WASHINGTON — For local governments in small towns across the country, the federal grant application process can be overly cumbersome and expensive. To support these rural and smaller communities, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and eight of his colleagues introduced the Simplifying Grants Act (S. 4799). The legislation would make the federal grant process easier to navigate for local governments.
“Congress should look for ways to cut red tape and make the government more efficient for the American people. The Simplifying Grants Act will do just that, giving valuable time and resources back to public servants in smaller towns across the country,” said Senator Tuberville. “In a state like Alabama, where nearly 60 percent of counties would benefit from the changes in this bill, that time will be well spent on projects in those communities. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort to make it easier for small towns to access the tools they deserve.”
Senator Tuberville joined U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Crapo (R-ID), James Risch (R-ID), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) in sponsoring the legislation.
The Simplifying Grants Act aims to make it easier for smaller local governments to apply for funds under federal grants by directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and executive agencies to 1) simplify grant applications for local governments located innonurbanized areas (populations of less than 50,000), 2) make checklists available that list each requirement of each step of the grant process for grants for which such local governments are eligible, and 3) fulfill certain reporting requirements.
Smaller cities, counties, and local governments often face difficulties in applying for, and receiving, federal grant dollars. In the 1980s, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) found evidence showing that “federal aid programs have never consistently transferred income to the poorest jurisdictions or individuals” and that “unlike… other major federal systems, the United States lacks a systematic method for equalizing the fiscal resources of its states.” Since ACIR’s report, the total number of federal grants to state and local governments has grown by more than 135 percent and the total amount of federal grant-in-aid to state and local governments increased by approximately 690 percent, since ACIR’s finding.
The unequal distribution of federal dollars can be explained by numerous factors, including the complexity of the application process. Larger local governments have more resources to hire dedicated grant writers and coordinators, so they can submit better applications and be more equipped to effectively utilize federally awarded funds, which gives larger local governments an advantage over less populated counties.