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Standard and Continuing Assurances in Federal Grants

Pre-award Standard Assurances have been a part of the grant application process since the early 1970s. They originated as part of the Standard Form 424 application for Federal Assistance. With the arrival of the online grant application web portal, the standard pre-award assurances migrated along with the other parts of the Standard Form 424 application.

There are also post-award assurances known as “continuing representations and certifications.” These assurances began appearing during the late 1990s in grant programs funded by the federal Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Department of Education, and Department of Housing and Urban Development. With implementation of the Super Circular, the use of continuing representations and certifications as compliance tools became formalized in 2 CFR 200.208. Now the authority to use post-award assurances is formally available to every federal agency with grant-making authority.

With federal grantmakers ramping up the importance of post-award assurances, your organization must also ratchet up its ability to navigate this increasingly complex regulatory environment. The question is how can you best accomplish that?

Someone in every organization must become the keeper of the grant regulatory library. That person must understand what all the pre- and post-award assurances require your organization to do, prohibit it from doing, and under what circumstances the assurances apply.

If your organization receives numerous grants from multiple agencies, consider hiring a compliance coordinator to manage the assurance strings attached to the awards. The Department of Transportation requires that a staff member be specifically designated as responsible for guaranteeing continuous compliance with the terms and conditions of awards.

An attorney won’t necessarily solve your problems. Organizations tend to place too much faith in the knowledge and skill of lawyers. The reality is that only about 5 percent of the lawyers are trained regulatory experts, and the number of true grant lawyers is minuscule.

Paralegals are a good resource because they have basic legal training and know how the legal system works. And there are also many grant experts with regulatory expertise. These experts are often referred to as regulatory paralegals.

The bottom line is that organizations must develop internal regulatory expertise. There is great reward in working productively with the federal grants system. But there is also increasing risk. Organizations must navigate risk by building the capacity to self-monitor, self-regulate, and color within the lines laid out in the grant awards they accept.

Henry Flood is senior adviser for grant administration at The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. © Copyright 2016 The Grantsmanship Center

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