HEARTH Transition and the first RFP for ESG funds
My name is Kathleen Taylor and, as many of you know, I am the new Member Services Manager at IACED. I am writing today to hopefully clarify the Request for Proposal (RFP) for ESG grants issued by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) and give some background/context for changes to McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act programs as a result of the Homeless Emergency and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act.
As a bit of background, there are four Homeless Assistance Grants distributed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that are considered McKinney-Vento programs, the Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) and three competitive grants: Supportive Housing Program (SHP), Shelter Plus Care (S+C) and Single Room Occupancy (SRO). In May 2009, these programs were reauthorized as part of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act. It was the first formal reauthorization of the programs in 12 years. With that reauthorization, there were some fairly sweeping program changes enacted that were aimed at expanding eligibility to include families and children and giving much greater flexibility and resources for homeless prevention.
Accordingly, the changes have had repercussions for the way in which funds are distributed to grantees, the purposes for which grantees may use funds, and the determination of who may be served under the law. For the purposes of this policy update, I will focus on IHCDA’s first HEARTH-related RFP, which is for ESG grants. This does not include any Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) funding opportunities.
Previously, only ESG funds could be used for homelessness prevention to pay rent or utility bills and was limited to 30 percent percent of a state’s or a community’s allocation. ESG funding previously accounted for 10 to 15 percent of McKinney Funds. The new law expanded eligible activities and the funding level of the ESG program and renamed it the “Emergency Solutions Grants Program.” Now, 20 percent of McKinney-Vento funds appropriated by Congress are devoted to ESG. The new program expanded the supportive services that can be provided with ESG to include not only employment, health, drug abuse, and education services, but also family support services for homeless youth, victim services, and mental health services.
The formula used to disburse the ESG funds has been the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula since 1986. This does not change under HEARTH. The only ESG-related funding changes to the CDBG formula process will be for competitive grants, and even those changes will not take place for two years.
The consolidated plan that states and communities are required to present to HUD to receive ESG funds must address community development needs. This includes a description of how the unit of government plans to integrate decent housing needs, community needs, and economic needs of low- and moderate-income residents over 3-5 years. These plans should be collaborative efforts among local government officials, representatives of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and community members. If HUD disapproves of the ESG portion of the plan, the community will not receive ESG funds. That is different from the competitive programs, where a community has 45 days to make changes to the plan. The idea behind this is that aligning the new ESG with the new Continuum of Care process will foster better understanding and coordination that will make more efficient use of limited resources.
If HUD approves a community’s consolidated plan, the community will receive ESG funds based on its share of CDBG funds from the previous fiscal year. It is important to know that 30 percent of ESG funds are spent in non-entitlement areas. Recipient states and entitlement communities receive funds and then distribute them to local government entities or nonprofit organizations that provide services to homeless persons. Those organizations are determined through an application process like the one IHCDA has described. There is a dollar for dollar match requirement with ESG funds, but that can be met through the value of donated buildings, the lease value of buildings, salary paid to staff, and volunteer time counted at $5 an hour.
NOTE: Applicants should keep in mind that while President’s budget requested a 25 percent increase for ESG, the 111th Congress only passed a continuing resolution in 2010. IACED and our national partners are concerned that housing budgets are at a large risk in the 112th Congress budget process. You will receive regular updates as appropriations legislation gets moving.
While HEARTH made broad programmatic ESG changes, IHCDA has narrowed some requirements and made certain revisions that will impact the implementation of its ESG program. Specific requirements and important information for ESG applications submitted to IHCDA are listed below.
- The due date for IHCDA’s ESG RFP is February 23, 2011 at 5pm, EST. Earlier informational handouts had the incorrect date that was updated in the webinar on January 11, 2011.
- IHCDA has chosen to “phase in” the 3- to 5-year goal requirements, so IHCDA’s application form measures Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data (except for domestic violence shelters) in terms of 24-month balance of state Continuum of Care (CoC) goals. So, on this RFP application, put your own 12-24 month goals. IHCDA plans to have its new Regional Planning Council assist communities in meeting those goals.
- The average grantee for the last funding year received slightly over $23,000. That may be comparable to this year’s disbursement, depending on the budget.
- Under program changes for this year, there will be a 2.5 percent increase in administrative funds, up from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.
- For this RFP, the maximum request is $50,000; on average, IHCDA expects to fund 50 percent of requests
- Since the three competitive grants (SHP,SRO, S+C) are not allocated outside of the Balance of State CoC, IHCDA decided to also restrict ESG to the Balance of State CoC. That means there will be no ESG disbursements for Marion County or St. Joseph County.
- There will be an additional restriction that grantees must serve 100 percent homeless populations because IHCDA believes the restriction will allow for the “best use of limited funds.”
- IHCDA has also decided to not expand its program to include the new “at risk” categories described in HEARTH regarding ESG disbursement. ESG was amended by HEARTH to serve those individuals and families at or below 30 percent of Area Median Income and are “at risk of homelessness”
- IHCDA has included in its program some of the HEARTH provisions that expand coverage to those who will be homeless within 90 days of leaving a hospital (previously 30 days) and those who will be evicted or leaving an institution within 14 days (previously 7 days). Certain other eligible groups described as “at risk” in the HEARTH language were not included in IHCDA’s program.
- IHCDA will require HMIS reporting- the collection of client-level data and HMIS costs already eligible under administration, operating, essential services- of applicants for ALL of its homeless programs, not just those submitted for ESG.
- IHCDA also announced that the vendor for the HMIS program will be changing at the end of February. Access to AWARDS will end on February 28, 2011.
- Domestic violence shelters are excluded from the HMIS requirement, but the “assumption of homeless” must be documented in order to be eligible.
- IHCDA has reorganized the Inter-Agency Council in to create the Indiana Planning Council on the Homeless
- Now, Continuum of Care boards will technically disband and in their place will be 14 Regional Planning Councils on the Homeless. They follow the same areas as the Continuums.
- The work of the Council will be to “consider and embrace statewide goals and objectives and serve as the Balance of State coordinator for HUD. These Councils are charged with being the lead agency for Balance of State, but they also have responsibility for “plans and systems to end homelessness in Indiana.”
- There will be four subcommittees that make up the Council and they will meet quarterly to coordinate. The Council must include members from the public and private sector, homelessness service providers, state agencies, the academic realm, homelessness advocacy organizations, formerly homeless representatives.
- 75 percent attendance at Planning Council meetings, subcommittee meetings will be required of applicants. This will be a top priority criterion, so if you cannot attend in person, some of IHCDA’s materials reference an ability to work out a compromise, such as coordinating a representative to attend in the case that you cannot.
- As noted above, proposal forms are due to IHCDA by February 23rd by 5 P.M.
- No forms will be posted online other than the RFP and CoC attendance forms
- Online submittal of the form is not available via the IHCDA website
- Once the form is completed, applicants can email it to Kelli Barker at email@example.com or mail the form to ESG Program Coordinator, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, 30 South Meridian Street, Suite 1000, Indianapolis, IN 46204. For email submissions, the supporting documents should be scanned and attached as ONE file, instead of several individual files.
- Funding decisions will be made in late May, and funds will be disbursed by July 1st.
- Disbursement of ESG will be based on HPRP
If you have any questions about this material or the transition in general, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 920-2300, ext. 14.
UPDATE: On January 26, 2011, IHCDA announced this RFP has been withdrawn. They stated that it would be re-released in early May along with a second RFP for Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Services.