2018 Federal Standard of Excellence

Use of Evidence in Five Largest Non-Competitive Grant Programs

Did the agency use evidence of effectiveness when allocating funds from its five largest non-competitive grant programs in FY18? (Examples: Evidence-based funding set-asides; requirements to invest funds in evidence-based activities; Pay for Success provisions)

Administration for Children and Families (HHS)
  • In FY18, ACF’s five largest non-competitive grant programs are: (1) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) ($17.3 billion); (2) Child Care and Development Fund (Block Grant and Entitlement to States combined) ($8.1 billion); (3) Foster Care ($5.5 billion); (4) Child Support Enforcement Payments to States ($4.36 billion); and (5) Low Income Home Energy Assistance ($3.6 billion).
  • ACF has a long-standing and ongoing research portfolio building evidence related to TANF. Congress has recently provided ACF with additional funds and statutory requirements related to building evidence in this area. In FY17, Congress designated 0.33% of the TANF Block Grant for research, evaluation, and technical assistance, a substantial increase over previously available resources. ACF has used this money to invest in a major new research project on Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-Income Families (BEES) as well as the TANF Data Innovation Project described above. Additionally, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 directed HHS to create a “What Works Clearinghouse of Proven and Promising Projects to Move Welfare Recipients into Work,” as described in criterion six.
  • ACF has an ongoing research portfolio examining child care. Research in this area furthers our understanding of child care as a support for parental employment and for children’s developmental well-being, and of the role of child care subsidies in allowing low-income working parents to balance work and family obligations. Recently, ACF significantly increased its investment in child care research, from $14 million in FY17 to $23 million in FY18. ACF’s Office of Child Care provides evidence-based guidance based on OPRE research when providing technical assistance to grantees.
  • ACF has an ongoing research portfolio on abuse, neglect, adoption, and foster care. The child welfare research portfolio includes research on children who are maltreated or who are at risk for child maltreatment; children and families who come to the attention of child protective services; and children and families who are receiving child welfare services either in their families of origin or in substitute care settings. OPRE partners with ACF’s Children’s Bureau to conduct research covering a broad array of topics, including identification of antecedents and consequences of child maltreatment, strategies for prevention of maltreatment, and service needs and service outcomes for children who come to the attention of child welfare. ACF’s child welfare waiver demonstration projects, described above, provide further evidence in this area.
  • The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) (Division E, Title VII of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018) newly enables States to use Federal funds available under parts B and E of title IV of the Social Security Act to provide enhanced support to children and families and prevent foster care placements through the provision of evidence-based mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services, in-home parent skill-based programs, and kinship navigator services. FFPSA requires an independent systematic review of evidence to designate programs and services as “promising,” “supported,” and “well-supported” practices. Only interventions designated as evidence-based will be eligible for federal funds.
Administration for Community Living
  • In FY18, the five largest non-competitive grants programs are: (1) Nutrition Services ($835 million, which includes both congregate meals (e.g., served at senior centers) and home delivered meals); (2) Home and Community-Based Supportive Services ($348 million); (3) Family Caregiver Support Services ($150 million); (4) Partnerships for Innovation, Inclusion and Independence ($45 million); and (5) Developmental Disabilities – Protection and Advocacy ($39 million).
  • Eligibility and funding levels for mandatory (formula) grants are based on specific legislation. While non-competitive grants are mandatory (formula) grants for ongoingprograms, which require no application or competition, ACL regional staff work closely with awardees to monitor performance including through review and approval of annual performance data and through the provision of technical assistance both on an as-needed basis and through regularly scheduled grantee meetings
  • ACL’s three largest non-competitive grant programs (Nutrition Services, Home and Community-Based Supportive Services, and Family Caregiver Support Services) are funded under the Older American’s Act and, therefore, are required:
    • to participate in periodic evaluations that build the evidence base. OPE is currently conducting evaluations of the Nutrition Services program (Title III-C) and the Family Caregiver support Services program (Title III-E); and
    • to submit state plans that use uniform procedures for determining need for services which should guide the plan for delivering those services under the grants. This section also requires that State grantees conduct periodic evaluations of, and public hearings on, activities and projects carried out in the State including evaluations of the effectiveness of services provided to individuals with greatest economic need, greatest social need, or disabilities; and
    • to provide technical assistance about the use of evidence-based programs and model programs, which ACL does through its resource centers. For example, resource centers can help meal providers to ensure that meals provided through these programs fulfill the standards set by the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and which are required under the Older Americans Act.
