Grant Selection and Performance Task Force

PRESENT: Ed Barrett, Matt L’Italien, Becky Hayes-Boober, Zakk Maher, Michael Moran, Jamie McFaul, Maryalice Crofton

The task force convened by videoconference at 8:30 am.

Chair Barrett asked for introductions because three new members joined the group including Michael Moran who has been a peer reviewer and serves as a member of the public.

The first item for discussion was an update on plans for using unexpended funds totaling approximately $118,000. The funds can be used for a rural operational grant.

There is interest from Portland and South Portland in building an operating grant to assist with the asylees in greater Portland. Michael met with them and they are working on who would be the best applicant for a 4-member rural grant. Those present in the meeting are interested in looking at a regional approach including Westbrook as well, but who the legal applicant would be is still very much up in the air. There are several organizations that are likely to apply if the Commission opens the Rural State grant competition this summer. In answer to several questions, it was clarified that this grant competition is not restricted to rural areas but does offer preference points if applicants are from those regions.

The GTF reviewed the Planning Grant narrative, RFP 202202015 Maine AmeriCorps Planning Grants. There was a thorough discussion of edits to improve the information that we receive from applicants. The Planning Grant competition will be rerun this summer.

Last item on the agenda was Continuation Instruction review to address whether there is anything that we need to specify in the instructions to programs. The federal continuation narrative used so far doesn’t reveal changes that have occurred or will occur in the continuation year. Items are glossed over, like enrollment or site changes, the things that applicants have learned and things that programs might change to have clarity.  It was noted that requiring a response would help with the 2nd year continuation proposals which have no real basis for evaluation. Programs are applying for continuation without having had a full year of operation. Reports from applicants would make it easier to assess how the program is going or what changes have been made over the start up period.  It would be helpful to know what grantees learned and what the programs and surrounding communities get out of the first year. Also, it would be instructive to know about their capacity to continue and any challenges they had.

Commission staff will draft questions for continuations narratives so the Grants Task Force can discuss and settle the issue in July.

Ed asked for an overview of staff effort to modify the grant selection process. Maryalice explained an opportunity she identified and proposed to procurement services. It would only apply to AmeriCorps competitive because, while the Commission runs a selection process, the final decisions are made at federal level. The discussion with procurement is how to permit more interaction between Commission staff and applicants during the proposal development process. Being able to coach people to put together a strong application and a much better proposal would support greater participation and possibly increase Maine’s success. Maryalice and Jamie Schorr (Chief Procurement Officer) will be meeting to discuss how to change up the process. She will report back in July.

There being no further discussion items, the members dispersed at 9:34 am.