Environmental Protection

Factors Contributing to Lengthy Award Times for EPA Grants Gao ID: RCED-99-204 July 14, 1999

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) relies heavily on grants to carry out its mission of protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment. The grants provide assistance to states, tribes, localities, and academic institutions for projects ranging from environmental research to the construction of wastewater treatment facilities. For fiscal year 1999, EPA projects that it will use about $4 billion, or 53 percent of its $7.6 billion budget, for grants. This report identifies (1) the number and dollar value of the agency-requested and congressionally directed grants awarded for fiscal years 1995-1998, (2) the median award time for both types of grants, and (3) the major reasons for lengthy awards.

GAO noted that: (1) from FY 1995 through FY 1998, the most recent years for which complete grant data were available, EPA awarded 12,861 agency-requested grants valued at approximately $8.4 billion and 950 congressionally directed grants valued at approximately $1.4 billion; (2) during fiscal years 1995-1998, the median time that EPA took to award both agency-requested and congressionally directed grants, as measured by the number of days between the date of the fiscal year appropriation and the date of the grant award, was about the same for each type of grant; (3) however, some grants took considerably longer to award; (4) specifically, EPA took at least twice the median number of days to award 409 agency-requested grants valued at $48 million and 30 congressionally directed grants valued at $27 million; (5) some grants of both types took over 600 days to award; (6) several factors can lengthen the time taken to award both agency-requested and congressionally directed grants; (7) for example: (a) grantees may not submit grant applications in a timely manner; (b) EPA may find problems with grantees' proposed work plans; (c) grants may need to be awarded competitively; and (d) grantees may not need funding immediately, even though funding is available; (8) awarding congressionally directed grants in a timely manner may involve issues that do not generally arise for agency-requested grants; and (9) for example, grantees may be unfamiliar with EPA's grant award process, and EPA may need to identify specific grantees when the appropriations committees have not done so.

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