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NEHA-FDA Retail Flexible Funding Model Grant Program: Frequently Asked Questions

Fall 2022 Application Period for CY 2023 Grants

What is the NEHA-FDA Retail Flexible Funding Model (RFFM) Grant Program?

The NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program was opened in the Fall of 2021 as the new method to apply for and receive Retail Program Standards grant funding from FDA. The program will be entirely administered by NEHA. Each year there will be multiple grants and eligibility tracks offered to accommodate jurisdictions at different places in their progress toward conformance with the Retail Program Standards.

What is the open application period for NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program CY 2023 grants? 

The Grant Portal will open for applications on August 17, 2022 and will close at 7:59 PM ET on October 12, 2022. All grants offered for CY 2023 will be one-year grants, with a project period of January 1 - December 31, 2023.

What grants are available for CY 2023?

There will be five grant types offered for CY 2023, including two Base grants and three Optional Add-On grants:

  • Track 1 Development Base Grant, for completing a Self-Assessment of All Nine Standards (SA9) and/or a Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan (CSIP), with the option to request funding to be a Mentee and/or attend Self-Assessment and Verification Audit Workshops, all through a single application
  • Track 2 Development Base Grant, for work on Standards 1-8, and with the option to include work on Standard 9 in pursuit of a Public Health Metric 
  • Three Optional Add-On Grants, available for Track 2 applicants and current Track 3 grantees, including:
    • Mentorship, with the option to apply to be either a Mentor or a Mentee
    • Training, to support Retail Program Standards training, Staff Development and Program Standards Engagement activities, and/or purchases of Virtual Training Equipment
    • Special Projects, to support Retail Program Standards and Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS) projects

Will the 3-Year grants offered for CY 2022, the Maintenance & Advancement Base Grant and the Capacity Building Grant, be offered again for CY 2023?

Since this program is funded by a 3-year Cooperative Agreement between FDA and NEHA, the 3-year grants offered through the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program will likely not be offered again until at least CY 2025. NEHA and FDA will be gathering data to measure the effectiveness of all the different grant types, so the 3-year grants may appear again in the next phase of this program beginning with CY 2025 awards.

How much funding can be requested through each of the three eligibility tracks? 

Applicants submitting a Track 1 Development Base Grant can request up to $26,500 when they choose to apply for all optional outcomes: up to $5,000 for completion of an SA9 and/or a CSIP; up to $14,000 to be a Mentee; and up to $7,500 for SA VA Workshop attendance.

Applicants who submit a Track 2 Development Base Grant can request up to $61,500 when they choose the option to work on Standard 9 in their base grant, and also apply for all three of the Optional Add-On grants: up to $10,000 for their Track 2 Development Base Grant; up to $24,000 to be a Mentor with 5 Mentees; up to $7,500 for Training; and up to $20,000 for a Special Projects grant.

Applicants who have an open Track 3 Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant cannot request additional base grant funding but can request up to $51,500 by applying for all three of the Optional Add-On grants: up to $24,000 to be a Mentor with 5 Mentees; up to $7,500 for Training; and up to $20,000 for a Special Projects grant.

We received an award for CY 2022. Will we need a new login to access the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Portal? 

No. The same NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Portal used to apply for grants in Fall 2021, and that is currently used to manage CY 2022 grants, will be used again for CY 2023 applications. Simply log in to the Grant Portal using a current username and password - which can be recovered / reset from the grant program website. 

For jurisdictions entirely new to the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program, meaning one that did not register or apply for grants in Year 1 of the program, the initial step to apply for grants is to register for an account. Registration is now open for CY 2023 grants.

Both existing grantees and new applicants can access the Grant Portal by clicking on the “Access the Grant Portal” button from the NEHA Retail Grants home page. 

Our jurisdiction has limited staff, and we continue to be stretched by the response to COVID-19. Will I have time to apply for and manage grants through this program?

The NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program Support Team is dedicated to keeping the burdens of application submission, grant management, and financial reporting as low as possible. Our online, web-based platform is designed for users of any skill level. Additionally, we actively maintain a dedicated phone number and email address for reaching a live team of experienced grant managers who are eager to provide unparalleled support. 

What are the basic requirements to apply for applicants in each of the three eligibility tracks?

Full details on each of the three eligibility tracks can be found in both the CY 2023 NEHA-FDA Grant Program Guidance and by logging into the Grant Portal. In summary:

Applying through Track 1 requires enrollment in the Retail Program Standards.

