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

 

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

The NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program is the new method to apply for and receive Retail Program Standards grant funding. The program will be entirely administered by NEHA. There will be multiple subaward pathways for which jurisdictions may request funding, each with their own requirements. Optional grant add-ons will be available for mentorship, training, capacity building, and special projects. Complete details will be posted on this webpage in the coming weeks. Sign up for email updates to have information delivered straight to your inbox.

Will we need a new login to access the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program Portal? 

Yes. As the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program is an entirely new Retail Program Standards funding program, applicants will need to create a new account to apply. Consider registering today as registration is easy and only takes a few minutes.

What is the open application period for NEHA-FDA RFFM grants that begin in 2022? 

The NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Portal is currently open to accept new registrations and grant applications.  The open application period is September 9 – November 15, 2021, for 1-year and 3-year grants that will begin in February 2022.

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

The NEHA 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 will have a dedicated phone number and email address to reach a live team of experienced grant managers who are eager to provide unparalleled support. 

If we decide not to apply for a grant this year, will we be eligible to apply next year?

We do expect to offer grants through the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program for 2023, with the next grant portal opening tentatively planned for September 2022, contingent on continued federal funding.  There is one important caveat, however: the two larger 3-year grants - the Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant and the Capacity Building Optional Add-On Grant - are not expected to be offered again until at least 2024.

What are the basic requirements to apply through each of the three eligibility tracks?

Full details on each of the three eligibility tracks can be found in both the NEHA-FDA Grant Program Guidance, and by logging into the grant program 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 (September 2016 or later) Self-Assessment of all Nine Standards (SA9), and a completed Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan (CSIP).
  • Applicants for Track 3 must meet all Track 2 requirements, and must also:
    • Have met at least one Standard that is verified by audit with required paperwork submitted to FDA during their most recent SA9 period.  For jurisdictions who have recently updated their SA9, your Track 3 application must include a plan to confirm at least one Standard within six months of the date of your updated SA9.
    • Pursue a Public Health Metric (unless they have already met Standard 9, verified by audit and with required paperwork submitted to FDA).

What grants are available, and how much funding can we request, through each of the three eligibility tracks? 

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

  • Track 1 applicants can apply for a Development Base Grant, a Mentorship Grant (as a Mentee only), and a Training / Staff Development and Program Standards Engagement Grant (for attendance at a live delivery of the Self-Assessment and Verification Audit Workshop) and can request up to $20,000 or more in funding through these three grant applications. 
  • Track 2 applicants must apply for a Development Base Grant to pursue continuous improvement, with the option to request public health metric funding, and can also apply for any of the four Optional Add-On Grants.  Jurisdictions applying through this track may request up to $50,000 or more in 1-year funding through multiple grant applications, and up to an additional $100,000 per year for 3 years through a Capacity Building Grant. 
  • Applicants eligible for Track 3 can apply for either of the two Base Grants offered, and any of the four Optional Add-On Grants, requesting up to $75,000 or more for 1-3 years through multiple grants, and up to an additional $100,000 per year for 3 years through a Capacity Building Grant. 

What will be the project performance period for the grants being offered in fall 2021?

All 1-year awards (Development Base, Mentorship, Training, Special Projects) will have a Calendar Year 2022 project period (February through December). The 3-year projects (Maintenance and Advancement Base, Capacity Building) must encompass a full three-year project period covering 2022, 2023, and 2024. A separate budget worksheet that aligns with your project plan for each year will be required.

Will no-cost extensions be allowed for any of the FDA-NEHA RFFM grants?

No-cost extensions (carry forward of unexpended funds from one year to the next) will be permitted when justified, approved by FDA, and upon written (or system generated) approval from NEHA.

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 Development Base Grant through Track 1 to complete an initial SA9.

What can we do if our Self-Assessment of All Nine Standards (SA9) is not current (August 2016 or earlier), but would like to apply for some of the higher impact grants through Track 2 or Track 3?

Since you must have a current SA9 to apply for grants through Tracks 2 and 3, your only option for eligibility will be to complete and updated SA9 before November 15, 2021 and submit it to FDA. If this is not an option for your jurisdiction, applying for a Development Base Grant through Track 1 to update your SA9 is likely your best option.

What can we do if we have not yet completed a Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan (CSIP), but would like to apply for some of the higher impact grants through Track 2 or Track 3?

Although you must attach a CSIP to your application to apply for either of the Track 2 or Track 3 base grants, you can complete one by November 15 to apply through either of these tracks. Instructions for completing a CSIP can be found under the Action 4 link on the NEHA Retail Grants webpage. If this is not an option for your jurisdiction, applying for a Development Base Grant through Track 1 to complete a CSIP is likely your best option.

Our jurisdiction has received Retail Program Standards grant funding in the past. What is changing?

