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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant-making process is slow, even during a pandemic

StatNews reports that the NIH is “a slow-moving glacier” and that the agency’s “sluggish and often opaque efforts to study long Covid draw patient, expert ire.” The news get worse: Congress allocated $1.2 billion to study long COVID, but “so far the NIH has brought in just 3% of the patients it plans to recruit.” The major defense of one NIH employee? The $1.2 billion effort is moving “much faster than we’ve done anything else before” and the NIH’s “usual pace can be even slower.” How reassuring. Unfortunately, the NIH’s Covid-19 response is typical; as we wrote in August 2021, the federal grant-making apparatus is so slow that the private “Fast Grants” initiative attempted to do just what its name implies: make grants fast. And it did: within days at first, and then within two weeks. By contrast, the NIH has never learned how to go fast, and, as far as we can tell, neither have other federal agencies (although HRSA did eventually kick out some telemedicine money faster than we’d have imagined).

Why haven’t federal agencies learned to go fast? I think part of the answer is poor feedback mechanisms. No federal agency goes out of business from moving slowly—no one loses a job, money, or anything else. If even a pandemic can’t shake NIH out of their torpor, what will? A war? Maybe. We couldn’t even bother to make substantial modifications to the absurd clinical trials process during the COVID-19 pandemic, and instead relied primarily on throwing more money at the problem, while NIH continued to crawl at a snail’s pace.

America does the same thing with infrastructure construction: instead of reforming and eliminating bureaucratic rules to reduce the cost of building new infrastructure, we attempt to throw money at the problem until we manage to (partially) bulldozer our way through it. The problems being that the “throw money at it” solution takes way too long, costs too much, and leaves us with too little infrastructure at the end. But there is no single Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) for bureaucratic rules, so nothing changes—much like the stalled COVID study. The StatNews article notes that “A group of two dozen COVID-19 experts recently released a report that excoriated the NIH’s progress as well, noting that recruiting for the study has been painfully slow” and that “The experts argued the Biden administration should create a long COVID task force to hold agencies accountable for progress.” Unless the task force has the power to fire, demote, and restructure, it’s unlikely to achieve much.

Speed is important for many reasons, one being that the faster you can do something, the more you can do of the thing, and the sooner you can get feedback. One sees this feedback process—sometimes called the “Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act” (OODA) loop—in all sorts of endeavors: as the loops tightens, more of the thing gets done, or learned. In computer programming, for example, compiling or deployment that used to take hours or days now happens instantly, allowing for fast feedback to programmers, and letting the programmers get better, fast. Something similar is true in writing: the faster a person writes and gets useful critical feedback, the quicker the revision process becomes (assuming the editor is good and the writer in an improvement mindset).

The opposite is also true: as noted above, our bloated infrastructure rules from laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) mean that building things like subway or light rail line extension takes a decade and costs billions of dollars. So we build that infrastructure with such agonizing slowness that we never get network effects going, and most people talk of “toy trains” that “go to nowhere,” and, unfortunately, they have a point: if it takes 10 or more years to build a few miles of rail, most people are going to scoff at that rail. The road to improving the U.S.’s transit emissions starts with reforming NEPA. The law is supposedly designed to improve the environment, but instead it locks in the current system, which is not very climate friendly—the law is having the exact opposite of its intended effect.

By the time the NIH completes its studies, the studies might not matter any more. It’s like a person taking five years to decide to ask someone to get married: by the time person 1 asks, person 2 may already be married and have kids. If you wait sufficiently long, opportunities disappear.

Failure to study COVID with sufficient speed will leave people suffering, and possibly dead. That is bad. Despite it being bad, no one seems able or willing to attempt to overcome the problem.

If you don’t think speed and attention matter, try writing anything substantive with interruptions every few minutes: you’ll never get anywhere, and the end result will be unpalatable.

I wish I had a solution to these problems, but I don’t. The normal grant-making process works on a “good enough” basis, and it is typically more about redistributing money to favored communities and populations of focus than truly achieving the nominal goal of whatever the grant-funded program happens to be. Once you realize that, the rest of the system’s apparent peculiarities fall into place. Unless and until Congress wants to make substantial changes to how the federal government works, I think we’re likely to see business-as-usual continue. By far, the most successful part of the federal response to COVID was Operation Warp Speed, which rapidly kicked money to the usual suspects, in the form of pharma companies, and made pre-committments to buy large numbers of vaccine doses even if the clinical trials didn’t work out, such that trials could be conducted quickly and, if the money is “wasted” on ones that don’t work out, that “waste” is trivial relative to the amount of benefit from even a single successful trial.

Warp Speed operated at warp speed, while the NIH is still ambling along in a buggy. That’s been our experience with federal grant-making agencies: they stroll along, and nothing can or will hasten them. That’s a shame, because the country and world face real problems. As with NEPA and CEQA, however, many problems are mandated by legislators, or increased by the rule-making machinery, and no one with sufficient clout seems interested in solving them. These problems also don’t map neatly to right or left ideological talking points. The answer to whether we need “more” or “less” government, for example, is that we need more efficient and effective government, which is neither “more” or “less:” it’s orthogonal to that question, and the solutions aren’t amenable to sound bites.

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Unexpected consequences of MacKenzie Scott’s big donations to housing nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity

You might’ve read that MacKenzie Scott, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, is making huge donations to some nonprofit organizations, including donating $436 million to Habitat for Humanity. Relative to buying a giant yacht, or yet another Manhattan aerie, or giving money to universities so wealthy that they can’t spend the endowments they have and are so bureaucratic that they can’t support their own researchers during a pandemic, that’s a great thing to do. This isn’t a “you suck” post, because she doesn’t and I like her unusual approach to philanthropy. But there are two notable undercurrents that the lightly edited press releases don’t cover—likely because journalists know little about how nonprofits work or the American housing market—one is the distortion effect on many competing local nonprofits, and the other is the challenge of pouring more money into a constrained, near-zero-sum system.

