Documentation of Federal Funds under 23 U.S.C. § 504(b) and 505 as Matching Funds (11/28/2018)
Question: Per the guidelines, Federal funds under 23 USC § 504(b) or 505 may be used as match. I reviewed all of our awards that flow down from the Federal Highway Administration but nowhere could I find references to 23 USC or “local technical assistance and state planning and research programs”. All of the awards fall under the CFDA 20.205, which also does not reference the pertinent sections of 23 USC. Can you provide any additional guidance on the Federal matching funds or whether or not these awards under CFDA 20.205 would qualify?
Answer: No, existing or expected future awards citing CFDA 20.205 do not qualify as UTC match. CFDA 20.205 includes funding for multiple FHWA apportioned programs, including the two that are specifically authorized as match in the UTC Program’s statute, so a proposal citing CFDA 20.205 as the source of match is insufficient. The proposal needs to identify the intended source of matching funds as local technical assistance and/or state planning and research funds provided under 23 U.S.C. 504(b) and 505. No other Federal funds may be used as matching funds.
Question: Can we use references/bibliography as a separate appendix or should those be in the main body of the proposal counting toward the page limit?
Answer: References or a bibliography are not required, however, if you do choose to include references or a bibliography they must be included in the Written Response section of the proposal and will count towards that section’s 40-page limit.
Budget Period in Grants.gov/on SF424 (11/23/2018)
Question: Since we are only submitting a budget plan for the initial budget period, do we use the initial budget period dates of 3/1/2019-9/30/2019 or the full 3/1/2019 – 9/30/2022 period of the grant? Also, would we use the initial budget period funding amount or the full four-year projected amount?
Answer: In the Grants.gov fields and on the SF424, we prefer that you use the same dates and the same amounts as on the Center Budget Plan (March 1, 2019 to September 30, 2019, and $2.5M in Federal funds plus an equal amount in matching funds), but we will accept either that or the projected full-grant dates of March 1, 2019 to September 30, 2022, $7.5M in Federal funds plus an equal amount in matching funds. However, the submitted Center Budget Plan (Appendix A) should only show how you will use $2.5M in Federal funds plus an equal amount in matching funds during the initial period of the grant, from March 1, 2019 to September 30, 2019.
Lab Facilities as Match (11/23/2018)
Question: Will cash contributions such as University funds to build new lab facilities that will be used for proposed Center research activities be counted as eligible cost share?
Answer: Yes, cash contributions in support of lab facilities may be counted towards the non-Federal match, however, such contributions must be used to accomplish program objectives and be documented in the Center’s records. Facilities such as labs would need to be valued at an appropriate usage rate for specific projects or other activities being done under the auspices of the grant; your university’s sponsored-programs office can help with issues such as facility valuation to ensure it is done in accordance with federal grant regulations. Page 8 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity provides additional information related to matching funds.
Liability of Lead Institution for Cost Sharing (11/23/2018)
Question: If a subawardee does not meet its cost sharing commitment, is the lead institution held liable for the cost share?
Answer: A key role of the lead university on a UTC grant is both to monitor progress toward the required match and, at the end of the grant, to document that the full match requirement on the amount of Federal funds used has been met. The UTC grant is between US DOT and the lead university, not also with any subawardees, so the lead school is fully responsible for obtaining and documenting the required match. If a subawardee has made a commitment to the lead university to provide a certain amount of match and then does not do so, the lead university would need to identify another source of matching funds that support an activity of the grant to offset the amount not provided; that other source of allowable matching funds does not necessarily have to be the lead university’s own funds. Your university’s office of sponsored programs should be able to further assist you on issues related to match funds and working with subawardees.
Perkins Funding Not Allowable as Match (11/15/2018)
Question: Can the Federal government’s Perkins funding, administered by the US Department of Education, be used as match on UTC grants?
Answer: No. The only Federal funds that can be used as match are two that are specifically authorized in the UTC Program’s statute: local technical assistance and state planning and research funds managed by the Federal Highway Administration and provided under 23 U.S.C. 504(b) and 505. No other Federal funds may be used as matching funds, including Perkins funding. Page 8 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity provides additional information on matching funds.
Meaning of “Key Personnel” (11/5/2018)
Question: Could you please explain the meaning of “Key Personnel” on UTC grants?
Answer: It is up to the applicant to determine whom they consider to be key personnel -– the Notice of Funding Opportunity (page 18) describes key personnel as those “key staff members who will support the Center Director in accomplishing the goals of the grant” and “are considered to be critical for Center activities,” but does not state eligibility criteria for being considered key. In past competitions, some applicants loaded the CVs section with information about a large number of individuals at the consortium universities but without making it clear in the Written Response narrative how those individuals would contribute to the conduct of the grant, and this was not helpful to reviewers in evaluating those applications against the evaluation criteria.
Where to Put Center Director’s CV (11/5/2018)
Question: Should the CV for the Center Director go in the Written Response section or in the CVs appendix? I find the language on page 18 unclear on that point.