Applying through Track 2 requires enrollment in the Retail Program Standards, a current (August 2017 or later) Self-Assessment of all Nine Standards (SA9), and a completed Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan (CSIP). Track 2 applicants can also apply for any of the three Optional Add-On grants.

Applicants who have an existing 3-year Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant cannot apply for a new Base grant but are eligible to apply for any of the three Optional Add-On grants.

What grants should we apply for if we have never completed a Self-Assessment of All Nine Standards (SA9)?

Newly enrolled jurisdictions, or jurisdictions who have been enrolled in the Retail Program Standards but have never completed an SA9, should consider applying for a Track 1 Development Base Grant, offering up to $5,000 for completion of an SA9 and a Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan (CSIP), as the entry point into the Retail Program Standards.  

Two additional options are also available through the Track 1 Development Base Grant - request to be a mentee (up to an additional $14,000) and/or funding for staff to attend Self-Assessment and Verification Audit Workshops (up to an additional $7,500).

What can we do if our Self-Assessment of All Nine Standards (SA9) is not current (August 2017 or later), but we would like to apply for a higher impact Track 2 Development Base Grant?

Because a current SA9 is required to apply for a Track 2 Development Base Grant, the only option for eligibility will be to complete an updated SA9 before October 12, 2022, and submit it to FDA. 

If this is not an option for a jurisdiction, applying for a Track 1 Development Base Grant to work on both an updated SA9 and a Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan (CSIP) is likely the best option, which also allows the options to apply to be a Mentee and to attend Self-Assessment and Verification Audit Workshops.

What can we do if we have not yet completed a Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan (CSIP), but would like to apply for some of a higher impact Track 2 Development Base Grant?

As long as a CSIP is completed by the application deadline (October 12, 2022) and submitted with the application, a jurisdiction will be eligible to apply for a Track 2 Development Base Grant. Instructions for completing a CSIP can be found on the NEHA Retail Grants webpage under Program Resources (found on the Left Menu). 

If this is not an option for a jurisdiction, applying for a Track 1 Development Base Grant to complete a CSIP is likely the best option, which also allows the options to apply to be a Mentee, and to attend Self-Assessment and Verification Audit Workshops.

The NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program uses the term “Public Health Metric” in several places. What is meant by this term?

The term “Public Health Metric,” in simple terms, refers to completing the work required to meet Standard 9, especially completing a Risk Factor Study and implementing one or more Intervention Strategies to reduce the occurrence of common risk factors.  

For CY 2023, up to $5,000 in additional funding can be added to a Track 2 Development Base Grant, allowing work on any of the Element required to meet Standard 9. Please see the following FAQ question for additional details on the Public Health Metric option available for CY 2023.

For the CY 2023 Track 2 Development Base Grant, the maximum additional funding provided to work on a Public Health Metric is $5,000, which may not be enough to complete either a Risk Factor Study or to implement an Intervention Strategy. How can we use the Public Health Metric funding offered in this track to work on our jurisdiction’s goals for progress with Standard 9?

The options for working on Standard 9 in pursuit of a Public Health Metric have been expanded for this year, with the goal of offering flexibility for each jurisdiction who chooses to work on Standard 9 to begin or continue their work, no matter where they are in their pursuit of this important Standard.

The four options offered for this year for pursuit of a Public Health Metric include:

  1. Implement a risk factor study or equivalent protocol to develop a baseline survey
  2. Develop one or more intervention strategies aimed at mitigating the occurrence of out-of-control risk factors, and begin implementing
  3. Continue to add inspectional data to the survey instrument
  4. Statistically measure the outcomes of new information compared to the baseline survey

RFFM Mentorship Program FAQs

Would a jurisdiction be able to apply as a mentor for a Standard and as a mentee for another Standard during the same funding period?

No. Although a jurisdiction could qualify for both in a single year, they will have to choose to be either a mentor or a mentee for each 1-year award. Qualified jurisdictions will have the opportunity to make this choice each year during the 3-year duration of the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program Cooperative Agreement.

If an applicant applies to be a mentee, can they choose a mentor? And if applying to be a mentor, can they specify their mentee(s)?

Both the Track 1 Development Base Grant application (Optional Outcome 1 - Mentorship/Mentee) and the Mentorship Optional Add-On application do allow jurisdictions to request a specific mentor, or specific mentee(s), and justify why the proposed choice is ideal. Final assignments, however, will depend on the numbers and qualifications of both mentor and mentee applications and will be made by the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program project leadership (including members from FDA, NACCHO, and NEHA).

