International Society of Primerus Law Firms

How Can Non-Profits, Particulary in Health Care, Obtain Federal Funds Now: Focus on Federal Agency Grants

By: Kathleen Hatfield, Esq.
Law Offices of Stewart and Stewart
Washington, District of Columbia

In this difficult economic environment, the U.S. government has targeted non-profits for the continued distribution of funds through a number of continually-evolving mechanisms, some of which we have discovered do not involve “traditional” competitive grant requests.  As explained below, at least one $230 million health care program we’ve found is formula-based — meaning eligible applicants who submit a properly completed application will be funded.

The federal government’s support of non-profits makes sense in light of an alarming study by the Nonprofit Finance Fund released in April. That study showed that seven-in-eight non-profits are seeing increased demand for services, but over half reported they only have enough cash on hand to sustain their operations for three months or less.

As has been widely reported in the media, the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year upheld much of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The PPACA authorized a wide range of new programs that were instituted for non-profit organizations within the past two years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Various programs within PPACA fund hospitals, medical research, federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs), telemedicine programs, rural health, and a long list of other initiatives.  Since enactment of the health law in March 2010, particular agencies within HHS, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have created numerous opportunities which provide a steady stream of funding for purposes unique to each agency’s particular mandate.  As long as PPACA remains on the books, funding authorized for these new initiatives will continue to be distributed to eligible non-profits as discretionary, competitive or formula-based grants.

One example of such an opportunity is a program designed to create consortia among hospitals, universities, and community health centers.  Specifically, the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program funds community-based ambulatory care training sites such as health centers, in collaboration with hospitals, universities, and/or medical schools to educate primary care physician residents and dentists.  And, while certain grants are considered strictly “competitive,” meaning they are awarded at the discretion of the agency after careful review of all applicants, this grant is “formula-based.”  This means eligible applicants who submit a properly completed application will be funded.  This is a $230 million, five-year initiative.

Funding for other types of non-profit entities remains widely available, too. Examples include:

  • Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grants provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to non-profit organizations deemed to be at high risk of terrorist attack (i.e., those located in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Atlanta, the National Capital Region and others).  Non-profits apply for these grants in the spring of each year through their state administering agencies (SAA), who decide which applicants should receive support to increase and enhance domestic security in the face of possible terrorist attacks.
  • Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy is directed to organizations that seek to better secure, remove and dispose of radiological materials they use as part of their normal business operations. The funding is available upon request, which means the Department will provide its expertise and funding on a voluntary basis to domestic organizations which seek government assistance.  The program applies to civilian sites where nuclear and radiological materials are used for legitimate and beneficial commercial, medical and research purposes. The voluntary security enhancements complement but do not replace requisite national and state controls on nuclear and radioactive materials. Currently the program provides funding for equipment, structural and even transportation enhancements at so-called “soft targets,” meaning hospitals, universities, food producers, blood banks, and organ/tissue donor organizations to help them secure radiological materials used in radiosurgery machines (Cyberknife, Gamma Knife) and to irradiate blood, tissue and  food products.
  • The CMS Innovation Advisors Program is yet another, unique type of funding proposal, which provides fellowships to create best practices and improve education.  The CMS Innovation Advisors Program provides a one-year fellowship to train health professionals in finance and related areas for six months.  In total, 73 advisors from 27 states and the District of Columbia were chosen in January 2012; going forward, interested parties can be notified when the agency reopens its next application cycle.

These are just a few examples of a multitude of funding streams that are available to interested non-profits through Primerus members’ efforts, efforts likely improved through coordination with knowledgeable advisors who work regularly with agency officials in pursuit of federal dollars.

How Best To Obtain Federal Funds Provided by These Agencies

The probability of success in obtaining federal funds from these and other agencies requires a different approach than the traditional one used in the “earmark-era”, that being one of seeking assistance only from Members of Congress.

While the support of Congressional offices remains important, today such monies remain available but are awarded by federal agency officials and their staff.  Consequently, non-profits are more likely to be funded if they lay the groundwork for their grant requests and applications with federal officials long before their grant applications are due. With proper guidance, applicants can deliver effective presentations and create constructive relationships ahead of time with precisely the agency officials who will determine which organizations receive funding.

In sum, the U.S. government remains an important source of funding for a good share of non-profits for good reason: the expenditures create jobs and provide improved access to many necessary human services.

If you and your clients would like to discuss funding opportunities and how to effectively approach federal agencies and Members of Congress, please contact Kathleen Hatfield khatfield@stewartlaw.com at the Law Offices of Stewart and Stewart, 202-785-4185.

For more information on Stewart & Stewart, please visit the International Society of Primerus Law Firms. 

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