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Independent Living Programs FAQs

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)

FAQ in Word document.

Full Text:

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[1] (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.

 

Additional Resources:

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/


[1] 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.


 

Executive Director (ED) Changes & Organization Name Changes (March 2023)

Change in Executive Director

Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are grantees that receive funding from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) authorized by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, in Part C. Federal guidelines require grantees to inform funding agencies and receive prior approval of changes in “Key Personnel.” For the purposes of this FAQ, “Key Personnel” refers to the CIL Executive Director (ED) or interim Executive Director; the ED—interim or permanent—is the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR).

The independent-living philosophy of consumer control means that a CIL chooses its ED.

It is crucial to both the grantee and ACL that information about the Executive Director/Authorized Organizational Representative is always current and accurate. It is, therefore, important for grantees to have a clear understanding of the requirements associated with changes to the ED/AOR position.

 

Q1: What are the responsibilities of the ED and of the CIL grant program, who typically serves in the role?

A1: The ED is the designated representative of the recipient organization and has the authority to act on the organization’s behalf in matters related to the award and administration of grants. In signing the grant application, this individual agrees that the organization will assume the obligations imposed by the applicable Federal statutes and regulations and other terms and conditions of the award, including any assurances, if a grant is awarded. These responsibilities include accountability both for the appropriate use of funds awarded and the performance of the grant-supported project or activities as specified in the approved application. For CILs, the Executive Director or interim Executive Director is the AOR.

Q2: What is considered a “change” in status or absence of ED/AOR?

A2: A change is when the existing ED, as identified on the Notice of Award (NoA), resigns or withdraws from the project entirely, is continuously absent from the project for three (3) months or more, or reduces time devoted to the project by 25 percent or more from the level that was approved at the time of award.

Q3: What if the ED/AOR remains the same but changes his/her name?

A3: The grantee must update the SAM, IRS, and all federal reporting systems and notify the Project Officer (PO) of the name change.

Q4: Does ACL enforce minimum qualifications for EDs?

A4: No. Each grantee determines the qualifications necessary to successfully serve as an ED/AOR; the grantee should refer to the ILRU document titled “Tips for hiring an Executive Director” at http://ilnet-ta.org/wp/2017/01/06/tips-for-hiring-an-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.

Q5: Are there other resources that would be helpful to a new ED?

A5: The information under “Managing a Grant” on ACL’s website (at https://www.acl.gov/node/670) is helpful. ACL also funds Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) to provide grantees training and technical assistance (“CIL-NET Technical Assistance” [http://www.ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-net-technical-assistance

]). 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

- IL-NET TA: Tips for hiring an Executive Director

, http://ilnet-ta.org/wp/2017/01/06/tips-for-hiring-an-executive-director/

;

- Job Announcements: Post a job announcement on the ILRU website

, http://www.ilru.org/job-announcements

;

- On-Demand Training: CIL Financial Management

, http://www.ilru.org/topics/cil-financial-management

; and

- On-Demand Training: CIL Management and Operations

, http://www.ilru.org/topics/cil-management-operations

.

Q6: What grant-related systems does a change in ED impact, and how these systems updated?

A6: The new ED needs to learn how to use, access, and update the following Federal reporting systems.

- GrantSolutions: An end-to-end grants management service that provides solutions for grantors, grantees, and the public.

Website: https://home.grantsolutions.gov/home/

.

Recipient User Account Request Form

- Payment Management System (PMS): The Payment Management System accomplishes all payment-related activities for HHS grants from the time of award through closeout. PMS was developed for the purpose of creating a central system that is capable of paying most Federal assistance grants, block grants, and contracts.

Website: https://pms.psc.gov/

PMS System Access Form

- Q90: The portal for submitting program performance reports (PPRs).

Website: https://portal.q90.com/external/login.php

 

Before the ED change, the current ED needs to

- Tell the program officer (PO), in writing, about the change.

- Send the board of directors (BoD)

this document.

the PO’s name

the PO’s phone number

and the PO’s email address

 

Before the ED change, the BoD needs to

- Tell the PO, in writing, of the BoD’s intent to change the ED.

- Tell the PO the expected hire date.

- Submit change request in Grant Solutions.

