This has not been the case in the past.
  6. How does scale factor into scoring the application?
    1. A programs current capacity plays a role and ability to scale is valued; however, size or scale is not the sole determining factor in scoring.
  7. What role do Commissioners play in the decision-making process?
    1. Commissioners review applications and assist in scoring the applications. Note that if a Commissioner has a relationship with an applicant, for example - they serve on an applicant’s Board of Directors, they do not participate in the process.
  8. For continuation applications, are we limited to the program areas and performance measures that were previously funded?
    1. Continuation applications should continue with the same performance measures. If applying as a recomplete program, the focus can change.
  9. If you apply for AmeriCorps members, can they be doing different categories or focus areas, if they are part time?
    1. Yes
  10. On page 6 of the RFP it says that “You may not exceed 26 double spaced pages in the Narratives, including the Executive Summary and Cover Page, as the pages print out from eGrants.” However, page 26 says that “Applications may not exceed 15 pages for the Narratives, including the Executive Summary and SF 424 Facesheet, as the pages print out from eGrants.” (emphasis in original) I am not quite sure what the difference is here, can you please explain?
    1. It should state “You may not exceed 15 double spaced pages….” The correction has been made. Any pages beyond 15 will not be read by the reviewers. This is in line with CNCS procedures as well.
  11. Are both Competitive and Formula programs required to meet the 12 MSY minimum?
    1. Competitive continuation applications will not be required to meet the new 12 Member minimum. Once you reach the recompetition status, you will need to meet the required minimum number. All new applicant will also be required to meet the minumum of 12 MSY.
  12. We have begun drafting our narrative and are not sure if the document needs to be double or single spaced. It makes a big difference in terms of how much verbiage can be included. Do you know the answer to that question at this point?
    1. Most formatting will be removed when you post the narrative on to Egrants, so plan for single spaced.

  13. Budget
  14. Can a community partnership apply with a fiscal agent that is a 501(c)(3)?
    1. Yes.
  15. Who is the grantee?
    1. The fiscal agent.
  16. How is the living stipend structured compared to VISTA?
    1. The stipend is paid to the member by the program whereas VISTA’s are paid directly from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)
  17. Does the $13,300 cap cover only the housing stipend, or all AmeriCorps member costs?
    1. This cost is the Member Service Year (MSY) cost per Full Time Equivalent (FTE). The maximum living allowance may include housing cost and cannot exceed the requirement set by the CNCS.
  18. Would the $12,100 minimum Living Allowance come out of the $13,500 Traditional grant (or $13,000 Fixed Award) or is that an expense Serve Illinois would cover IN ADDITION to the grant amount?
    1. The maximum cost per MSY must include the Living Allowance. Serve Illinois does not provide matching funds for AmeriCorps.
  19. Can you use SAMSHA grant dollars as matching?
    1. Any federal grant requires written approval to use as match. In general, other federal funds cannot be used to match CNCS funds.
  20. How much do we need to budget for OnCorps?
    1. $1.25 x number of members x 12 months.
  21. Can we use the difference between our negotiated indirect cost rate and the 5.26% as match?
    1. Yes, there is a Federal Indirect Cost rate calculation you can use to calculate the difference.
  22. Is there a matching fund requirement for the AmeriCorps State RFP?
    1. Yes, the Serve Illinois Commission is required to show proof of matching funds being reported by Programs.
  23. Do you need to have a match for the EAP Award?
    1. Education Award Program (EAP) Fixed-Amount grants: (Page 9 of the RFP). Applicants are eligible to apply for a small fixed-amount grant and use their own or other resources for the members’ living allowance and program costs. Applicants can apply for up to $800 per member service year (MSY). There is no match requirement for EAP grants. Unlike Full-time Fixed-amount grants, EAPs may enroll full-time and less-than-full-time members. These grants are applied for through the Serve Illinois Commission and forwarded to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) for review and consideration.
  24. If our program works with host sites, do we need to verify they aren’t using federal funds?
    1. Yes, if the host site is paying for member placement.
  25. Clarification – staff training cost can come out of this budget? If yes, what are some examples of what is allowed?
    1. Staff training should be included in the budget and could cover training of supervisors, fiscal staff and/or other training needed for managing the Program and Members.
  26. How do we obtain AmeriCorps regulated gear for our members? Is this an expense we can add to our budget?
    1. Programs can obtain gear from any vendor by providing the approved logo or by going through the http://www.nationalservicegear.org/programs/americorps.
  27. Does the cost reimbursement limit apply only to living allowance?
    1. All expenses requested by Programs are on a reimbursement basis.
  28. Match percent is across all 3 budget sections, rather than each section, correct?
    1. Yes, it is across all 3 budget sessions.
  29. If you have a program asking for only part-time member, education award only, can you ask for $800 for each member, or are you required to ask for less?
    1. The cost would be requested per MSY, not member. In this case, one (1) MSY would equal 2 HT member slots.
  30. I understand DHS-Serve Illinois will hold-back 2% of the project budget; what can I tell campus is the acceptable amount for their hold-back? They have agreements for federal dollars, state dollars, and even grants from specific state agencies --- campus doesn’t understand who this grant will actually come from? Will it be the Corporation or Department of Human Services or actually Serve Illinois? The answer I would like to hear you give is between 2-10% is acceptable…some of campus agreements can take 18-50% of a grant for administrative purposes. My objective is to see EVERY possible dollar invested in the project as possible.
    1. The amount you hold back will be based on your budgeting and the indirect cost rate. We do not set a specific amount that you should budget for. That will be dependent on your needs.
  31. To be selected as the “STATE” endorsed program --- is there a minimum or maximum a project we should ask for, say like $500,000? Encompassing 11-counties we could easily exceed $500,000 grant proposal.
    1. We require a minimum of 12 MSY (FTE). There is no maximum that you can request, but keep in mind we start most new programs at the minimum.

