Please find below a series of frequently asked questions about the Independent Living Programs and answers from ACL.
- Understanding the Role of the Independent Living Network Before, During, and After a Disaster (January 2024)
Experiencing the short- and long-term impact of a disaster can be devastating for anyone. We know this is especially true for people with disabilities, older adults, and their families. For decades, Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and State Independent Living Councils (SILCs) have made significant contributions in assisting these individuals prepare for and navigate the upheavals and threats to their health, independence, and community living that occur before, during, and following such events.
The Administration on Disabilities (AoD), part of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), recognizes the leadership role that the IL Network plays in developing, improving, and expanding inclusive emergency preparedness and disaster response and recovery strategies. We are committed to collaborating with you to make these efforts impactful.
The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) are intended to help ACL grantees better prepare for and respond during disasters. It is not, however, a comprehensive guide to emergency response, and AoD grantees are strongly encouraged to reach out to AoD Program Officers with any questions about the appropriate use of federal funds.
Q1: What types of services are CILs allowed to provide to individuals with significant disabilities with federal Part C funds during a federally declared disaster?
A1: CILs can provide IL services to individuals with significant disabilities living inside their service area, as defined in the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL), at any time, including before, during and after a federally declared disaster. CILs provide both core services as well as additional independent living services that can be critical in assisting individuals with disabilities to maintain their health, independence, and well-being before, during, and after disasters. Core services that can assist in a disaster can include information and referral; independent living (IL) skills training; peer counseling; individual and systems advocacy; and services that facilitate transition from nursing homes and other institutions (including temporary shelters) to the community, provide assistance to those at risk of entering institutions, and facilitate transition of youth to postsecondary life.
CILs may also provide additional services that can assist in a disaster, including psychological counseling, assistance in securing housing or shelter, personal assistance services, transportation referral and assistance, physical therapy, mobility training, rehabilitation technology, recreation, and other services necessary to improve the ability of individuals with significant disabilities to function independently in the family or community and/or to continue employment.
CILs and SILCs must ensure that federal independent living grants funds are only used for permissible expenses. For services, supplies and resources for which federal independent living grant funds cannot be used – such as home repair and disaster clean up – CILs can partner with local governments and other non-profit organizations that are active in disaster response and recovery. The IL Network is encouraged to work with partners in their state or territory that may have funds available, and/or to apply for other grants, that can pay for additional services and supports to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities, including during a disaster.
If grant money is spent improperly, even during a disaster, a CIL or SILC will be considered out of compliance and will need to rectify the situation in coordination with their AoD Program Officer.
Q2: What role does the SPIL and SILCs/CILs play in emergency preparedness and disaster response?
A2: SILCs should facilitate discussion of emergency management issues and identify the unique issues for people with disabilities during and after disaster, and opportunities for planning before. This is best done during moments of ‘steady state’ or ‘blue skies’ operations when there is no emergency. Through the development of the SPIL, the SILC and the CILs are strongly encouraged to develop emergency management goals specifically as they relate to federally declared disaster activities and clarify the roles the CILs and SILC will play during that time. If the SPIL includes emergency preparedness, IL funds can be used to connect CILs to emergency preparedness agencies throughout a state.
ACL encourages SILCs and CILs to establish on-going relationships with state or local government emergency management entities and other community partners before a disaster is declared by the federal government. ACL encourages the IL Network to be active by participating on disaster committees, assisting with developing resource opportunities, and applying for grants that can increase the capacity and resources of IL organizations to address the needs of people with disabilities before, during or after a disaster.
ACL encourages the IL Network to take the following steps to address emergency preparedness in Sections 1 and 2 of the SPIL:
- Describe what SILC and CILs efforts will be before, during and after a federally declared disaster.
- Describe how CILs will provide services during and after a federally declared disaster, including how CIL service areas may be temporarily modified and the rationale for any changes.
- Describe the SILC’s role in convening stakeholders to improve services for individuals with significant disabilities before, during and after a federally declared disaster.
- Identify how the SPIL’s plan for a federally declared disaster relates to their state or territory emergency operation plan.
- Describe the process for all CILs to develop an emergency management plan.
ACL strongly recommends that CILs develop a working relationship with their SILC and one another, as well as with key stakeholders, including other aging and disability grantees funded by ACL, in advance of a federally declared disaster. These partnerships before disaster can enable the Network to better meet the needs of people with disabilities during disaster.
We also urge CILs to strongly consider developing Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) to outline steps CILs can take to assist people with disabilities in affected disaster areas, including service areas that a CIL is not assigned to serve. Collaboration and cooperation before a disaster allows the development of these MOAs and similar agreements and will help clarify roles and responsibilities before a disaster. As a statewide organization, SILCs can take the lead in creating MOAs or other formalized relationships between the Network of CILs and state or local regional emergency management entities to assist with meeting the needs of people with disabilities before, during or after a federally declared disaster.