Pursuant to § 2 CFR 200.308(c)(2)

, 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:

Change in Key Personnel amendments:

ACL Change PI/PD Info

 

GrantSolutions has a training video showing grantees how to request and manage grant amendments – which in addition to changes in personnel, includes information regarding no-cost extension requests, supplements, changes in address, and more. You can access the video here

.

 

Documents Required in Grant Solutions:

- A dated cover letter signed by the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) or designee with:

- Grant Award Number and Grantee Organization Name

- Justification for the change in key personnel

- New personnel contact information (name, title, business phone number and business email address)

- A resume, biographical sketch or curriculum vitae of the proposed individual

 

After the new ED officially starts, the new ED needs to

- Tell the PO the new ED’s full contact information.

- Complete and submit the PMS System Access Form in PMS.

- Update contact information on the following websites:

System for Award Management (SAM): www.sam.gov

Internal Revenue Service: https://www.irs.gov/

- Ask ILRU about participating in new-ED calls.

 

Source: ACL memo on Key Personnel Change issued 9/3/21 - Mandatory_Formula Grantee Notice_Non-Discretionary Grants Module_Final.pdf (acl.gov)

 

Organization Name Change

Q7: If the CIL name has changed, what do I need to do?

- Forward the new name to your PO so we can update the grantee distribution list

- Email the change to our financial office so it can be updated in PMS so you can drawdown funds. You can forward the name change documents to our financial office for signature approval to facilitate the name change: Vincent.Woodard@acl.hhs.gov and Yi-Hsin.Yan@acl.hhs.gov.  Documents they will ask for are the following:

The IRS letter/memo which clearly shows your EIN and Name;

Your current grant number(s);

Your active UEI and if it has changed from before

If you are unsure who to contact in the fiscal office, reach out to your Program Officer.

- You also have to update the name within the Sam.gov: https://www.fsd.gov/gsafsd_sp?id=gsafsd_kb_articles&sys_id=1e7b29af1b9609d0cc45ea04bc4bcb20

 

- Make amendment to your grant in Grant Solutions

- Follow any state requirements regarding legal name changes

- Notify your Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) once you’ve changed the name and your DSE if you receive Part B funds.

 

Allowable Advocacy Activities for Federal Grantees (June 2019)

Document: Allowable Advocacy Activities for Federal Grantees

Full text: 

The 1973 Rehabilitation Act as Amended (“the Rehab Act as Amended”), requires Centers of Independent Living (CILs) to perform Core Services, including systems advocacy (29 U.S.C §§ 705(17)(D) & 796f-4(b)(5); defined at 45 C.F.R § 1329.4). ACL and ILA have received several requests for guidance describing allowable advocacy activities to help ensure that CILs and other ACL grantees can best serve their target populations and meet their grant obligations without violating federal law.

Federal laws and regulations prohibit federal grantees, which includes recipients of funding related to the Rehab Act as Amended, from using federal funds to lobby government officials (18 U.S.C. § 1913; 31 U.S.C. § 1352; 2 C.F.R § 200.450).

We have provided the FAQs to help clarify how these laws function for ACL grantees. This guidance is intended to help ACL grantees better understand their rights and obligations. It is not a comprehensive guide to every circumstance that could be a violation of the regulations cited above. ACL grantees are responsible for understanding the full scope of their legal responsibilities as federal grantees, and are strongly encouraged to reach out to ACL program officers with any questions about the appropriate use of federal funds.

For the purposes of these FAQs, a “grantee” includes employees; board members; and council members acting on behalf of the grantee, and not in their individual capacity. Grantees should note that they may not act in their individual capacity while they are also operating in an official capacity. (For example, a grantee could not attend a meeting in an official capacity and avoid anti-lobbying regulations by claiming to speak briefly “in their individual capacity” or “in their personal opinion.”)

 

Conflicts of Interest

FAQ Word Document.

As part of the Administration for Community Living’s (ACL) ongoing responsibility to ensure the proper stewardship of federal funds, the above frequently asked questions (FAQs) are intended to help grantees identify and avoid actual or perceived personal conflicts of interest. Per HHS Grant Policy, ACL grantees have an obligation to avoid actual or perceived personal conflicts of interest, including nepotism.