  32. Disability
  33. Can someone on state or federal disability serve as a member of AmeriCorps?
    1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that provides a monthly cash benefit to low-income individuals who are aged, blind, or who have a disability. Prior to the passage of the Heroes Earnings and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (HEART Act), receiving an AmeriCorps living allowance could disqualify an individual from eligibility. Under the HEART Act, the Social Security Administration will ignore an individual’s receipt of AmeriCorps benefits for purposes of SSI 42 eligibility. The Heart Act excludes “any benefit (whether cash or in-kind)” and so covers the living allowance, health insurance, child care, and the education award (and related interest payments). (Page 60- Program Director Manual).
  34. Our students are interested in becoming members. They are over 18, are in school, and are persons with disabilities. If they are not taking the G.E.D. and they do not get a diploma but a certificate, are they eligible to apply?
    1. Certification of Completion will be accepted.

  35. Education Award
  36. Can the education award be split amongst grandchildren or does it all have to go to one grandchild?
    1. There is only one payout.

  37. FTE/MSY
  38. Does 12 FTE = 24 part time?
    1. 12 MSY equals 12 full time or 24 half time slots.
  39. Please confirm that we can have a mix of members (example: 3 FTE, 3 PTE, 3 RPT).
    1. Yes, you can mix the type of member slots.
  40. As a new site, can we apply for 24 part time members to get to the 1700 FTE-12 member #? And, at the 900 hours, what is the member stipend amount?
    1. 12 MSY can be converted to 24 half time members if this is part of the program design. There is no minimum stipend requirement for less than FT slots.
  41. Is the minimum 12 FTE for a 1 year grant or 3 year contract?
    1. The minimum 12 MSY is for recompetes and new programs and has no bearing on the contract.
  42. Can we partner with other programs to gain our 12 members FTE?
    1. Yes.
  43. If you get funded for X number of MSYs, can you self fund the rest?
    1. There is an option to buy additional education awards through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
  44. If we have partners to bring number of requested members up to 12, is it okay for all to have different program focus as long as all are emphasizing education, for instance?
    1. Yes.
  45. Do continuance applicants need to apply for the 12 MSYs even though the current 3-year cycle was for 8 MSYs?
    1. No. Only recompetes and new programs must meet the 12 MSY requirement.

  46. Insurance
  47. What is the health care AmeriCorps requirements?
    1. Grantees must provide health coverage for full time members.
  48. What is the maximum that can pay out of pocket. Our employees pay 10% of the cost.
    1. Programs absorb the entire cost of health care for full time members. If a member is already covered (for example: a student that is covered on their parents health insurance) they can waive the health insurance offered by the program.
  49. How much is the insurance for an AmeriCorps member?
    1. This is determined by the provider selected by the Program.
  50. If our agency insurance requires an employment relationship, how can AmeriCorps members be covered?
    1. AmeriCorps members are not employees, so they will need to have a different kind of coverage.
  51. How do we address healthcare on the application since it is up in the air?
    1. Follow the instructions, as given. All Full-time members must be offered Health care coverage.