Q3: Can a CIL serve individuals with disabilities in another CILs service area or in areas not covered by a CIL during a declared federal disaster?
A3: Yes, a CIL can serve individuals with disabilities in another CIL service area with IL funds, if it is included in the SPIL. CILs must coordinate through the SILC to ensure no duplication of service. In addition, CILs may provide IL services to survivors with disabilities who were temporally relocated to their service area in the immediate aftermath of the federally declared disaster for as long as they are in the area. Once an individual with disabilities has returned to their home area, the individual should be transferred to the CIL that serves that area for ongoing needs and services, unless the individual does not want to be served by that CIL.
Q4: Will ACL provide additional funding to support emergency preparedness and federally declared disaster response services?
A4: In general, ACL does not have additional funding outside annual appropriations specifically to help the IL Network prepare for or recover from a disaster. However, on occasion, Congress does appropriate standalone funding in the aftermath of some disasters, which ACL then makes available to grantees. In these situations, ACL publicly announces the funding and also makes targeted outreach to eligible grantee organizations for details about how to apply.
Q5: Can Title VII Part C funding be used for staff over-time pay or consultants during an emergency or declared federal disaster?
A5: All expenses that are allowable before a federally declared disaster are allowable during and after. ACL strongly encourages CILs to have established policies and procedures that address staff time and the use of consultants for addressing an emergency ahead of time. Any consistent policy changes applied across CILs during an emergency should be noted in the SPIL.
Q6: What are the CIL and SILC reporting requirements to ACL following a federally declared disaster?
A6: CILs and SILCs must follow all current reporting requirements. If there is some reason why a CIL or SILC is unable to complete a report due to impact of a disaster, please reach out to your AoD Program Officer to discuss.
Q7: Our SILC or CIL has identified a need to implement emergency preparedness and/or federally declared disaster response training for our staff and consumers in response to a recent disaster. Are training expenses allowable?
A7: Reasonable training expenses are allowable. Grantees are encouraged to review the Uniform Guidance sections on cost allowability and cost reasonableness (45 CFR § 75.403 and 404) to ensure proper use. Grantees may also seek additional funding, identifying alternative training sources, or partner with other ACL grantees for training purposes. For example, grantees should connect with local emergency managers and other community organizations to collaborate around training and confirm if training is already available for IL Network staff. The IL Network may also consider providing disability awareness training for emergency management staff and other community organizations, whether as part of an existing training opportunity or separately.
Q8: Can ACL recommend best practices for the frequency of emergency drills with staff and/or board members?
A8: It is reasonable that staff and board members be made aware of the current policies and procedures for the organization. It is a recommended best practice for emergency drills to be held annually or in accordance with established organizational emergency policies and procedures. CILs should develop a detailed emergency plan that outlines how they will work before, during or after disasters. This is often called a continuity of operations plan (COOP). These plans may look very different from CIL to CIL. (More information is located in Additional Resources section.)
Q9: Due to an emergency, our CIL has identified needs that apply to its infrastructure. Can we pay for building repairs or purchase a security system, or an emergency alert system?
A9: There are no changes or expansions to the allowable expenses outlined in (45 CFR § 75) or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended (Rehab Act), in the case of an emergency or disaster. CILs are encouraged to review the sections on cost allowability and cost reasonableness (45 CFR § 75.403 and 404) for familiarity. CILs should also review the section on insurance and indemnification, specifically 45 CFR § 75.447(c), to ensure that the CIL utilizes insurance coverage to address damages or conduct repairs before expending federal funds. Grantees are expected to make prudent, reasonable decisions regarding the allowability of costs. Contact your AoD Program Officer if additional guidance is needed. Prior approval from your AoD Program Officer is required for any equipment purchases with a per unit cost of $5,000 or more (45 CFR § 75.439).
Q10: What types of federally declared disasters or emergencies should CILs/SILCs consider when developing emergency operations plan or goals within the SPIL?
A10: Each CIL’s emergency operations plan (sometimes called an EOP) should include all disaster scenarios based on your service area. As organizations serving within your communities, you will have the best understanding of the types of disasters your area may face and their potential impact on people with disabilities. Contact your local emergency management entity for more information or to get involved.
Here are some questions to consider when developing an EOP or COOP[i] at the SILC or CIL level:
- Are there office procedures in place for a range of emergency activity (such as inclement weather, domestic disturbance, or active shooter scenario)?
- Are staff, board members, consumers aware of and familiar with these procedures? Has training been developed/provided?