This guidance is intended to help ACL grantees understand when conflicts of interest may be a compliance risk. This FAQ is not a comprehensive guide to every circumstance that could be a violation of a grantee’s obligation to avoid personal conflicts of interest. ACL grantees are responsible for understanding the full scope of their legal responsibilities as federal grantees and are strongly encouraged to reach out to ACL program officers with any questions related to conflicts of interest. For the purposes of these FAQs, a “grantee” includes employees acting on behalf of the grantee, and not in their individual capacity.

For purposes of this FAQ, a “Conflict of Interest” is a significant financial interest that could compromise or bias professional judgement and objectivity related to the management of federal financial assistance. A financial interest in this context means potential for gaining, losing, increasing or decreasing a salary, indebtedness, job offer, or other thing of monetary value. 

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. 

 

Example:

 

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.

 

Additional Resources:

  • 45 CFR 75.112
  • HHS Grant Policy Statement Section II-7

 

For More Information: Please contact your Independent Living Program Officer.

Designated State Entities (DSEs)

1. What is the effective Date of the ACL Guidance issued on June 5, 2015?
A: The ACL guidance was effective the date it was issued. ILA PI-15-01 Selection of the DSE was effective June 5th, 2015.

2. What is the IL Network?
A: For the purpose of ACL and its guidance, the Independent Living Network or “IL Network” in each state includes: SILC, Part B and Subchapter C CILs, and the DSE. In some States, there may be more than one DSE, if there is a separate agency for the blind.

3. ACL encouraged SILCs to involve the DSE in the SPIL process. What does that mean?
A: The guidance encourages communication between the parties who are developing the SPIL and the DSE. The chairperson of the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) and directors of Centers for Independent Living (CILs) jointly develop the SPIL, consistent with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), collaborating with IL consumers and the public. While the law removes the requirement that the DSE participate in the development of the SPIL, the DSE is one of the parties required to sign the SPIL. To put it another way, the DSE must sign in order to meet the requirements for an approvable plan. The DSE will continue to be responsible for administering Part B funds that they receive and disburse based on the SPIL, as required by law. Therefore, given the DSE’s role in signing the SPIL, and carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the SILC should involve the DSE to promote the effective and efficient administration of the IL program.

4. Did WIOA change the duties of the DSE?
A: Yes, the DSE no longer has a responsibility to develop the SPIL. Though WIOA eliminates the director of the DSE from the SPIL development process, the DSE continues to be the agency that acts as the grantee on behalf of the State for Title VII Part B Independent Living Services programs authorized under Section 713 of the Act and the Subchapter C programs administered by the State under Section 723 of the Act. The general responsibilities of the DSE as required in the statute include:

-Receive, account for, and disburse funds received by the State based on the SPIL;
-Provide administrative support services;
-Keep such records and afford such access to such records as ACL finds to be necessary with respect to the programs;
-Submit additional information or provide assurances as ACL may require with respect to the programs; and
-Retain not more than 5% of the Part B funds received by the State for any fiscal year, as required to perform the responsibilities above.

The DSE must also sign the SPIL.

5. Who selects the DSE?
A: The DSE is a governmental State entity that carries out the functions described in Q & A number 4 on behalf of the state. If the DSE does not carry out those functions, the state is legally responsible. Therefore, the state decides which governmental entity will serve as the DSE. To the extent that the SILC and CILs may engage in the DSE selection process under state and federal law, they may provide input to the state concerning the DSE. Such input may include a reminder to the State that the selection of a new DSE is a significant change to the SPIL. If the change in the DSE occurs during an active approved SPIL cycle, the SPIL amendment process must be followed to change the DSE. If the change coincides with the regular SPIL development cycle, the SPIL development process must be followed, and the SPIL must identify the new DSE. Both the SPIL amendment process and the SPIL development process require public hearings conducted by the SILC. The new DSE must be included in an approvable SPIL that is submitted in a timely manner in order for the State to receive funding.

6. Who should I contact regarding ideas for our IL Network in my State?
A: First, collaborate with the SILC members and Center directors. If you have further questions, including tips on collaborating with fellow ACL community partners and other stakeholders in your State, please contact your ILA point of contact for your State available on the ILRU website

.

