Nonprofits might get $750,000 from the federal government to provide fitness and nutrition programming from the Department of Education.
Or none at all.
The 2013 solicitation for Carol White Physical Education Program reads: “We are inviting applications…to allow enough time to complete the grant process before the end of the current fiscal year, if Congress appropriates funds for this program.”
That solicitation offers more detail than most of the federal grant announcements that came out for youth services last week. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention issued a solicitation for national mentoring projects, and listed “Zero” next to the expected amount of dollars to be given out, and another “Zero” next to number of awards to be made.
Same goes for a notice about funding for early childhood system integration, a program at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration.
The translation for organizations pursuing these federal funds: You will have to go through the onerous task of applying without knowing for sure that this program will even exist during this fiscal year.
The vagueness of these solicitations is due to the confluence of this month’s fiscal cliff-dwelling adventures. The failure of Congress to agree on long-term spending plans has already kicked Sequestration into effect, forcing blunt and indiscriminate cuts to both defense and domestic discretionary spending.
It is yet to be determined whether federal agencies will be given the discretion to choose how they implement these cuts, or if they’ll simply have to spread the cuts evenly to all of their discretionary programs.
And by the end of this month, the House and Senate will have to work out some acceptable Continuing Resolution on this year’s federal spending (or, Heaven forbid, actually approve a real appropriations package). If they don’t, the federal government will shut down.
Closing the federal government down is a result that both Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Barack Obama have both publicly intimated is not going to happen. But the facts are that substantial cuts are required by the Sequester, and there are only a couple of weeks left of certain federal funding for this year.
Amidst the uncertainty, federal agencies are not waiting for specifics to get youth-related grant competitions going. In the sense that they are giving themselves a rational amount of time to put proposals through the proper scrutiny.
In the sense that these agencies can’t even be sure that all of these programs will have funding this year or ever again, they might be creating a ton of work for organizations on applications that will never see the light of day.
Adding a layer of confusion to this: other solicitations do include some specifics. A Justice Department solicitation for Community-Based Violence Prevention estimates $1.5 million for an estimated six grantees, and a smaller-scale mentoring project projects $2 million awards to about seven grantees.