  • These three programs also require applicants to submit State plans, which must be approved prior to funding awards. The State plans are assessed for the degree to which applicants have:
    • Documented tangible outcomes achieved as a result of previous state long-term care reform efforts; and
    • Translated activities, data (i.e., evidence), and outcomes into proven best practices which can be used to leverage additional funding.
  • The PIII program was proposed in FY 2018 as a new program. ACL proposes to work with Congress on the development of authorization language for this new program including methods for using evidence to allocate and monitor funding.
  • While not one of ACL’s largest non-competitive grant programs, the Health Promotion program (part of ACL’s Preventative Health Services funded at $1.8 million) requires that funds be spent on evidence-based programs. This change followed a decade of progress by the aging services network to move efforts toward implementing disease prevention and health promotion programs that are based on scientific evidence and demonstrated to improve the health of older adults. The federal FY12 Congressional appropriations law included, for the first time, an evidence-based requirement.
Corporation for National and Community Service
  • CNCS operates one formula grant program in FY18, the AmeriCorps State formula grants program ($137,453,226). CNCS also operates four direct grant programs in FY18: (1) AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) ($32 million); (2) AmeriCorps VISTA ($92 million); (3) Senior Corps Foster Grandparents ($108 million); and (4) Senior Corps Senior Companion Program ($46 million).
  • In FY18, the Senior Corps Foster Grandparents and Senior Companion programs embedded evidence into their grant renewal processes by offering supplemental funding (“augmentation grants”) to grantees interested in deploying volunteers to serve in evidence-based programs and providing evaluation data on implementation fidelity, including outcomes. A total of $1.2 million is allocated for FY18 augmentation grants.
  • NCCC will invest savings from efficiency measures into research and evidence activities, and VISTA will invest savings from reallocating member training dollars into evaluation projects –
    • NCCC plans to invest $1.2 million in FY18 in a contract that will allow CNCS to conduct three studies focusing on retention of members, leadership development among members attributable to their service experience, and an analysis of community impacts based on years of data on projects conducted by teams nationwide. NCCC will also invest approximately $300,000 to support three research grants that will examine civic engagement following natural disasters in relation to community resiliency with respect to sustainable environments.
    • VISTA will contribute approximately $50,000 to five research grants in FY18 that will study equitable development issues. CNCS is also working with the program to develop a comparative case study that will allow it to follow up in a sample of communities to assess the longer-term effects of volunteer mobilization, partnership development, and resources leveraged to sustain project work and achieve community impacts.
Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • MCC does not administer non-competitive grant programs.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • The following represents SAMHSA’s largest non-competitive grant programs for which funds were appropriated in FY18: (1) Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program ($1.8 billion in FY18); (2) Mental Health Block Grant Program ($722.5 million in FY18); (3) Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) Program ($64.6 million in FY18); and (4) Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Program ($36.1 million in FY18).
  • In FY18, Congress maintained the 10% set-aside for evidence-based programs in SAMHSA’s Mental Health Grant Block grant (see p. 377 of the FY18 appropriations law) to address early serious mental illness (ESMI) (including psychotic disorders). In its FY19 budget request (see p. 121), SAMHSA expressed its desire to continue the set-aside. In FY17, SAMHSA’s Mental Health Grant Block maintained a 10% set-aside for evidence-based programs (see p. 4) to address early serious mental illness (ESMI) (including psychosis) among individuals. In FY18-19 grant applications, states must describe how they will utilize the 10% set aside to align with coordinated specialty care models such as that which is grounded in the National Institute of Mental Health’s RAISE (Recovery after an Initial Schizophrenic Episode) work, or other approved evidence-based approaches. A key assumption of the block grant applications that grantees must meet is that, “state authorities use evidence of improved performance and outcomes to support their funding and purchasing decisions” (p. 8). In addition, a quality improvement plan is requested from all grantees, which is based on the principles of Continuous Quality Improvement/Total Quality Management (CQI/TQM). Grantees are also required to comply with performance requirements, which include assessing how funds are used via data and performance management systems and other tracking approaches.
U.S. Agency for International Development
  • USAID does not administer non-competitive grant programs.