ACL Suggested DSE Best Practices

ACL encourages the following best practices:

-Because the director of the DSE must sign the SPIL to affirm agreement to execute the DSE’s statutory responsibilities, ACL encourages SILCs and CILs to involve the DSE in the SPIL development process.
-Section 704(i) of the Rehabilitation Act requires the SPIL to “set forth the steps that will be taken to maximize the cooperation, coordination, and working relationships among the …” SILC, the CILs, the DSE, and other state agencies that address the needs of specific disability populations. ACL encourages incorporation of involvement of the DSE into the plan.
-ACL encourages States* to involve the current and prospective DSE, Statewide Independent Living Councils and Centers for Independent Living in discussions around the designation of a State entity to receive and administer State Independent Living Services funds.

*“The term ‘State’ includes, in addition to each of the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.” —Section 7(34) of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 705.

Independent Living Services for Children and Youth with Disabilities (May 2017)

Dear Colleagues,

ACL is pleased to announce the release of Frequently Asked Questions on Independent Living Services for Children and Youth with Disabilities (Youth Services FAQ), which was developed in response to questions from grantees about the  provisions for transitions of youth  included in the  Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA).

WIOA added new “core services” to the missions of centers for independent living that include the transition of youth and young adults with disabilities to postsecondary life once they are no longer receiving a secondary education.  WIOA defines youth with a disability to mean “an individual with a disability who is not younger than 14 years of age; and is not older than 24 years of age.”  ACL adopted this definition in the final IL regulation.

The Youth Services FAQ is intended to help explain this new core service and provide clarification to grantees about reporting of services provided to youth, which may differ depending on their eligibility for the new services or for other independent living services.  We hope it will help centers for independent living design and provide these new core services.  If you have specific questions regarding the implementation or reporting of youth services please contact the ILA project officer for your state.

Thank you, 

Bob Williams

Director, Independent Living Administration

View this letter in PDF format.

Independent Living Subchapter C Funding Distribution (2017)

Introductory Note: Each year the Administration for Community Living (ACL) distributes funding to support the Centers for Independent Living (CIL) program as authorized in the Rehabilitation Act, as amended (the Act), Subchapter C Sec. 721. In response to ongoing questions and concerns regarding how funding to the CILs is determined and more specifically, how the funding formula is applied, the following FAQ is provided as guidance to assist in understanding the distribution of Subchapter C funds.

Q1: What are the steps ACL follows to determine annual Subchapter C grant awards to States?

A1: The Act at Section 721 sets forth the program authorization and steps ACL must take to make available appropriated funds to States as authorized by Subchapter C.

Our first step is determining how much is available for grants and other program activities, including training and technical assistance, Section 21 activities, and program support costs. These costs vary but represent about 3 percent of the appropriations amount for Subchapter C. Once this is done, ACL calculates awards to States as follows:

- Applying a population based formula to determine the allotment to each State whose State plan has been approved;
- Applying minimum allotment amounts of $839,761 to States and $95,139 to territories, as appropriate;
- Applying adjustments for inflation, as appropriate;
- Applying proportional reduction, as appropriate; and
- Applying real allotment as appropriate.
 

Under certain conditions, i.e., a competed service area does not receive eligible applicants, a State or Territory’s allotment may be used to increase state allotments for such year.

Q2: What are the steps ACL follows to determine annual Subchapter C grant awards to CILs?

A2: Once the grant awards to States are determined, for grants to CILs in states in which federal funding exceeds state funding (Sec.722), ACL is guided by an order of priorities to the extent funds are available:

- Support existing CILs that comply with the standards and assurances set forth in Section 725, at the level of funding for the previous year;
- Provide a cost of living increase for existing CILs; and
- Fund new CILs.

Language in each State’s State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) sets forth the distribution of State funds to each CIL in the State. Funding formulas set in a SPIL may be Proportionate, Equal or Other. When a State determines a need for SPIL amendments, to include changes to its CIL funding formula, a SPIL amendment must be reviewed and approved by ACL prior to the award continuation process.

