Frequently Asked Questions
Can we spend the “current” year’s award before we have liquidated the prior year’s award?
No. You must liquidate all funds before the expiration of the 2nd year and before you begin to spend the next (current) award. For additional detail, see the suggested Budgeting Cycle information noted above.
What does supplement and not supplant mean?
States must provide an assurance that the funds received through the grant will be used to supplement, and not supplant, funds available from other sources for technology related assistance, including the provision of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services.
By all means, provide services for free to individuals and their families and circles of support whenever you are able, but make the case for, market, and sell your services to agencies and organizations as value added to the services they are already providing.
For example, your program could provide devices through the device lending program to VR clients under contract with VR- the benefits to VR clients include ensuring a better fit of the technology for their clients, lower discontinuance rates, and cost savings for VR (as a “try before you buy” option, every device loaned that does not work for the client would have been a device VR would have purchased in the past to try in the hopes it would work).
What is the allowable indirect rate?
Not more than 10% of funds made available through a Section 4 AT Act federal grant may be used for indirect costs.
What are indirect costs?
Normally, indirect costs are the costs that accrue from the general operation of an organization and cannot be specifically identified with a particular project. These costs are sometimes referred to as facilities and administrative (F&A) costs or overhead. An indirect cost is NOT directly identified with a single final cost objective, but is identified with two or more final cost objectives, such as accounting, personnel, or depreciation on equipment. Indirect costs charged to various grants/contracts should be based on the benefit received. If the grant/contract did not benefit materially, it should not share the indirect cost.
What are direct costs?
A direct grant/contract cost is any cost that can be identified specifically with a final cost objective (e.g., a particular direct activity). Costs must be allowable, allocable, and reasonable.
If a program charges an indirect rate can it also charge a direct cost or allocated/prorated amount for incurred costs included in the indirect?
Costs must not be charged to a grant/contract as direct costs or cost allocation amounts if other costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances have been charged as indirect costs to that grant/contract or any other grant/contract. It is always better to either use an indirect rate or a cost allocation plan where overhead costs are prorated according to relative use across different programs but not both.
Are there any unique fiscal requirements for AT Act programs?
Yes. AT Act Programs work with their Advisory Councils to plan and implement the required four core State-Level activities and all of the State Leadership activities (State Plan identified). Programs are given leeway to determine how best to address the needs in their state or territory. Two of the mechanisms that the AT Act allows Programs to use are: Flexibility and Comparability. AT Act programs have a unique requirement for budgeting for activities. An AT Act Program is required to dedicate at least 60% of its AT Act funding to State-Level activities and no more than 40% to State Leadership activities. However, if a Program chooses to conduct fewer than four of the State-Level activities (claims flexibility and does not conduct an activity) then the Program is required to dedicate at least 70% of its grant funds to State-Level activities and no more than 30% for State Leadership activities. A Program is allowed to spend 100% of the federal grant on State-Level activities; however, it is still required to carry out the State Leadership activities. AT Act Programs must also spend a minimum of 5% of its actual State Leadership expenditures on the two required transition activities.
What is comparability for State-Level activities?
Generally, AT Act Programs are required to conduct all of the activities in Section 4 of the AT Act. However, the act does allow Programs not to fund a State-Level activity if that activity is supported comparably with non-federal funds. There are two conditions:
- Financial support is provided from state or other non-federal resources or entities for that category of activities; and
- The amount of the financial support is comparable to, or greater than, the amount of the portion of the funds made available through the grant that the State would have to expend to conduct that category of activities.
When deciding to claim Comparability for an activity, Programs should consider the following:
- Is the State-Level Activity being conducted/provided by an entity other than the AT Act Program, comprehensive across age, disability, and geographic areas of the state or territory?
- Is the amount of funding for the activity comparable to or greater than the portion from the AT Act funds that would have been allocated for that activity?
- Will you have sufficient data absent this activity in either access or acquisition to meet performance measure requirements?