- How will you communicate with staff during an emergency when power may be limited?
- Are these procedures reviewed and communicated to staff and others as applicable on a regular basis?
- Do you have a plan to exercise your EOP and/or COOP (drills, tabletop exercises, etc.)? Are you engaged with local emergency planners and exercise coordinators? Are you connected with FEMA Regional Disability Integration Specialists?
- Do staff and board members know where to get the latest information related to weather/disaster activities/evacuation?
- Do staff know how to access the employee assistance program or other counseling resources should an emergency occur?
- Have you engaged with your community partners for trainings or feedback on your emergency plan?
- Do you have operating procedures in place post disaster?
- In the event of office closures, are there teleworking policies and procedures in place? For example, do staff have the appropriate equipment to work from home? In the case of CILs, are there policies to allow CIL consumers to approve an Independent Living Plan (ILP) remotely?
- Has the SILC developed a relationship with the State Emergency Operations leadership?
Q11: Our CIL is new to engaging in disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Where do we start? What are some of the areas where CILs can be involved? What steps can I take to learn more?
A11: All disasters are local and vary by region, and this is where the conversation should begin. If you don’t know your county emergency manager, this is a good place to start. An introductory meeting can provide an opportunity to introduce your CIL, the services you provide and to jointly educate one another about your capacity and the needs of individuals with disabilities in the area.
Other ideas include:
- Review the current SPIL for emergency management related goals.
- Talk to other CILs in the state to hear about any experiences or best practices in collaborating around emergency management issues.
- Review technical assistance.
- Collaborate with and learn from other disability organizations such as University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD), Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As), and Developmental Disabilities Councils (DD Council), aging agencies (Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and the State Units on Aging (SUA)), and human services and public health organizations in your area to learn more about the needs of the populations you serve and develop synergies to meet those needs.
Q12: Can SILCs or CILs assist another state’s or territory’s IL organizations?
A12: SILCs and CILs are not able to directly fund activities in another state or territory, even in response to a disaster. However, the IL Network is encouraged to support states or territories in need of assistance through mentoring, technical assistance, and connection to external resources and funding opportunities.
American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/
Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP): https://www.fema.gov/pdf/about/org/ncp/coop_brochure.pdf
FEMA: Office of Disability Integration and Coordination: https://www.fema.gov/about/offices/disability
ILRU: Resources on Emergency Preparedness & Recovery: https://www.ilru.org/projects/disability911/resources-emergency-preparedness-recovery
Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies: https://disasterstrategies.org/
Ready.gov: People with Disabilities: https://www.ready.gov/disability
Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD): https://www.nvoad.org/
 An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) outlines how an organization will function during the various phases of an emergency. A Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) outlines how an organization will continue to provide essential services during an emergency. We may want to look at a definition page in the next version of this.
- Describe what SILC and CILs efforts will be before, during and after a federally declared disaster.
- Executive Director (ED) Changes & Organization Name Changes (March 2023)
Change in Executive Director
. ACL staff does run the name through SAM.gov to affirm the person is able to receive federal funds, and must request prior approval through current regulations, § 2 CFR 200.308(c)(2). Information requested is submitted in Grant Solutions.
]). ILRU hosts monthly teleconference calls for new CIL EDs and has resources available on issues such as service delivery, nonprofit management, and general operations of a CIL. Resources that ILRU provides that may be helpful include
, recipients of federal funds must request approval from the grantor for a number of changes related to the grant, including a Change in Key Personnel identified in the application for federal funds or in the grant award. All requests for a Change in Key Personnel for your federal grant should be submitted by the grantee in the Grants Management Module
as a new amendment by accessing Manage Amendments, click New, select appropriate key personnel change amendment and Create Amendment:
Organization Name Change
- Allowable Advocacy Activities for Federal Grantees (June 2019)
- Conflicts of Interest
Q1: As a federal grantee, what is my obligation to avoid personal conflicts of interest?
A1: Per 45 CFR 75.112 and HHS Grant Policy, ACL grantees are obliged to establish policies to address actual or perceived conflicts of interests in the context of administering their federal award. Every grantee is required to develop a conflicts of interest policy that addresses potential conflicts of interest. Specifically, HHS Grant Policy (Page II-7)
Requires grant recipients to establish safeguards to prevent employees, consultants, members of governing bodies, and others who may be involved in grant supported activities from using their positions for purposes that are, or give the appearance of being, motivated by a desire for private financial gain for themselves or others, such as those with whom they have family, business, or other ties.
All conflict of interest policies must be consistent with state and local laws and cover, at a minimum, expected conduct concerning financial interests, gifts, gratuities, favors, and nepotism.