Q3: ACL is distributing $12,406 less in Subchapter C funds to CILs on September 30, 2017 than in September 2016. Why is this?

A3: In October 2015, ACL discovered that the IL program had unused ARRA Subchapter C funds from grants awarded in 2010. Those funds expired on September 30, 2015. Some grantees had been told by the Department of Education that the funds would be available for 90 days after the expiration date to reimburse obligations made before that date. Unfortunately, that guidance was not accurate. When the funds expired, they were no longer available to grantees or to ACL. CILs that attempted to draw funds after September 30 to reimburse 2015 expenses were unable to do so. As a result, 19 CILs in 14 states would lose a total of $559,000 if no action was taken.

After careful consideration of the impact to the affected CILs, ACL decided to use current-year funds (FY16) to make up for the shortfall. This reduction in FY16 Subchapter C funding was reflected in the initial allocations that were provided on June 1, 2016.

However, as promised, ACL continued to explore other options to mitigate the impact, and ACL found other resources to offset a significant portion of the shortfall. It was explicitly stated in a “dear colleague” letter last summer however, that this was a one-time event, and that ACL made available resources by waiving the IL program’s share of the costs that would normally be borne by all other ACL programs, including those for program data systems, grants systems, grant review, and the Secretary’s transfer. In addition, because no eligible applicant could be considered for funding a CIL in Guam, the minimum allotment otherwise available to support services in Guam ($95,139) was made available to support existing centers.

When those costs are factored in this year, the result is that the costs are slightly greater in total than the FY16 ARAA amount, resulting in a net of -$12,406 less being available for the Subchapter C grants than we had last year.

Note: These costs may fluctuate from year to year, and as such funding available for grants may vary slightly from year to year.

Q4: Why were the grant awards of some but not all CILs in certain States reduced?

A4: The Subchapter C formula is meant to redistribute funding annually. After the initial distribution was run based on each state/territory’s population percentage, the state/territories who were below the minimum amount had their award amounts increased to the minimum amounts. CILs located within the minimum amount states/territories will also receive the same amounts unless there was a change in the number of CILs within the state/territory.

Q5: How many CILs and States were subjected to these reductions?

A5: Sixteen states had population percentage decreases that resulted in receiving decreased award amounts. One state had population percentage decreases that resulted in receiving decreased award amounts, and 29 states/territories received the minimum award amounts. (See table below for States and Territories in each category).

Q6: Some Subchapter C awards appear to have been reduced in States where population increased or stayed the same. Why?

A6: As a population-based formula, population percentage is factored into the calculation of award amounts. Population percentage is each state/territory’s population figure in comparison to the collective total of all entities. Some states may have seen an increase in their population from the data used in the previous fiscal year. However, when comparing the state/territory’s population to the collective total, the population percentage may not have increased from the previous fiscal year but decreased. This means the percentage of the state population compared to the collective total in FY16 was less than the percentage of the state population compared to the collective total in FY17. The decrease in the population percentages resulted in a reduced award amount for the states and CILs.

Q7: Why didn't ACL take reductions across all Subchapter C awards in respect to the program support costs and Secretary transfer?

A7: After determining how much is available in the aggregate for grant awards, funding for each grant is determined by formula based on statutory and regulatory requirements. Please refer to questions 2 and 3 for more information.

Q8: What factors influenced the reduction to individual grant awards?

A8: As a result of formula driven factors, the total amount for the states receiving increases was $140,461 and the total amount for the states receiving decreases was $152,867. Therefore, the net difference was $12,406.

Q9: What authority does ACL have to use Subchapter C program funds for administrative costs and for the Secretary transfer?

A9: Program support costs including program data systems, grants systems, and grant review costs are allocated to all ACL programs consistent with appropriations language and the budget request. Budget decisions such as the allocation of a Secretarial transfer are made at the program level, not on a grant by grant basis. Specific authority related to the Secretary’s transfer is contained in Section 205 of Division H of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.

 

States received increased funding (both population and population percentage increased)

States received decreased funding (population increased but population percentage decreased)

 

State received decreased funding (both population and population percentage decreased)

“Minimum” states and territories received level funding

 

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

 

 

Illinois

 

 

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

 

 

 


Last modified on 01/24/2024


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