Our program is new to the Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (hereafter Retail Program Standards) and applying for a Track 1 Development Base Grant. Is the Optional Outcome 1 - Mentorship / Mentee recommended?

Absolutely! As an important part of the Track 1 Development Base Grant application, Optional Outcome 1 - Mentorship/Mentee is designed to provide additional and customized support (along with additional funding) to programs new to the Retail Program Standards. Mentee awardees will be paired with a skilled mentor who will offer assistance throughout the grant performance period, with the goal of enabling progress in the Retail Program Standards.

As part of the Mentorship grant, we understand a Work Plan will be required, but we won’t know many of the relevant details until we receive our mentor/mentee pairing with a grant award. If funded, will we be able to revise our Work Plan?

Yes. We understand it can be difficult for a mentor to develop an appropriate Work Plan to support mentee(s) with which they have not yet been paired. Similarly, it can be difficult for a mentee to develop an achievable Work Plan, especially if they are new to the Retail Program Standards. 

Both mentor and mentee applicants should simply complete the “planning” sections of the grant application to the best of their ability, including the Project Information, Project Implementation Plan, and Budget sections. Once pairings are assigned and grant awards are made, both mentors and mentees will have a chance to work together and use the “planning” information from their grant application to develop a Work Plan, which will then be attached to the awarded Mentorship grant. The Work Plan, which will likely revise information submitted in the application, will become the guiding document for each jurisdiction’s one-year mentorship project.

What are some of the features and benefits of the Mentorship Program?

Mentorship participants will benefit from building collaborative relationships with similar programs with the focus of achieving conformance with the Retail Program Standards. Both mentees and mentors will participate in sharing sessions, site visits, webinars, and an end-of-year meeting. 

Additionally, it is not uncommon for mentorship participants to have Retail Program Standards met and verified within the period of performance. Mentorship Program participants will also benefit from outcomes that will likely include:

  • increased staff familiarity with the Retail Program Standards;
  • increased retail food regulatory program capacity for implementing continuous quality assurance and quality improvement for retail food regulatory programs; and
  • improved inspection and oversight of retail and food service establishments under the jurisdiction of the retail food regulatory program.

What if the mentorship award budget is more than my program needs?

Mentorship applicants can request up to $14,000 for mentees and from $12,000 (for one mentee) to $24,000 (for 5 mentees) for mentors (see the 2023 Grant Guidance for details). Applicants should submit a budget that is realistic for their proposed scope of work and may request and use some or all the available funding offered.

What specific costs should be included in a mentee application?

Mentee budgets should include funds needed to complete the specific goals and outcomes selected for the proposed mentee project activities, not to exceed $14,000. Acceptable budget line items include personnel costs (for employees or contractors), equipment, and supplies required to meet selected outcomes. 

Additionally, the budget should include estimated travel funds for all necessary staff to make one site visit to the assigned mentoring jurisdiction and estimated travel funds for up to two staff members to attend the NACCHO Mentorship end-of-year meeting (Note: that this is a change from last year). No other travel costs should be included in a Mentee Budget Worksheet.

What specific costs should be included in a mentor application?

Mentor budgets should include funds needed to complete the specific goals and outcomes selected for the proposed mentor project activities and may be up to $12K for one mentee, up to $15K for two, up to $18K for three, up to $21K for four, and up to $24k for five. Acceptable budget line items include personnel costs (for employees or contractors), equipment, and supplies required to meet proposed outcomes. 

Additionally, the budget should include estimated travel funds for up to two staff members to attend the NACCHO Mentorship end-of-year meeting (Note: that this is a change from last year). No other travel costs should be included in a Mentor Budget Worksheet.

Can mentorship award funds be used for training or conference travel?

Mentorship award budgets cannot be used for any travel expenses that could otherwise be covered by a Training Optional Add-On Grant. The only acceptable travel costs in Mentorship grants are 1) mentor/mentee site visits, and 2) sending up to two participants to the NACCHO Mentorship end-of-year meeting (see question below for additional details).

What is the NACCHO Mentorship end-of-year meeting, and do I need to include the expenses for this in my grant budget?

NAACHO will be conducting an end-of year meeting with all mentors and mentees. This meeting will provide a valuable opportunity for participants to share progress in the Standards that they have achieved and lessons learned throughout the Mentorship program. Both mentors and mentees can request funds to send up to two participants to the NACCHO Mentorship end-of-year meeting.