  52. Matching
  53. I was always unable to use funds originating from a Federal source or grant as matching funds. Is that still the case? If so, are there any exceptions?
    1. That is correct. Federal dollars cannot be used for match. There are a few exceptions in terms of Department of Education funding, but you will need to work with your DOE program officer to determine if you qualify. We would need a memo from DOE stating that exception.
  54. What are examples of soft match or in-kind match?
    1. There is no difference in soft match/in-kind match.
  55. Are University of Illinois Extension (State and Locally funded salaries/benefits) allowed as in-kind match for the grant? Example: If 10% of an employee’s time is pledged to the grant and they earn $100,000 (salary plus benefits) then the acceptable match would be $10,000; 5 employees would generate $50,000. To keep the example simple, the $50,000 of match would generate a project grant of approximately $250,000.
    1. As long as those employees are not paid for with federal dollars, they could be used for match. You will need to put them in your budgets, and timesheets will have to be kept.
  56. Now, say a local agency wants to donate a percentage of an administrators time (salary and benefits) to the project, since the project will address Disaster Preparedness, one of their agency’s purpose. They would like to supervise 4 - AmeriCorps serving in the region. What documentation would be needed to use their time as in-kind match for the grant? Note: The administrators salary is local and state dollars. (The health department really is interested in doing this for the region.)
    1. They would need to be budgeted and timesheets would have to be used to track their time.

  57. Professional Corps
  58. It was stated that Professional Corps was only if the program is offered in more than one state. It is stated in the RFP that a Professional Corps program that would operate only in Illinois applies for a State competitive grant. With that said, please describe Professional Corps using the application of police as an example.
    1. This question was mistakenly answered in Belleville that it had to be multi-state. You can apply for Illinois. Instructions are in the RFP.

  59. Prohibited Activities
  60. Further explanation on what is approved fundraising activity under Prohibited Activities. Can we raise funds for project related to service? (other than MLK, 9/11).
    1. Yes, if it is a service project. See Prohibited Activities.
  61. Can members be involved in documenting or summarizing information that is included in award applications (not grants) or information for a community’s website or newsletter?
    1. Yes, as long as those duties fall within the grant narrative and members are conducting direct service.

  62. Reporting
  63. What are the requirements for grantees in regards to reporting and performance measurements/evaluation?
    1. Cost reimbursement Grantees are required to provide mid-year and end of year progress reports, semi-annual financial reports, and an internal or external evaluation report as required by the AmeriCorps regulations §§2522.500-2522.540 and §§2522.700-2522.740. 29.

      Fixed-amount Grantees are required to provide mid-year and end of year progress reports and an internal or external evaluation report. All grantees provide quarterly expense reports through the Payment Management System at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you receive an award directly from CNCS, you will be required to report at www.FSRS.gov on all subawards over $25,000 and may be required to report on executive compensation for your organization and for your subgrantees. You must have the necessary systems in place to collect and report this information. See 2 CFR. Part 170 for more information and to determine how these requirements apply.

      While applications will not be evaluated on these criteria, Grantees will be expected to have data collection and data management policies and practices that provide reasonable assurance that they are providing CNCS with high quality performance measure data. At a minimum, Grantees should have policies and practices which address the following five aspects of data quality:

      - The data measures what it intends to measure;
      - The Grantee collects data in a consistent manner;
      - The Grantee takes steps to correct data errors;
      - The Grantee ensures that the data reported is complete; and
      - The Grantee actively reviews data prior to sub
  64. Do we need an evaluation plan if we are in the first 3-year grant cycle?
    1. Years 1 & 2, no. You will need to turn in an evaluation plan when applying for the 3rd year.

  65. RFP
  66. When will the new RFP be out?
    1. The current RFP is available at http://www2.illinois.gov/serve/Pages/AmeriCorpsRFP.aspx. We will be releasing an RFP each year after this around August/September.
  67. On the RFP timeline slide “Other Documents Due to DHS”, it includes Logic Model, Organizational Chart, etc. Do we send these documents to DHS and americorpsgrants@cns.gov?
    1. No, just send to DHS and we will forward the documents.
  68. Other documents must be received or submitted by 11/22/13?
    1. Other documents must be received by 11/22/13.
  69. Please provide clarification/definition for some of the terms used in the RFP:
    1. 1) “volunteer center” (from bottom of page 15). Is this regional, community wide, or within our organization?
      Organization or entity of some sort that connects volunteers with volunteer opportunities. (See Serve Illinois Website)

      2) “leverage additional volunteers” (from Executive Summary, page 26). Does this mean for volunteer opportunities outside of our organization?
      Recruiting additional volunteers outside of your program in addition to AmeriCorps volunteers.