Regarding the first point, local grant and human services systems will probably be distorted by unprecedentedly large donations to a particular nonprofit like Habitat. While national nonprofits like Habitat do some nationwide work, most of their activities are conducted by local affiliates, which are usually nominally independent nonprofits. When you see a media story about a new Habitat development in Worcester, MA, (I made this example up) a local affiliate is sponsoring the project. Local affiliates of national nonprofits like Habitat are required to conform to certain standards set by the national entity, but essentially do their own thing. A few years ago we worked for a local Habitat affiliate in a big East Coast city. As we worked on the project, we were startled to learn there were actually two Habitat affiliates in the same city: each carved out its own turf, and they even engaged in legal and public relations battles with each other! Many local nonprofits compete with on another for donations, grants, volunteers, and the like, even if they are playing for same team. So, it’s possible some of Scott’s Habitat donation will go to one affiliate, but not the other, in the same city.

A sudden huge donation from Scott to a national nonprofit that in turn sends a big bag of money to a particular local nonprofit, like the imagined Worcester Habitat, might create a toxic mixture of envy and disdain among other local nonprofits, much like a large inheritance or a lotto win often generates resentment among the people around the windfall recipient. The local Habitat affiliate is going to find many other local nonprofits attempting to attach themselves to any project it undertakes, in an effort to become subcontractors on that project or otherwise share in the largess. Since Habitat has the big money, other nonprofits will work overtime to get a piece of that that money. Nonprofits that realize they’re going to be outside the golden circle might quit collaborating and, in some cases, try to sabotage the lucky local Habitat. Letters of support will dry up, which won’t be a short-term problem but may become a long-term one; although “collaboration” among nonprofits is often silly, funders like to imagine it’s happening. Many don’t want to acknowledge that nonprofits compete with each other like businesses to a greater extent than most people realize—though sophisticated GWC readers already know this, either from personal experience or reading us. Another aspect is the the suddenly well-endowed local Habitat affiliate will be able to offer much higher salaries that their competitors and will poach local talent.

We saw this blowback effect happen in spectacular fashion a few years ago to one of our clients in a mid-size Midwestern city. Many nonprofits and even public agencies will become extremely unhappy when one of their peer organizations succeeds wildly. One year, at least half a dozen proposals we wrote for this otherwise ordinary nonprofit client got funded. His organization got millions of dollars in grants, which represented a huge amount of money in his low-income, high-risk community. Every other nonprofit CEO knew about his organization’s success. Superficially, all the players in our client’s service area congratulated our client, but our client, unfortunately, began to believe in his own greatness. Because he did, the quality and quantity of his interest in future grant-writing efforts declined.

Simultaneously, many local collaborators became less eager to help him. Organizations that used to provide letters, as he did for them, stopped being able to provide letters, albeit for innocuous reasons (“staffing changes,” “priority shifts:” those sorts of things). His ability to execute his organization’s mission became compromised by intransigence from the city and from other local nonprofits, all of whom were envious. These factors led to peril for our client’s organization, which eventually went under altogether; by the time he realized the danger, he was already on the deck of his sinking nonprofit ship. He should have handed out more subcontracts and acted with greater humility, but he did not. Will Habitat avoid his fate? We shall see. This is not a new tale, as Greek Tragedies, Shakespeare, movies, and politics are filled with such tales of hubris.

The second point involves housing policy itself, a topic we’ve dealt with before regarding Los Angeles’s Prop HHH initiative. Housing constraints lowered aggregate US growth by 36 percent from 1964 to 2009—an enormous amount most people don’t appreciate (imagine your organization’s budget being 36 percent larger, and your paycheck having 36 percent more dollars in it). Numerous factors impede the construction of affordable housing: parking minimums, improper building lot setbacks, height limits, neighborhood reviews, and more. Supply restrictions are everywhere, and few states or municipalities have gotten serious about alleviating them. If you add large amounts of additional money into a market that is supply-constrained, prices will go up in the face of constant demand, but more supply won’t come online. This results in numerous negative knock-on effects. There are some efforts afoot to change this dynamic—some are now calling for an “abundance agenda,” in contrast to the artificial scarcity mindset and policies now common in housing policy. In the meantime, however, we’re stuck with bottlenecks in the zoning and permitting process, which impede housing developers of all sorts—including Habitat. On top of those bottlenecks, inflation and supply chain problems have kicked up in the last few months, such that even if states begin enacting an abundance agenda, builders are still behind because of a raw-materials and skilled labor deficits. We’re constricting our population itself, as people have fewer children because so much of their money is going into housing costs.

Habitat for Humanity is likely to suffer worse than than for-profit builders. Habitat doesn’t advertise this, but they take forever to build housing units, particularly relative to commercial builders like Lennar (Lennar built 60,000 units in 2021) or Toll Brothers. While merchant builders can churn out single family homes in four to six months, it can take Habitat up to two years to finish a comparable house. I looked at the 2021 Habitat National Annual Report and IRS 990 Form, which obfuscate results with lots of happy talk, but I couldn’t find a clear statement of how many units were actually finished in 2021. Draw your own conclusions. Although Habitat hires subcontractors for the skilled trades that are required for home building, they nominally rely on volunteer labor and the “sweat equity” of buyers. As far as I can tell, Habitat mostly builds single-family units, rather than multi-family, both because those units are easier to build and provide easier roles for volunteers and homeowners, as well as making for better photo ops. But we really need more missing middle housing, rather than more single-unit one-offs in the exurbs. Everyone in the business knows how Habitat works, but don’t expect to see it in the media which has been in love with Habitat since Jimmy Carter picked up a hammer 40 years ago.

The biggest problem in American housing policy isn’t “lack of money” per se: even many nonprofits can find some amount of HUD, state, local, or foundation funding to build affordable housing. The biggest problem is the regulatory regime, which makes building new housing excruciatingly expensive, time consuming, and difficult. Until we improve the regulatory regime, we’re not going to do much to make a real dent in the housing affordability problem (housing can’t both be cheap for end users and a “good investment,” which is one of the many reasons American housing policy is incoherent).

Housing affordability is the income-related issue for our age. If someone is concerned about “income inequality” but doesn’t have “housing abundance” at the top of their agenda, are they virtue signaling, or serious?

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Housing the homeless: the “traditional approach” versus “housing first” for grant writers

We’ve been writing grant proposals for housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness (this is the PC phrase, but “homeless” is used in the rest of this post) since 1993, so we’ve been at it for long enough to see changing funder and client preferences around approaches come and go. For many reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, homelessness remains a growing and in some respects an intractable challenge in much of urban and rural America; essentially, homelessness is a housing shortage problem. Until we address housing abundance, we’re not going to be able to solve or substantially ameliorate homelessness as a problem.