FDA recently awarded NEHA with a 3-year cooperative agreement that will administer financial assistance to SLTT retail regulatory food programs based on the FDA's retail flexible funding model. Beginning in fall 2021, NEHA will administer all new subaward applications for retail grants. 

Our jurisdiction still has an active Retail Program Standards grant. What do we need to complete to receive our funding? 

Any previous grant awards are subject to the original terms and conditions of the granting organization. You should continue to work with the original granting organization to close out any current awards. The NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program Portal is now open if you decide to apply for projects that are distinct from your current award(s). Please reach out to us if you have further questions at retailgrants@neha.org.

How many awards will be available?

Details on the numbers, types, and funding amounts will be posted in the coming weeks on this webpage as well as through email and social media channels.

What are the biggest changes from how these opportunities were previously administered and how the new NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program will be administered?

In the past, FDA provided pass-through funding through several different partners. With the new NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program, applicants need only to visit https://neha.org/retailgrants to apply for funding. Beginning this fall, NEHA will provide the oversight and management for all new Retail Program Standards grants. 

Is there a list of terms, and other detailed information regarding the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program?

Detailed NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program Guidance, with full information on qualifications, grant applications, and required reporting, can be accessed through the  NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program Website (https://www.neha.org/retailgrants).

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.

Can you choose your mentor?

The Mentorship Program application will have a section in which a jurisdiction can request a specific mentor and justify why the proposed choice will be best for the jurisdiction. 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 project leadership (including members from FDA, NACCHO, and NEHA).

Do we need to have our risk factor study completed prior to making application?

No. Both required base grants (the Development Base Grant and the Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant) offer opportunities to request funding to complete a risk factor study by qualified jurisdictions.

Our health department received 2020 funding for Standard Nine. The grant expired June 30, 2021. Because of Covid-19 duties, we were underspent on the risk factor study grant and have remaining funds. We will ask for a no-cost extension. If we receive the no-cost extension, are we still eligible to apply for additional assistance for Standard Nine?

Yes, as long as there is no overlap between the work being funded under an existing Retail Program Standards grant and the work to be performed under the new grant. In cases where a jurisdiction has overlapping Retail Program Standards grant funding from FDA, be sure to clearly delineate in your application(s) how both the work performed, and the funding received, under each open grant will be kept separate and distinct.

Is an account with Payment Management Systems and eRA still going to be needed for reimbursements and reporting? 

No. Payments and Reporting will be processed by NEHA through the same portal where applications are submitted. Streamlined, web-based reporting requirements will be provided to grantees once awards have been made.

Will there be additional webinars/calls to help jurisdictions understand what Tracks they are eligible to apply for?

Yes.  There are several opportunities planned for webinars to assist jurisdictions with navigating the new NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program Portal. Current planned events will occur on September, 21 2021 at 1 PM ET (an FDA-sponsored 50-State Call – look for details coming shortly), and one or more additional NEHA webinars in October. To stay informed, please visit the NEHA.org/RetailGrants website and register your email address to be notified of these events and future announcements.

How often does the Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan need to be updated?

The Comprehensive Strategic Improvement Plan (CSIP) is a working document, intended to help each jurisdiction develop plans to address gaps identified through their current Self-Assessment of All Nine Standards (SA9). The CSIP should be updated as action items are completed, changes to your plan are made, or other issues arise that may affect the CSIP. In addition, it would be important to compare any repeat self-assessment to the CSIP to ensure all gaps are recognized in the plan.   

How are jurisdictions expected to track funding? Will they have to track funding for each option and Standard separately or can they create one report for the entire Track?

Projects will be tracked by a jurisdiction’s self-defined Action Steps, deliverables, and budget worksheet(s) that were included in each awarded application.  Awardees will need to provide information on the money spent as it applies to their grant project.   Some grant funding will be provided on a reimbursement basis, after submittal of interim or final reports (based on receipts that align with submitted budget worksheets and budget justifications, and proof of work completed).  Some grants, like Maintenance and Advancement and Capacity Building, will receive funding amounts at the start of the grant and will need to report money spent that aligns with submitted budget worksheets and budget justifications. Budget changes will be permitted, although major budget changes (changes in excess of 10% of the total award amount, or for new line items that were not included in the budget worksheets submitted with the application) will require prior approval in writing from NEHA. 

Within each of the Eligibility Tracks for this program, there are multiple grant applications that can be submitted. Each individual grant will be tracked separately. For example, a jurisdiction may have a Development Base Grant, a Mentorship Grant, and a Training Grant.  They must track the use of the approved grant funds for each grant separately, in alignment with the budget worksheets included in each application.  This ensures that all grant funding is being used as approved.

