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Grant Selection and Performance

October 5, 2018

PRESENT: Deborah Johnson, Ed Barrett, Laurel Bernier, Maryalice Crofton 

EMDC. The Northern Maine AmeriCorps Collaborative operated by Eastern Maine Development Corp. has not had a satisfactory performance in its first grant year (2017-2018). The grant start was delayed from October 1 to March 1 while the agency worked out replacement of funds lost for local share. Because of the timeframe for MCCS to secure 2018-2019 funds, the program had to apply for year two funding before it had any operational track record. The Commission authorized a second year of funding with the condition that staff resources for the program increase from one person to at least two. 

Since then, there has been significant turnover in staff at both the agency and the program. Laurel’s site monitoring visit revealed serious compliance issues that will result in several thousand dollars disallowance. On Sept. 6 there was a conference call with more senior leadership who acknowledged the program operation was not meeting their agency’s own internal standards. They are discussing with the new CEO and a board member whether to continue with AmeriCorps at this time. 

The GTF members, after hearing the compliance findings, concluded the agency is not able to operate a program at this time. They recommend the Commission cancel the second year of funding and close out the program. The funds committed to EMDC would become part of the off-cycle AmeriCorps Formula competition to run over the next two months. Members felt the organization should be considered for future funding if its staff and operations stabilize. 

Brunswick School Dept. This new grantee was authorized under the Maine Rural State AmeriCorps program with a start date of August 15. They are requesting a delay of one year in their start. In addition to difficult recruiting for the AmeriCorps positions, the school district is experiencing a staff shortage and having problems finding candidates for professional positions. 

The Commission staff recommended the operating grant ($73,798) be converted to a planning grant ($20,000) which would let the district commit personnel resources to getting all policies and procedures in place as well as doing recruitment for an operating start of 8/15/19. This also would prevent any appearance of displacement. 

GTF members discussed the staff recommendation and decided to propose it to the full Commission. 

With the changes in grant awards, there is about $250,000 to re-compete. Because it is 2018-2019 money, the programs will need to start by March 1, 2019 and complete the first “year” by December 31, 2019. This is all AmeriCorps Formula funding over which the Commission has final say in terms of awards. The Commission is expected to run an AmeriCorps Competitive process this fall as well. That is the grant competition in which the Commission reviews and selects proposals to forward to a national competition where CNCS selects the winners. 

GTF members and staff discussed three things. There was agreement that the Maine Rural State and standard AmeriCorps Formula competitions should open as soon as possible in order to reallocate funds now under Commission control. 

Only one current grantee, LearningWorks, would be eligible to compete in the national process. There are no other potential applicants for this competition based on the fact it takes a year of working with staff to ready an application. GTF members agreed that LearningWorks could apply to the formula competition if the organization wants to do so. The circumstances of how they became a grantee were unusual and they did not have that initial opportunity to develop operations under the formula funding option. 

If LearningWorks signals they want to enter the national competition, the Commission will issue the third call for proposals. If they signal they want to submit under the formula competition, the Commission will not open a call for new proposals under the national process.

Laurel briefly discussed the annual risk assessments. All the new grantees are automatically considered high risk because they have no experience with the AmeriCorps grants. Although Maine Campus Compact is past their first year, monitoring and performance scores keep them in the “high risk” category. LearningWorks scores as “medium risk.”

The risk assessments relate to the level of technical assistance, reporting by the grantee, and both process and sample size performed during monitoring. As programs become more proficient at AmeriCorps operation, it expected their risk category will drop.

Laurel announced that she has decided to take a job in the private sector and will leave the Commission on October 18. Everyone thanked her for the work she’s done this year.