Recently, we wrote a post on the emerging trend toward harm reduction instead of traditional SUD/OUD treatment. A similar phenomenon is going on with respect to providing housing and supportive services for homeless folks. This is the concept of “Housing First:”

Housing First is a homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life. This approach is guided by the belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to anything less critical, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues.

At first glance, Housing First looks like a reasonable and compassionate approach. In the 1980s, when homelessness as an issue entered public discourse, the sentiment was that Mary and her two kids live in their car because she got laid off from the Piggly Wiggly and was evicted from her apartment. While there are many people who find themselves in this sort of predicament, the majority of homeless have SUD/OUD and, in many cases, are co-diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI). But homelessness is easier to avoid, even for people with SUD, OUD, and/or SPMI, when rents are low. That’s why “it’s not the case that homelessness is high where vacancy rates are high. Indeed, it’s the opposite — the vacancy rate is lower in places with more homelessness.”

Housing for the homeless initiatives have traditionally focussed on a step-down approach similar to that which we described in the post on OUD/SUD treatment versus harm reduction. In the traditional paradigm, homeless people receive housing and other services along a continuum of care starting with a high level of care, and then they “step down” to lower care levels in increments, leading to eventual independent living. Following engagement, referral, or self-presentation and development of an individual housing assistance plan (“IHTP”), the step-down levels often proceed something like:

  • Detoxification/stabilization (if needed)
  • Shelter bed in an emergency shelter (usually limited to 30 to 60 days). Significantly, most shelters are “dry,” meaning that drinking and drugging aren’t allowed in the facility. Still, after breakfast, most people living in shelters spend their days out of the shelter on the street, with the idea that they’ll look for a job, attend treatment sessions, etc., and return at night to sleep. While this is more or less “two hots and a cot,” treatment and other supportive services are sometimes provided in-house and/or by referral.
  • Placement in a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel, transitional housing, or supportive housing unit with in-house and referral supportive services (e.g. SUD/OUD and SPMI treatment, legal assistance, workforce development, primary/dental care, etc.) usually provided in the latter two. In supportive housing, such services are usually case-managed and these facilities are usually dry. While there is typically no length of residency cap for SRO units, there is usually a 12 to 24 month max for transitional and supportive housing facilities. Unfortunately, SROs are largely illegal under the modern zoning regime, which may forces many precariously housed people on the street.
  • Independent living, usually with a Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8) or in another subsidized housing development, or with family.

The levels can be broken down further, but the above was the common approach and was formalized in the 1987 passage of the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento), administered by HUD. The problem is, though, is that even if a person gets clean and sober, if he or she can’t afford rent, that person is likely to end up back on the street—and thus in high-stress, difficult situations that encourages coping via substance abuse. Covering $700/month in rent is much easier for a person with mental illness and substance abuse challenges than $2,000 a month.

Although McKinney-Vento funds 15 programs with a spectrum of services, the most significant ones are Supportive Housing, Shelter Plus Care (provides site-specific HCVs for the housing development and on-site services), SRO, and Emergency Shelter. One of the first large funded grants S + A wrote was a $4M Shelter Plus Care proposal for a nonprofit in Northern California to convert a vacant motel into a supportive housing facility in 1994. Over the years, McKinney-Vento has disappeared from public view, as these programs have been folded into HUD’s very confusing Continuum of Care (CoC) system. McKinney-Vento programs still form the structure for most federal efforts to help the homeless, but applications are made to the local CoC agency, not directly to HUD—which means local politics come into play, along with typical quiet deals cut among local players. Good luck breaking into CoC funding without an “in.” Well-meaning people in a given community often want to find something to do to help with the issue of homelessness, and they try to find sustainable for it, only to run into the local power structure.

For our first 20 years, most of the proposals we wrote for homeless housing and supportive services followed the above model: the emphasis was always on working with the homeless people to get them clean and sober, with SPMI under control, before moving from a shelter to longer term housing. About 10 years ago, we began to work with clients who wanted to use the Housing First approach: in this approach, underlying SUD/OUD and SPMI challenges are addressed, to an extent, but the overall goal is to provide fast housing—hence the term “Housing First.” This paradigm treats housing as the first step for life improvement and enables access to housing without conditions beyond those of a typical renter. Although supportive services are usually offered, participation is not required. This means the formerly homeless can continue to drink and drug and/or not comply with the SPMI treatment protocols. Utah was the first major state proponent of this approach, in part because Utah allows housing to be built relatively easily, but even Utah has run into problems.

This shift to the Housing Fist model has created something of a battle between the traditional homeless services providers like the faith-based “missions” that are found in most major cities, and the new Housing First kids on the block. This battle is being played out on social media and, most importantly, in public hearings and applications for CoC and other grants. Like any local structured grant system, such as CoC, Ryan White grants for people living with HIV/A, or Title 10 family planning, a “mafia” soon emerges. The mafia is composed of the existing agencies being funded, advocacy groups, and local politicians who have an interest in making sure favored nonprofits get funded. The mafia structure makes it harder for new, innovative agencies to secure a spot at the grant feeding trough. We’ve heard from some of our clients that the Housing First crowd has taken over CoC processes to the detriment of traditional providers. Housing First is clearly the church of what’s happening now.

We’re just grant writers, so we don’t have an immediate opinion as to whether the traditional approach or Housing First is more efficacious, though neither is likely to be highly effective without land-use reform that increases the total number of housing units. Without an abundance agenda, we’re merely reallocating slices of the pie, rather than increasing the pie’s size. Extensive homelessness is a symptom of deeper problems, and it can’t be effectively addressed without dealing with the root cause. Most studies on the subject of “traditional” and “Housing First” are somewhat questionable. While I’ve been in many shelters and other homeless housing settings over the years, I’ve never been in a Housing First facility, but I imagine that things might get a bit out of control come Saturday night. I also don’t know how housekeeping is handled. Also, most people with SUD/OUD and/or SPMI will relapse multiple times, which may send them back to the streets, jail, or residential treatment/hospitalization, meaning that their Housing First unit is actually their Housing Last unit.