Capacity Building is the game changer for programs, so we need more examples of acceptable Capacity Building add-on projects. Examples that are geared to more centralized programs would be helpful. For example, is a program standards coordinator acceptable for a statewide program without locals?

Capacity Building Grants are designed to be flexible and to encourage collaboration and creativity.  Collaboration is a requirement for Capacity Building projects.  Your example seems to be within the realm of fundable projects, provided that at least two eligible Retail Program Standards entities are involved (again, collaboration between enrolled Retail Program Standards jurisdictions is required).  For additional ideas, see the list of potential Capacity Building Projects provided in the Grant Program Guidance. 

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

The NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program offers several different Public Health Metric rates, in both Base Grants, through Tracks 2 and 3.  All of these rates are provided to complete Risk Factor Studies, implement Intervention Strategies, and support other requirements for making progress in meeting Standard 9.  For specifics on what is required and offered through the different Public Health Metric rates, see the complete NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program Guidance.

For the Track 2 Development Base Grant, the maximum funding provided is $5,000 for 1 year, 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 complete our jurisdiction’s goals for progress with Standard 9?

Jurisdictions may want to consider:

  • Completing an incremental project with one of the two Public Health Metric goals, clearly stating the intent to complete the deliverable over multiple years.
  • Completing additional work, if feasible for your situation, between now and November 15, that would allow you to meet the requirements for Track 3. This pre-grant work would not be eligible for funding under this program, but significantly more funding is available for the Public Health Metric options offered through the Track 3 Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant.

For the Track 3 Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant, one of the requirements for funding is having met and verified at least one Standard during the most recent Self-assessment (SA) period. What is considered the most recent Self-assessment period? Is it the SA period a jurisdiction is currently in or is it the last completed SA period? For example, my new SA period began in January 2021. Through the SA we currently meet standards but haven’t had them verified. Our last SA ended December 2020 and we met and had Standards 4 and 6 verified. Based on our current SA, we are not able to apply for Track 3 funding. If we can use our most recently completed SA period, we would be eligible to apply for Track 3.

If a jurisdiction has recently performed its full repeat self-assessment of all nine Standards (SA9) and iscurrently waiting to obtain a verification audit of one or more Standards previously met/verified during the last SA9 period, the jurisdiction  may still apply for a Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant.  As part of the application process, however, such applicants will need to include information on their plans to  complete the verification audit within the 6-month period following completion of their most recent SA9. Failure to complete the verification audit during that 6-month period, with paperwork turned in to FDA, will risk cancellation of their Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant.

For the Track 3 Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant, if an applicant selects the option to work on more than one Standard, do jurisdictions have to track funding for each Standard separately?

Projects will be tracked by a jurisdiction’s self-defined Action Steps, deliverables, and budget worksheet(s) that were included in each awarded application.  Awardees will need to provide information on the money spent as it applies to their grant project.   Recipients of Maintenance and Advancement Base Grants will receive funding (upon request) at the start of the grant and will need to report money spent that aligns with submitted budget worksheets and budget justifications. Budget changes will be permitted, although major budget changes (changes in excess of 10% of the total award amount, or for new line items that were not included in the budget worksheets submitted with the application) will require prior approval in writing from NEHA. 

Within each of the Eligibility Tracks for this program, there are multiple grant applications that can be submitted. Each individual grant will be tracked separately. For example, a jurisdiction may have a Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant, a Special Projects Grant, and a Training Grant.  They must track the use of the approved grant funds for each grant separately, in alignment with the budget worksheets included in each application.  This ensures that all grant funding is being used as approved.

What is the cutoff date for a jurisdiction meeting a Standard, to qualify for a Track 3 Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant?  If I have an open award from a past FDA funding program that extends through December 2021, and we complete, audit, and turn in the paperwork to FDA for one Standard by December 31, would we qualify to apply for Track 3 Maintenance and Advancement Funding since the new project would not begin until 2022?

Regardless of other funding, an applicant needs to have a verification of a Standard met and submitted to FDA prior to the time of application submission. There is one exception: if a jurisdiction has recently performed their full repeat self-assessment of all nine Standards (SA9) and are currently waiting to obtain a verification audit of one or more Standards previously met/verified during the last SA9 period, they may still apply for a Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant.  As part of the application process, however, such applicants will need to submit a plan to show that they will complete the verification audit within the 6-month period following completion of their most recent SA9. Failure to complete the verification audit during that 6-month period, with paperwork turned in to FDA, will risk cancellation of their Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant.

Are you required to apply for Capacity Building in Fall 2021 (i.e., no option to apply in subsequent years)? Same question for the Maintenance and Advancement Base Grant?

At this point in time, the plan is to open the Capacity Building grants and the Maintenance and Advancement Base Grants only once over the next three years.  Applications for both must be for a 3-year project.