      3) “volunteer connectors” (from page 21).
      Organization or entity of some sort that connects volunteers with volunteer opportunities. (See Serve Illinois Website)

  70. General Questions
  71. What is FFR?
    1. Federal Finance Report
  72. What is PER?
    1. Periodic Expense Report
  73. Is it worth our time and would it strengthen our proposal to have letters of participation from agencies with which we wish to collaborate on our proposed project?
    1. You are required to present letters of cooperation with your application. Additional letters would help to show organizational capacity.
  74. After reviewing the RFP and attending the Bidders’ Conference, we are still not clear on the Mayor’s and Governor’s Initiatives. Are the governor’s initiatives available in documents that we might access? Are we to contact mayors in our service district to determine how well we align with their initiatives?
    1. The Governor/Mayor initiative is detailed on page 19 of the RFP; which can be found at . You are not required to fall into this initiative, and the Commission will only select one program to be submitted to this initiative. (Note: The Governor’s Office will determine which applicant is most appropriate for submission. The Governor’s Office will only consider municipalities whose mayor has signed the Cities of Service pledge. See www.citiesofservice.org and contact Lilliane Webb for more information on Cities of Service.)
  75. Can a student requiring an internship for graduation be an AmeriCorps member at the same time?
    1. Yes; however, the internship would need to be determined by the school.
  76. If it is highly unlikely that our members would be recruiting volunteers, is it more important to find a way to work it into the grant or should we just state that we probably won’t have them recruiting?
    1. Program must recruit volunteers. Members are not required to.
  77. Does September 12, 2014 member Recognition Day count as 9/11 day of service?
    1. No.
  78. How do you engage naturalized citizens that may not have a high school diploma or equivalent and may be unable (for various reasons – such as age) to obtain a G.E.D.?
    1. If the prospective member is not a Lawful Permanent Resident Alien of the US they are not eligible. They need to prove they are eligible with (i) a Permanent Resident Card, INS Form I-551; (ii) an Alien Registration Receipt Card, INS Form I-551, (iii) a passport indicating that the INS has approved it as temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence; or (iv) an I-94 indicating that the INS has approved it as temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence. NOTE: A student visa does not confer eligibility to enroll in an AmeriCorps program.

      Just having an “Form I94 Departure Record“ is not sufficient unless it is annotated to indicate the member was a LPR.
  79. Is the Illinois Commission joining the The Corps Network so that our programs can get member benefits?
    1. Not at this time. We will reevaluate next year.
  80. Please clarify if a worker can engage in grant writing for a project they are directly involved in. (i.e. if working in a tutoring program, can they write a small grant for that program?)
    1. No. It would have to be a specific service project outside of the day to day operation of the grant.
  81. What are maximum and minimum participants?
    1. Minimum are 12 MSY which can be broken up based on the hours time table in the instructions. There is no maximum. Although most new programs will be started at the minimum.
  82. If we are currently finishing a Federal award with CNCS (AmeriCorps Vista), do we need to submit an Evaluation Summary? The new application is not related to the current program.
    1. No. You will not need an Evaluation Summary until the third year of funding.
  83. Is it correct that a program cannot apply for both traditional and ED Award only grants?
    1. That is correct. Must apply for only one grant.
  84. Please explain the economic opportunity measure.
    1. Refer to the Performance Measures in the RFP – Page 32.
  85. Because of work underway in southern Illinois, IL Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and IL Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) – both may be giving letters of support for this project. Do you see this strengthening our chances for the project to be endorsed as the state endorsed project? I was going to ask for cash from both agencies, however, IEMA operates 99% on Federal funds. I am confident letters from both directors can be received for the application.
    1. Letters of support are encouraged.
  86. One of our partners is a community college that pays students an hourly wage for some kinds of work, and so if one of the members were a student there ...
    1. Could they also be a full-time AmeriCorps member? Part-time member?
    2. Does each hour of work need to be under either AmeriCorps or paid, but not both?
    1. There is nothing that prohibits an AmeriCorps Member from having a “paying” part time or full time job in addition to the time they volunteer with AmeriCorps. The member just needs to fulfill their AmeriCorps contract in the time allotted so they can earn their education award and as long as the hours at their “paying” job are not hours the member is counting toward the grant.
 
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