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Substance Abuse Disorder/Opioid Use Disorder (SUD/OUD): Traditional treatment versus harm reduction for grant writers

We’ve been writing Substance Use Disorder / Opioid Use Disorder (SUD/OUD) treatment grant proposals since 1993, so we’ve been at it for long enough to see waves of funder preferences around approaches come and go. SUD/OUD are hard problems, and made harder because of the misinformation and disinformation about Oxycodone and Oxycontin that Purdue Pharma and its subsidiaries spread for decades, in a way that’s likely worse than the way the cigarette companies once marketed their wares.

For the first 20 years or so in business, the SUD/OUD treatment grant proposals we wrote were usually based on the standard “Step-Down” paradigm, in which people with addiction receive treatment along a continuum of care from a high level of care and then “step down” to lower care levels in increments, leading to eventual recovery and self-care. Following engagement, referral, or self-presentation and development of an individual treatment plan (ITP), the step-down levels are more or less like this:

  • Detoxification/hospitalization
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment, often including 12-Step peer support groups and, for those with OUD, medication assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Recovery and self-care

The levels can be further broken down, but the above is a common schema. As patients move down the treatment continuum, they usually receive case-managed wraparound supportive services—like legal assistance, workforce development, primary/dental care, affordable housing, etc.— at least until they are in recovery and have been “clean and sober” for six to twelve months. The “affordable housing” part has gotten much harder, though, because most cities use zoning laws to restrict the supply of housing, which causes prices to rise, which makes a given housing unit difficult for a grant-funded organization, or a person with drug addiction, to afford. Also, it’s an unfortunate reality that most people with SUD/OUD will relapse multiple times, sending them to the top of the treatment pyramid again. In this way, step-down treatment is something like the classic board game Chutes and Ladders I played as a kid. “Step down” was the main “treatment game” available for decades, although methadone was sometimes used for what we now call OUD.

About ten years ago, we began noticing a difference in SAMSHA, HRSA, and other RFPs for SUD/OUD: those agencies now want usually applicants to augment treatment to include “harm reduction.” As defined and described by SAMHSA, “Harm reduction is critical to keeping people who use drugs alive and as healthy as possible, and is a key pillar in the multi-faceted Health and Human Services’ Overdose Prevention Strategy.” Most of our clients resisted this shift but have gradually gotten on board the harm reduction train as pure harm reduction RFPs, like SAMHSA’s “FY ’22 Harm Reduction NOFO,” began to appear. The shift isn’t surprising, because in grant seeking it pays to follow the golden rule. No, not that golden rule, this one: “The people with the gold make the rules.”

Harm reduction projects usually involve a van-based outreach model in which Peer Support Workers (PSWs) go in teams to what are termed “hot spots” to engage people living with SUD/OUD. “Hot spots” include places like homeless encampments, shelters, parks, etc. The outreach effort can be either obvious (e.g., signage on the van and PSWs in logo t-shirts) or on the down low (e.g., plain white van and PSWs in street clothes), or a hybrid version using magnetic signs placed on the van, or removed from it, depending on the needs of a particular location on a given day. The PSWs distribute harm reduction supplies like clean syringes (with or without exchange), alcohol swabs, sterile water ampules, spoons, fentanyl test strips, sharps containers, and condoms, along with emergency food, clothing, hygiene items, and so forth. The outreach van is also used to provide some direct services in the field like wound care, rapid HIV tests, and naloxone administration.

The most extreme version of harm reduction are safe injection sites: while these are illegal in most of America because the drugs themselves are technically illegal, if widely available, three safe injection sites have recently and prominently opened, two in NYC and one in San Francisco. One key problem with a safe injection site initiative is that few businesses or residents want one near them, much like no one wants to be in proximity of a methadone clinic, so permitting is a real challenge. We’ve yet to write a safe injection site proposal but likely soon will.

A key difference between the standard treatment model and the harm reduction model is that clients are typically not tracked (when Joe or Mary shows up for supplies, their identity isn’t verified and they aren’t entered into a client database for tracking), and, most significantly, services aren’t case-managed. PSWs will offer “warm handoffs” for follow-up treatment like MAT and other center-based services, but there’s no automated follow-up from the harm reduction team.

We’re just grant writers, so we don’t have an immediate opinion as to whether step-down treatment or harm reduction is more efficacious, and most studies on the subject are somewhat questionable, although every treatment/harm reduction proposal we write claims the project design uses “evidence-based practices” (EBPs). When in doubt, claim both “evidence” and “innovation” for your program, leaving aside that those two are often mutually exclusive. If your agency provides SUD/OUD treatment, consider adding a harm reduction component, as this is clearly where the feds are going with grant funds. A cynic might conclude that the feds are pushing harm reduction because it’s much cheaper than providing longitudinal case-managed treatment, but we’ll leave that conclusion to others.

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Links: Microgrants programs, dynamism, the CDC during the pandemic, grant performance, and more!

* “So you want to build a microgrants program.” In this, Scott Alexander notes: “(2) Most people are terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE grantwriters.” That’s why we have a business: this stuff is hard. Telling effective stories is hard, especially when having to respond to confusingly worded RFPs. Scott Alexander’s RFPs don’t suffer from that problem, but he still seems to have found terrible grant writers. Many people who are great at doing what they do are simultaneously poor at explaining to others what they do and want to do. We help with that.

* “Building American Dynamism.” One might ask what a typical organization is doing to do that.

* Failures of the CDC as an agency. This is consistent with our interactions with most government agencies; organizations working with most government agencies get things done in spite of those agencies, not because of them. Michael Lewis has a good book, The Fifth Risk, that also discusses these issues.

* “College professors have a right to provoke and upset you. It’s a part of learning. Whether from the right or from the left, calls to silence faculty voices on America’s campuses are inconsistent with the values of a university.” Seems obvious to me, though I quaintly still think it important to encourage students to think, without telling them what to think.

* Emergent Ventures’ life-changing actions. I doubt we’ll ever seen governments fund this way, or most foundations fund this way, but it’s great to see someone doing it. Funders should experiment more and signal to their peers less.

* “A Multigenerational Home in Amsterdam Can Be Reconfigured for Changing Demands.” This is the sort of thing that overly restrictive mandatory single-family zoning in the United States prevents. Much of the U.S. tech and entrepreneurial sectors are creative, fast-paced, and adaptive, while anything related to land use and housing is slow, sclerotic, and ossified. We can and should do better. Still, some large homebuilders like Lennar offer flex-space options to create more or less a small, second unit within the house with a bath, kitchenette, and separate entrance—in jurisdictions that allow this, creating a multigenerational but “single-family” house. The better solution is to legalize missing middle housing everywhere, but, again, sclerosis is the rule.