The decision to use comparability is usually dependent upon the scope of other activities already included in your State Plan and APR. For example, claiming comparability for device demonstration when a grantee has limited device loan activities could negatively impact the access performance measure and might not be desirable.
What is flexibility for State-Level activities?
Section 4 AT Act Programs do not have to conduct all of the State-Level activities. However, the decision to limit the number of State-Level activities then carries budget limitations on State Leadership activities that the Program conducts. The AT Act provides Programs with the “Flexibility” to carry out only two or three of the State-Level activities. Programs that carry out all four State-Level activities may use up to 40 percent of their federal funds for State Leadership activities. However, Programs that carry out only two or three of the State-Level activities are only allowed to use up to 30 percent of their funds for State Leadership activities. When deciding upon flexibility programs should consider the following:
- If you flex out of providing one State-Level activity, will you still be able to meet the required performance measures?
- If you elect to flex out of two activities under the same category, either “Access” or “Acquisition,” you will assuredly NOT meet the required performance measures.
- Your annual progress report to HHS/ACL is compiled into an Annual Report to Congress. You want to ensure your report does not show your performance measures as “Not Met”.
What are the required transition activities and how is the 5% determined?
Five percent of the State Leadership budget must be used for transition training and/or transition technical assistance activities. Since you will not know the exact amount of actual expenditures on State Leadership activities until the end of the fiscal year, to budget for transition activities you can utilize one of the following options:
- Budget for the full 5% of the maximum that could be spent on State Leadership (40% if you do all State-Level activities or 30% if flexibility was claimed); or
- Budget for 5% of your actual expenditures on state leadership activities from the prior year or use an average from prior year actual expenditures to project a reasonably accurate expenditure level.
For example, using the first option: Total award is $400,000, 60% allocated on State-Level Activities = $240,000, 40% allocated for State Leadership = $160,000 – 5% of the 40% budgeted for transition Activities = $8,000. Another example using the second option: Total award is $400,000 and actual expenditures on State-Level Activities the prior year = $320,000 and 20% on State Leadership Activities = $80,000 and 5% budgeted for transition is $4,000.
Is there a recommended accounting strategy to track state level and state leadership expenditures?
All direct and indirect costs paid by Section 4 AT Act dollars must be allocated to State-Level or State Leadership activities or prorated between the two. The accounting system must have a mechanism to track all AT Act expenditures by the State-Level and State Leadership categories. Salaries and benefits paid with AT Act dollars must be allocated to State-Level or State Leadership accounting codes based on the programmatic responsibilities of each employee. Contracts are typically readily attributable to State-Level or State Leadership activities depending upon the contract work scope. General administrative costs and indirect costs are more challenging to allocate accurately and are usually prorated between State-Level and State Leadership according to some cost allocation plan.
Can we buy and disseminate items with our program information on them as a public awareness and/or an outreach activity?
No. Per the HHS Policy on the Use of Appropriated Funds for Promotional Items federal program funds cannot be used for purchasing promotional items.
Can we purchase assistive technology for an individual?
No. The AT Act prohibits the purchase of assistive technology for individuals: “Funds made available through a grant to a state under this section shall not be used for direct payment for an assistive technology device for an individual with a disability.”
How does a program handle the disposition of equipment?
HHS grantees must follow the Code of Federal Regulations. There are many rules and regulations governing the disposition of equipment purchased with federal grant funds. Title 45 Sec. 75.320 Property Standards for disposition of equipment. Programs must also follow any state and/or organizational requirements for the disposition of equipment.
How are activities funded with non-AT Act dollars reported in the APR?
All activities conducted as part of the State Plan for AT can be reported in the appropriate section of the APR. If additional funding beyond the AT Act grant is used to support activities that are reported in the APR, that additional leveraged funding should be reported in Section A of Leveraged Funding. If the additional leveraged funding is used to support activities not reported in other sections of the APR, those funds can be reported in Section B of Leveraged Funding.