  • USAID does contribute funding to multilateral institutions known as Public International Organizations (PIOs), which are listed here, and include the World Bank, UN, and multi-donor funds such as the Global Fund. A Public International Organization (PIO) is an international organization composed principally of countries. In these specific cases, USAID funds are part of overall U.S. government funding for these partner institutions. These funds become subject to the monitoring and evaluation requirements of the organization that receives them. For example, the Global Fund has a performance-based funding system, which bases funding decisions on a transparent assessment of results against time-bound targets. USAID’s ADS chapter 308 provides more information on how PIOs are defined and includes guidance related to due diligence required prior to awarding grants to PIOs.
U.S. Department of Education
  • ED’s five largest non-competitive grant programs in FY18 included: (1) Title I Grants to LEAs ($15.8 billion); (2) IDEA Grants to States ($12.3 billion); (3) Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants ($2.1 billion); (4) Impact Aid Payments to Federally Connected Children ($1.4 billion); and (5) 21st Century Community Learning Centers ($1.2 billion).
  • ED worked with Congress in FY16 to ensure that evidence played a major role in ED’s large non-competitive grant programs in the reauthorized ESEA. As a result, section 1003 of ESEA requires states to set aside at least seven percent of their Title I, Part A funds for a range of activities to help school districts improve low-performing schools. School districts and individual schools are required to create action plans that include “evidence-based” interventions that demonstrate strong, moderate, or promising levels of evidence.
  • Section 4108 of ESEA authorizes school districts to invest “safe and healthy students” funds in Pay for Success initiatives. Section 1424 of ESEA authorizes school districts to invest their Title I, Part D funds (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk) in Pay for Success initiatives.
  • ED is working to align its diverse technical assistance to best serve state, school districts, and schools as they use evidence to drive improvements in education outcomes.
U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development
U.S. Department of Labor
  • In FY18/PY18, the five largest non-competitive grant programs at DOL are in the Employment and Training Administration: (1) the Unemployment Insurance state grants ($2.5 billion in FY18); (2) the Employment Service program state grants ($666 million in PY18); and three authorized programs under WIOA: (1) Youth Workforce Investment program ($903 million in PY18); (2) Adult Employment and Training program ($845 million in PY18); and (3) Dislocated Workers Employment and Training program ($1 billion in PY18).
  • All ETA grant programs allocate funding by statute, and all include performance metrics (e.g., unemployment insurance payment integrity, WIOA common measures) tracked quarterly.
  • A signature feature of WIOA (Pub. L. 113-128) is its focus on the use of data and evidence to improve services and outcomes, particularly in provisions related to states’ role in conducting evaluations and research, as well as in requirements regarding data collection, performance standards, and state planning. Conducting evaluations is a required statewide activity, but there are additional requirements regarding coordination (with other state agencies and federal evaluations under WIOA), dissemination, and provision of data and other information for federal evaluations.
  • WIOA includes evidence and performance provisions which: 1) increased the amount of WIOA funds states can set aside and distribute directly from 5-10% to 15% and authorized them to invest these funds in Pay for Performance initiatives; 2) authorized states to invest their own workforce development funds, as well as non-federal resources, in Pay for Performance initiatives; 3) authorized local workforce investment boards to invest up to 10% of their WIOA funds in Pay for Performance initiatives; and 4) authorized states and local workforce investment boards to award Pay for Performance contracts to intermediaries, community based organizations, and community colleges.
  • Currently, ETA is working with states to implement the requirements of the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA) program (an Unemployment Insurance state grant program to assist individuals receiving UI benefits with reemployment). The RESEA program is an evidence-based strategy that combines an assessment for continuing Unemployment Insurance (UI) eligibility with the provision of reemployment services and referrals to other workforce partners. RESEA and its predecessor, Reemployment Eligibility Assessments (REA), previously have been funded and authorized from 2005-2018 via federal appropriations acts, and grants have been provided to states. Currently 51 states and territories offer RESEA. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 made the RESEA program a permanent, but still voluntary, program to serve UI claimants. DOL currently has an implementation evaluation and impact evaluation underway of the REA program, and intends to begin an evaluation of RESEA this year.
  • Evaluations are currently under way of WIOA core programs. For example the WIOA implementation study is examining states’ implementation of the core workforce programs authorized under WIOA’s Title I (Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth) and Title III (Employment Services). It will also explore the role of WIOA in stakeholder integration among programs authorized under Titles II (Adult Education and Literacy) and IV (Vocational Rehabilitation). Additionally, two studies are underway or recently completed examining American Job Centers, including a Study of American Job Center Customer Experience and the American Job Center Institutional Analysis.
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