* “Moth minds: a software grant platform for investing in individuals or others.” We talk a lot about the process of applying for grants, but it’d also be interesting to make the process of giving out grants easier. Re-using infrastructure is good and useful. Existing foundations have whatever infrastructure they’ve cobbled together, and individuals can randomly cut checks, but there’s very little between the two. This is an effort to be between those two structures; it’s somewhat like Fast Grants or Emergent Ventures, it would seem.

* “Alumni Withhold Donations, Demand Colleges Enforce Free Speech.” Something like the University of Austin might be an alternate choice for donations.

* “The global pandemic has deepened an epidemic of loneliness in America.” See also me on Lost Connections, which deals with what the title suggests from a pre-pandemic frame.

* “How to keep your organization out of culture wars.” What’s your focus? You can only have one. Choose it well.

* “The Quiet Scandal of College Teaching.”

* The Arc Institute is “for curiosity-driven biomedical science and technology” and it’s got “open positions for Technology Center group leaders, research scientists, and operational staff” right now. It’s designed to be on people more than particular projects. Like many of the links in this batch, Arc is trying to improve how we fund science and other projects in the United States. It’s hard to look at our pandemic response and think we’re doing things optimally.

* “Alexander Berger On Philanthrophic Opportunities And Normal Awesome Altruism.”

* “Burn the Universities and Salt the Earth.” An overstated rant, but not wholly inaccurate, either.

* “Battery Storage Soars on U.S. Electric Grid: Falling costs and green mandates are boosting demand for batteries capable of storing large amounts of wind and solar power for later use.” All those SBIR/STTR Dept. of Energy proposals we’ve written are bearing fruit. Now we’ll have to see if flow batteries make it: most existing battery installs are li-ion formulations. If your organization is seeking R&D funds for renewable energy and batteries, call us.

* More on ClimeWorks, a firm attempting to scale carbon capture and storage. If you know anyone who says they’re seriously concerned about climate change, ask if they have a ClimeWorks, Project Vesta, or similar subscription (I do). The answers will be revealing.

* “Hospitals Still Not Fully Complying With Federal Price-Disclosure Rules: Some healthcare systems post incomplete pricing data or nothing at all.”

* Against Identity Politics.

* “Democrats’ college degree divide: More educated Democrats are more progressive across the board.” This seems important but also under-emphasized.

* We’ve put up a bunch of landing pages related to grant writing, which will not be of interest to most of you.

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The effects of early childhood education programs don’t look good: a large, randomized pre-kindergarten study

There’s a large, new study out on the “Effects of a statewide pre-kindergarten program on children’s achievement and behavior through sixth grade,” and it’s important and unusual because of its results: it finds that pre-k education doesn’t help later educational or behavioral achievement and, if anything, hurts later student achievement. This study is also significant due to its comprehensiveness; the study follows 3,000 kids, who appear to be randomly assigned to pre-k services or not, and the study follows those kids for a long period of time—at least seven years, it seems, and possibly longer. I’ve not got the full manuscript yet but am seeking a copy. Most education studies are observational, in that they observe two or more cohorts, but they don’t use randomized controls, like this one does, and observational studies are particularly prone to bias. The new study is also pre-registered—that is, the authors say what they’re looking for, what success looks like, and how they’re going to measure success before they get their data. There’s a “replication crisis” in social science and medicine, because it’s possible to torture a positive result out of all sorts of data, and this study avoids most if not all of the common pitfalls.

The study’s abstract says:

Data through sixth grade from state education records showed that the children randomly assigned to attend pre-K had lower state achievement test scores in third through sixth grades than control children, with the strongest negative effects in sixth grade. A negative effect was also found for disciplinary infractions, attendance, and receipt of special education services, with null effects on retention

Wow: that’s counter to the intuition of most people, politicians involved in early childhood education, and “common wisdom.” The study is not the last word—no study is—but it is persuasive. For most practitioners, this won’t be immediately relevant, because Head Start and Pre-K For All aren’t likely to see real changes in the near term. But we may see the political winds change over time.

This post is not a policy recommendation: as grant writers, we don’t do policy recommendations, although I do think a lot of students are in college who’d be better served by alternatives, and yet society as a whole hasn’t yet figured that out or properly grokked it, even as total student loans owed passes $1 trillion. But, if America wants to do some form of daycare for all (“universal daycare”), as is proposed in the stalled Build Back Better legislation, that’s a fine goal and we should call it that, instead of pretending it’s possible to have academic, “educational” experiences for the vast majority of kids under the age of five. Four-year olds are not falling “behind,” because, except in the case of unusual prodigies, there is nowhere to fall behind. If anything, excess regimentation and premature optimization are likely to be bigger problems than “falling behind.”

I’ve long been somewhat suspect of early childhood “education”—not from studies per se, but from being around small children. Most don’t have the executive function to do much in the way of what might be called “education.” Trying to create “education” in the sense that we see with older kids or adults seems improbable for very young children. The veneer of “education” using “curriculums” like “The Creative Curriculum” and “The Creative Curriculum GOLD” that we cite in grant proposals seems faintly ridiculous; whether or not a four-year old can identify different kinds of leaves or songs or animals by name doesn’t seem to indicate how that four-year old will do in middle or high school, or college. But there’s a lot of social and economic anxiety around class, economic achievement, and housing; we’ve collectively adopted policies focused on creating scarcity, not abundance, and that’s resulted in intense, and probably pointlessly intense, competition in many fields.

Trying to indoctrinate small children into social, academic, and economic competition culture seems difficult to me, and yet that’s been one response to scarcity policies. Making early childhood teachers, who are really more like caregivers in the classroom, have degrees or advanced degrees seems like a way of raising the cost of childcare without providing much in benefits; everyday human experience seems to be sufficient for taking care of small kids. Maybe small kids are learning cultural markers and such in the early early childhood education setting that will help them later, but, if so, that later help isn’t showing up in the data. There’s a lot of desire to make education a panacea for various kinds of social and economic inequality, but that desire keeps running up against uncomfortable ideas (I won’t call them “truths,” although some might).