Q2: What is the difference between an actual and a perceived conflict of interest?
A2: An actual conflict of interest is a significant financial interest that could directly compromise or bias professional judgment and is objectively related to the management of federal financial assistance. A perceived conflict of interest exists if and only if a reasonable, disinterested person would conclude that an individual might emphasize personal interests over other interests that he/she has responsibility for.
An actual conflict of interest exists if the executive director of an organization hires her spouse to perform administrative tasks under her direct supervision. The executive director will personally financially benefit from the employment of her spouse, and will be unable to supervise a family member in an unbiased way that prioritized the agency over her family.
A perceived conflict of interest might exist where an agency hires a graphic-design firm owned and operated by a relative of the communications manager. A reasonable person could conclude that the communications manager, who would otherwise be responsible for working with the graphic-design firm to meet the agency’s needs, might prioritize increasing funding to the graphic-design firm over meeting the needs of the agency in a financially responsible manner.
Q3: Does my agency need a nepotism policy?
A3: Yes. According to the HHS Grant Policy, every grantee must address nepotism in the grantee’s conflict of interest policy. In addition to the requirements for the policy in A1 above, the policy must (45 CFR 75.112):
- Address the conditions under which outside activities, relationships, or financial interests are proper or improper.
- Provide for advance notification of outside activities, relationships, or financial interests to a responsible organizational official.
- Include a process for notification and review by the responsible official of potential or actual violations of the standards.
- Specify the nature of penalties that the recipient may impose. These penalties would be in addition to any penalties that HHS or a cognizant Federal agency may impose for infractions that also violate the terms and conditions of award.
HHS requires the grantee to make this policy “available to each of the grantee’s officers, each employee and consultant working on the grant-supported program, project, or activity, each member of the board of directors, if applicable, and, upon request, ACL.” (HHS Grant Policy Section II-7).
Q4: How does HHS define “nepotism”?
A4: HHS does not have a standard definition of “nepotism.” ACL defines a “conflict of interest” as a significant financial interest that could directly compromise or bias professional judgment and objectivity related to the management of federal financial assistance. As previously noted, the board of directors for each grantee is responsible for adopting and approving policy that is consistent with state and local laws. Many states and localities have specific language and definitions that must be incorporated into your policy.
Q5: What can my agency do if the most qualified person for a job is an applicant with a close personal relationship to a current staff member or a board member?
A5: In certain cases, it may be appropriate to hire an individual even though doing so would appear to be a personal conflict of interest. In this case, the grantee should ensure that there is no supervisory relationship between the conflicted individuals. A grantee must always comply with state and local laws, which may prohibit you from hiring family members or other individuals with a close financial relationship to you in all cases. In other areas, you may be able to hire an individual where a conflict would exist if your agency takes steps to fill the vacant position by determining, in an unbiased way, the most qualified candidate for the job. This unbiased way would need to include:
- Publicly advertising the job announcement,
- Interviewing multiple qualified candidates,
- Recusing, where possible, the staff persons with a conflict of interest from decision-making or other involvement with the hiring process, and
- Ensuring protections against ongoing lack of favoritism
Q6: To whom does a grantee’s conflict of interest policy apply?
A6: A grantee’s conflict of interest policy must apply to all the grantee’s employees, independent contractors, board members, and all “others who may be involved in grant supported activities.” The policy need not apply the same way to all people it applies to. For example, the policy need not treat hiring the spouse of the executive director and hiring the spouse of an independent contractor who works with the grantee for only part of one day per month in the same way.
Q7: What happens if ACL finds that a grantee is operating in violation of its conflict of interest policy?
A7: If a grantee organization violates its conflict of interest policy, ACL may take enforcement actions that include, but are not limited to, withholding cash payments, disallowance of unallowable expenses, and/or termination of the award.
- 45 CFR 75.112
- HHS Grant Policy Statement Section II-7
For More Information: Please contact your Independent Living Program Officer.
- Address the conditions under which outside activities, relationships, or financial interests are proper or improper.
- Designated State Entities (DSEs)
ACL Suggested DSE Best Practices
- Independent Living Services for Children and Youth with Disabilities (May 2017)
- Independent Living Subchapter C Funding Distribution (2017)
Arizona California Colorado Florida Georgia North Carolina South Carolina Texas Washington Alabama Indiana Kentucky Louisiana Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Missouri New Jersey New York Ohio Pennsylvania Tennessee Virginia Wisconsin Alaska Arkansas Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Hawaii Idaho Iowa Kansas Maine Mississippi Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Mexico North Dakota Oklahoma Oregon Rhode Island South Dakota Utah Vermont West Virginia Wyoming American Samoa Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico Virgin Islands