Head Start was launched in 1965 as on the initial programs in President Johnson’s “War on Poverty;” if there’s been a large boost in real educational attainment (which is different from “degrees achieved”), I’ve not seen it. I’ve been teaching college undergrads since 2008, and in that time my anecdotal impression is that smartphones and social media have been net bad for learning, noting however that some people do leverage Internet technologies to learn more and faster than they could without. Anecdotes are not data, but, since the late ’90s and early ’00s, we here at Seliger + Associates Grant Writing have been writing proposals for programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), and in that time we’ve not seen learning substantially improve from the dissemination of computers and the Internet. In 2013, I wrote a post about a pair of studies finding that computer access appears, if anything, to lower educational attainment. In 2015, I wrote about Kentaro Toyama’s book Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology. “Computers in education” is not the same thing, obviously, as early childhood education, but both are attempts at improving education and life outcomes that are popular but may not be efficacious. If you work in the education industry with students ages 10 or higher—ages old enough for smart phones to have penetrated the population—ask those around you to look at their Apple “Screen Time” app or Android “Digital Wellbeing” controls. Those show how many minutes or hours a day a smartphone is being used, and what a person is doing on that phone. From what I’ve observed, very few people are using the book apps, the Duolingo systems for language learning, or Anki for space-repetition learning. Ask around, see what you find. Think about what that might mean.

Real education is hard. I’ve tried to impart some to students. Probably it’s always been hard and always will be. We should collectively try to do better while also understanding what might be limited, what might be futile, and what might be counterproductive. I’m struck by, at the college level, how little time is spent trying to learn how to teach more effectively, and friends who teach in K – 12 often report the same.

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How to prepare a DOT “Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity” (RAISE) application

NOTE: This “how to” post is a companion to “The Dept. of Transportation (DOT) issues first RFP under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE). You should probably read that post first, which was posted yesterday.

The recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) has $1T (yes, that’s a “trillion”) for a cornucopia of funding from DOT, DOE, and other Federal agencies. BIL authorizes grants for an array of infrastructure projects, including lead water pipe replacement, high-speed internet, transportation and public transit, airports, passenger rail, electric-vehicle charging stations, electric utility infrastructure, environmental remediation, and the development of time machines (okay, I made up the last entry to see if you’re paying attention).

DOT just issued the first RFP under the new BIL (see note and link above), and a flood of other infrastructure RFPs will be published in the coming months: do as much as can be reasonably be completed in advance, even though you won’t know the specific requirements until the RFP is available. Follow these action steps and you’ll be ready to submit technically correct applications without organizational hysteria as the deadline approaches:

  • Designate a project manager or, as Apple and other tech companies refer to this person, the “Directly Responsible Individual” (DRI).
  • Most funding under the BIL will be for planning and/or development of some sort of physical improvement, structure, or facility. This kind of proposal is very different than a typical human services or R & D proposal: the narrative sections are usually relatively short and often are not composed of a single narrative, but rather are disjointed responses to highly specific questions scattered throughout the RFP; these small narratives may have to be included in different sections of the final application. Severe word or character counts restrictions will likely apply for each narrative section, making it harder to tell a coherent “narrative story” about the project and engage the imagination of the readers who will score the proposal. There should be a section for an abstract or project summary, which may be the grant writer’s only opportunity to draft a topic paragraph that answers the six essential questions that every proposal must include: Who, What Where, When, Why, and How (the 5 Ws and H). If there’s no abstract or project summary, find a place somewhere to include this topic paragraph. The final application, when printed out by the funder*, will look like a layer cake with the narratives interspersed with a myriad of forms, drawings, and exhibits that can easily run to over 200 pages. It is crucial that the RFP application instructions be closely followed, as no matter how great the project concept or the political juice behind it are, the application will not be scored and will be tossed if it’s deemed technically deficient. In most cases, you will not have an opportunity to correct deficiencies.
  • Make sure that your agency can demonstrate site control in the form of a title, right-of-way easement, lease or lease-option. If leased, the term of the lease must be longer than the useful life of the proposed capital improvement(s).
  • Hire an architectural and/or engineering firm to conduct design studies and eventually working drawings needed to obtain a building permit. Due to concerns over climate change and sustainability, select an architect/engineer who will design to meet high-level LEED “green building” standards.
  • Have the architect/engineer develop a master timeline to take the project from concept to moving dirt and establish the critical path for project completion. Once the timeline is set, the DRI should convene the first of a series of “all hands” meetings involving key internal and external stakeholders (e.g., utility company representatives, fire department, etc.). As the project moves forward, keep your eye on the critical path and adjust the timeline frequently. The DRI must keep the project moving forward.
  • Make sure that the architect/engineer interfaces with the jurisdiction’s planning department and/or building department to understand the land use and zoning constraints on the site, as well as the level of environmental review that will be needed. Determine required hearings and discretionary permits/approvals and the anticipated timing of getting the permits/approvals (add these to the project timeline). Depending on the project concept, county, state, and/or federal permits/approvals may be necessary (e.g., EPA, State Office of Historic Preservation “SHPO”, etc.)
  • Have the architect/engineer prepare a conceptual site plan for agency review and, eventually, a second trip the planning/building departments for a reality check. The DRI should schedule any necessary pre-building permit public hearings. The public hearings will need to be formally noticed and widely advertised–these hearings will be where cranky, angry local NIMBYs will show up to complain. No matter how altruistic the project seems, assume that there will be organized opposition and develop a plan to co-opt the opposition or at least address their concerns. We’ve constructed a legal world in which building anything, anywhere, is dragged down by this process, to the detriment of all of us, but Seliger + Associates doesn’t make the rules, we just write the proposals.
  • If feasible, given the project timeline and anticipated RFP release, have the architect/engineer prepare detailed working drawings, based on the conceptual plan (as revised) and apply for a building permit. While not always possible, the best way to demonstrate project feasibility to a funder is having obtained a building permit. This makes it possible to use the ever popular “but for” argument in your proposal: “but for only the grant, the project can be immediately implemented.” This argument is a variation on President Obama’s “shovel ready projects” argument when the 2009 Stimulus Bill was passed.

If all of the above steps are completed, you still won’t have a shovel-ready project; instead, you’ll have an “on the shelf” project and will vastly increase the likelihood of a positive funding decision, as funders for these kind of projects prefer applications that look like they can be quickly started. No funder wants to approve a grant for a project that can’t be built expeditiously—or built at all.

Generally, with an on-the-shelf project, the only step needed after the grant is awarded is to conduct a public-bid process to select the general contractor. A complete application without gotchas and fumbling is the way to soften the stone-like hearts of funder decision makers as they imagine attending the ground breaking ceremony with President Biden and, ideally, Kim Kardashian on hand.

 


* While Seliger + Associates and our readers live in the digital world of 2022, for many federal agencies it’s still 1997. Although most federal proposals are digital uploads, in many cases the proposals are printed out for review and scoring. Thus, all attachments should be 8 1/2″ x 11″ and reviewers will likely view the proposal in grey-scale print outs, not on the 27″ iMacs and 24″ Dell side monitors we use, so beautiful color graphics may be wasted.

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The Dept. of Transportation (DOT) issues first RFP under the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law:” “Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity” (RAISE)

The Department of Transportation (DOT) just issued an RFP for the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grants program; this being the federal government, the actual name of this program is the “Local and Regional Project Assistance Program in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’)”, which is even longer than the short title we shoehorned into the title of this post. Why have one program name when two will do?

Although RAISE isn’t a new program, this RFP is significant because it appears to be the first one issued under the recently passed “Infrastructure Bill.” While in FY ’20 there was a paltry $1B available for RAISE, this year there’s $1.5B (and yes, that’s “billion”). The max grants are $5M in urban areas and $1M in rural areas, so hundreds of RAISE grants will be made. The RFP says RAISE grants may be used for “surface transportation infrastructure projects that will have a significant local or regional impact.” The deadline isn’t yet published, curiously, but there’ll be an update notice published on Jan. 30 in grants.gov that should have the deadline.

Eligible applicants include states, local governments, transportation districts and agencies—including ports, and Indian Tribes. While nonprofits aren’t directly eligible, they could be part of an applicant consortium and receive sub-grants for things like environmental justice, equity, workforce development, ethnic-specific community outreach and engagement, etc.

RAISE and other transportation programs, new and old, to be funded by the Infrastructure Bill, are really aimed at what is sometimes called the Concrete Lobby. The Concrete Lobby is an unholy alliance of construction companies, developers, local elected officials and appointed bureaucrats, unions, investment banks, lobbyists, chambers of commerce, and similar self-interested parties. In many ways, the Concrete Lobby is an analog of the Military-Industrial Complex that likes politicians who like foreign wars, so the government will buy more bullets. In this case, the Concrete Lobby wants the government to “buy more concrete.”

When I was a Community Development Director for CA cities in the 1980s, we always paid close attention to local Concrete Lobby members because they could easily and often would hand-pick candidates for local office, disrupting planning and redevelopment efforts (despite their efforts, though, local municipalities still severely restrict housing construction). Environmental groups and other NIMBYs typically opposed the Concrete Lobby, using tools like the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and State Offices of Historic Preservation (SHPO) to tie up or defeat local development projects, including those aimed at transit and transportation.* We see the results today: traffic gridlock and spectacularly high housing prices that hurt the poor the most, but hurt almost everyone. Depending on how the city I was working for felt about a particular project, we’d either support or surreptitiously attempt to sabotage environmental and NIMBY opposition. If you’re an environmental activist, keep in mind that, while you’re playing a one to five year game, the Concrete Lobby and their sycophants in government are playing a 30 to 50 year game.

With so much grant money now sloshing around looking for transportation projects and the rise of “woke environmentalism,” I’m guessing that the Concrete Lobby will try to co-opt opposition by most environmental groups with visions of subcontracts, as well as the virtue signaling sacraments of environmental justice and the suddenly popular shibboleth of “equity.” If you represent an eligible applicant for RAISE grants or a nonprofit interested in subcontracts, this is the time to look for good project concepts. We’ll soon post a companion article on how to develop a competitive grant proposal for RAISE and its ilk. These kinds of proposals are very different than typical human services proposals as the narratives are short, but the attachments are huge, resulting in what we call “layer cake” applications.


* When I was Community Development Director for the City of San Ramon in the San Francisco East Bay around 1990, we worked hard to get the regional transit authority to add bus lines through San Ramon to connect to the BART heavy rail system. We imagined that our largely upper middle class and progressive residents would love the idea of reducing use of cars for commuting. They were environmentalists, right? Wrong! Within two weeks of the new buses, which were standard size or larger articulated buses, rolling though town, about 200 people in matching anti-bus t-shirts showed up at a city council meeting denouncing the intrusive buses that were keeping them awake at night and “ruining their quality of life.” I had the thankless task of facing this mob. The City Council immediately caved and directed me to renegotiate with the transit authority. The result was to remove most trunk bus lines and add a few mini-buses, which defeated the point of connecting to BART for commuting.

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How to fund a Juneteenth Day Black Rodeo (Hint: not via grants, this time)

In addition to our usual calls (e.g.,substance abuse disorder treatment, workforce development, at-risk youth services*, etc.), we sometimes get inquiries from folks seeking more esoteric grants–some favorites include R & D for the eternally elusive perpetual motion machine and expeditions to find the Lost City of Z. Last week, we got a call from a self-described black cowboy (let’s call him “Tex”) in Texas who wants $50K to fund a Juneteenth Day Black Rodeo.**

While we’ve been referencing Juneteenth celebrations in the outreach or needs assessments sections of certain proposals for years, most Americans, including many African Americans, outside of Texas and the Old South had never heard of Juneteenth until it suddenly became a new national holiday last year. Since it’s not cost effective to hire S + A to secure the ~$50K in grants the caller sought, I was ethically bound to decline the assignment. Still, Tex was a reasonable guy with a pretty good idea for a community celebration; he called on a slow day, so I took about half an hour to give Tex free advice on how to fund his vision of a Juneteenth Black Rodeo, which is plausible, just not with grants. Here’s my advice, which can be applied many similar local events or small human services programs:

      • Fiscal Agent: Find a local nonprofit to serve as the fiscal agent to handle and account for donations and make them tax deductible to the donor.
      • Website and Social Media: Create a simple website and set up accounts with the usual social media suspects. Find a local artist to draw a catchy logo. It should be easy to garner attention for this unique project: who doesn’t like a black cowboy (such as Deets in the epic Western novel and mini-series Lonesome Dove), combined with a rodeo?
      • Initial Event Planning: I asked Tex if he had a Stetson, Justin boots, big belt buckle, horse trailer, and pickup truck. He said yes to each in turn. Perfect! Select a Saturday for the initial public event. Send out press releases to local and selected national media (Daily Mail, etc.) and use social media starting a couple of weeks in advance to get the word out. But don’t send anything to the big box store that is your first target. Check with local cops and city to see if any permits are required, but it may be best to skip this in hopes that a media grabbing attempt will made to stop you. That would really get media attention, as they drag you and the horse to the hoosegow!
      • Roll Out Event: Put on the gear, put the horse in the trailer, and park the F-150 two blocks from the biggest Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club in town, but out of sight. Get the horse out and trot around the corner to the front of the store slowly. Then make a big fuss about tying the horse to something. A couple of Black pals in cowboy/rodeo outfits on their own horses would also be desirable, if possible. Try get to a Black “Rodeo Queen” to carry a flag. Get someone to video the whole thing surreptitiously. At this point, you should be surrounded by a herd of parents, kids, media, and more, all going bonkers, and dozens will be using their phones to video and upload the spectacle, increasing the chances of scoring a viral video. Place colorful flyers, a banner with your cool logo, and info sign-up sheet on a folding table staffed with with your pals. Have them circulate in the crowd with actual feedbags to collect donations. Put on your best John Wayne face, stride forcefully into the store to the manager. The manager will be dumbfounded by the unexpected hoopla. Explain politely, but loudly, what you’re doing and ask for an immediate donation of $5,000. You’ll likely get at least a $1,000 on the spot just to get you to go away. Make sure to tell the manager that they’ll get acknowledgment on signage at the Rodeo. Edit and post videos on your social media accounts immediately. With luck, you’ll soon be on the locally produced morning shows, and maybe national shows. Keep your buckle polished just in case.
      • Rinse and Repeat: Do several more of the above events around town until its gets stale. After that, just walk unannounced into car dealers, banks, big retail stores, etc. making a pitch directly face-to-face with the manager. Most of these kinds of entities have budgets for making small donations to local nonprofits and events and will make donations of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for the asking, as long as you have a fiscal agent for the donation.
      • Ongoing: Set up a GoFundMe Page to publicize the effort after you’ve developed a sufficient level of awareness and use social media to flog that page.

    You can modify the above strategies for any local effort that doesn’t need more than $100K annually. Except for the social media and GoFundMe aspects, this is how I often raised money in the mid 1970s (yes, I’m that old) when I was Executive Director of the Hollywood-Wilshire Fair Housing Council and on the Board of the Harbor Free Clinic in Los Angeles.


    * The recently released FY ’22 Department of Labor FOA replaces the term “at-risk youth” with “opportunity youth.” Now you know.

    ** To fully enjoy this post, listen to “Ghetto Cowboy” by Bone Thugs N Harmony, from 1998.

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How many troubled Head Start programs are out there? Looking at ACF’s re-bid practices

Diligent grants.gov readers will occasionally see a bunch of notices for individual service areas for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Head Start Program. Recently, for example, a dozen Head Start RFPs were issued, for places like “Kent and Sussex Counties, Delaware” or “Bates, Cass, Cedar, Henry, St. Clair and Vernon Counties, Missouri.” I did some research on grantees in those areas and found that many Head Start programs in them had been taken over by something called the “Community Development Institute” (CDI) Head Start, which appears to be an ACF multi-area Head Start grantee whose job is to take over the miscreant Head Start programs and operate them until a new local operator can be found, wrangled, tackled, press-ganged, etc. To understand what’s going on, it’s necessary consider the long history of Head Start and its kin, Early Head Start.

Head Start, one of the original “War on Poverty” programs, has been around since 1965; ACF says over 1 million children are enrolled in Head Start annually, and there are Head Start programs in most parts of inhabited America—urban, suburban and rural. Many Head Start programs are operated by the 1,000 or so Community Action Agencies (CAAs), another 1965 War on Poverty relic, funded through the DHHS Office of Community Services (OCS).

Head Start grantees, like HRSA-funded Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), aren’t guaranteed funding and must periodically compete in new RFPs processes. But not every area has a competent grantee in it—particularly in sparsely populated rural areas or extremely poor areas, where services are often most needed. We’ve worked on numerous projects for organizations that are working through various permutations of this problem, our favorite being a SAC applicant who forgot to apply for their Section 330 grant when their Service Area Competition (SAC) NOFO was open, causing the applicant’s HRSA program officer to call, after the deadline, to say, “Where is your application?” HRSA allowed a late application, which is unusual, and we were able to write their SAC proposal in less than a week. These aren’t ideal or recommended conditions, however.

Searching local news in many of the counties listed by ACF as needing new Head Start grantees yields articles about whatever is going on at these troubled Head Start grantees, but those local news articles lack detail. Still, the regularity with which ACF issue these service area level RFPs shows the challenges not just of getting a Head Start grant, but of running the program successfully. Overall, Head Start is one of the few federal grant-funded programs that shows up regularly in popular media in heartwarming feature stories about low-income kids learning in a nurturing environment—and that sometimes happens. Head Start has also been the subject of much research, which increases its visibility. The research has generated much debate about Head Start’s efficacy at improving educational outcomes for at-risk kids; given its long history, the grandparents or great grandparents of kids in Head Start today were also very likely were in Head Start. Intergenerational Head Start enrollment doesn’t necessarily argue for the program’s real impact, but we’ll leave discussions of “impact” for another post.

Head Start is as much a jobs program as it is an early childhood education program. Head Start grants fund tens of thousands of jobs for low-income folks to work as non-credentialed or lightly credentialed “teachers.” These jobs have traditionally been filled mostly by single moms, whose kids are usually enrolled in Head Start. Thus, the local Head Start programs meet two critical needs in low-income communities—heavily subsidized early childhood education (or “child care” for the cynics) and reliable, easy-entry jobs with some career-ladder potential. Thus, when a Head Start program goes under, it can be a real crisis in low-income and especially low-income rural areas, which is probably why ACF tries to use the Community Development Institute and similar outfits to plug gaps. If any readers have a good story to tell about recycling of Head Start grants, write a guest post and we’ll post it anonymously.

Need your Head Start, or any other proposal, written? Call us at 800.540.8906 ext. 2, or send an email to seliger@seliger.com.