Answer: It should go in the appendix Curriculum Vitae for Center Director and Key Personnel.
Use of Different Font Than Required (11/1/2018)
Question: Understanding all typefaces must be 12-point Arial (except for tables, figures, headers, and footers, which may be no smaller than 9-point Arial), can we use a larger size of Arial for headings to make the document easier for reviewers to navigate and read?
Answer: No, the font requirements are not minimums and you must use the fonts as stated on page 11-12 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity.
Advisory Board Members and Conflict of Interest (10/29/2018)
Question: Industry members of our advisory board may be involved in making decisions regarding funding of research projects that those industry members may have an interest in, or a direct/indirect relationship with a potential vendor. Is that generally expected/allowable in these types of centers? What are the expectations regarding handling of conflicts, if any?
Answer: UTC grants value the involvement of industry as a key mechanism for moving research into practice and outputs into impacts, and many current UTCs do have industry members on their advisory groups. To manage any potential conflict of interest, you will want both to follow your university’s own conflict-of-interest guidelines and to comply with the UTC Program’s requirement for peer review of research projects to ensure that the quality and significance of the research is given the highest consideration when selecting projects.
Change Research Priority in Letter of Intent (10/26/2018)
Question: Is it possible to change the research priority area stated in my letter of intent?
Answer: No. Because the deadline for letters of intent passed on October 12, an applicant may not now change its stated research priority area.
Consortium Members as Subawardees (10/24/2018)
Question: Are the other universities in the consortium treated as subawardees?
Answer: Yes. The lead university submitting the application receives the grant if selected, and it then issues subawards to the consortium-member institutions.
More about Budget Period (10/24/2018)
Question: The 10/3/2018 answer to the question about the budget period is confusing; could you add some more explanation?
Answer: The timing of this competition does not align with the Federal fiscal year of October 1 to September 30, so the first-year period for budget purposes had to be shrunk. If the anticipated schedule holds, second- and third-year award of funds to the two National UTCs would be made on approximately October 1, 2019 and October 1, 2020, and each would be budgeted for a full-year period. The grant will also allow a one-year period October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022 for completing activities begun under the preceding budget periods.
Matching Funds on SF424 (10/24/2018)
Question: Should the matching funds provided by consortium members be reported on line 18e of the SF424?
Answer: Please enter the total matching funds from the lead and all partners on lines 18b through 18f as is appropriate to characterize the sources of those funds; it is important to reflect the required amount of matching funds here to document that you understand and intend to fully meet that requirement.
Budget Details (10/24/2018)
Question: Where should we put budget details?
Answer: Budget details may be provided either in the “Explanatory Notes” column of the budget plan or as an additional document included with the budget plan.
Additional Appendices (10/22/2018)
Question: The NOFO lists required appendices. However, it does not address if optional appendices can be provided, such as letters of support from various entities such as state DOTs, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, other public sector organizations at all levels of government, non-profit institutions, and technical and practitioner organizations. The NOFO does state that letters of commitment may not be included, but may be referenced. It is not clear if letters of commitment that promise specific contributions to the Center, and letters of support that do not promise specific contributions, are viewed as being one in the same. Can appendices other than the stated required appendices, including an appendix containing letters of support, be included?
Answer: The CVs and budget plans are the only items that should be in the appendices. Letters of support are viewed similarly to letters of commitment, and applicants may include a statement noting the support/commitment in the application’s 40-page written response to the evaluation criteria; if the letters themselves are included in that written-response section, then the pages on which they appear will count toward the 40-page limit that must be met in order for the application to be deemed compliant. Discussing support/commitment in the relevant section of the written response will assist the reviewers in finding the information they need to see concerning each of the evaluation criteria.
More about Consortium Members and Letter of Intent (10/11/2018)
Question: Do partner universities need to submit letters of intent?
Answer: No, the lead university that will eventually submit the full application should submit the letter of intent, and consortium-member universities do not also have to submit letters.
Consortium Members in Letter of Intent (10/9/2018)
Question: Do you want the letter of intent to state all the partner universities?
Answer: It is not required to include the names of all the consortium-member universities. Please see page 9 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity for what information is required. We will accept a letter that identifies the consortium members if you wish to provide that information.
Industry Partners (10/4/2018)
Question: Are industry partners allowed to be included as a subaward on a National Center project?
Answer: Yes, industry partners are allowed to be included if their services are necessary to the conduct or implementation of a grant-supported activity, however they will not be considered members of the consortium. As noted in Section C.1 on page 7 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity: “Universities may collaborate with state DOTs, the private sector, and non-profit organizations; however, organizations that are not defined as U.S. non-profit institutions of higher education will not be considered members of the consortium. Organizations that are not members of a consortium may still collaborate with a Center on a particular project or provide a service that assists in accomplishing that Center’s activities.”
Budget Period (10/3/2018)
Question: I see that the first-year budget should cover just 3/1/19-9/30/19. That implies the $2.5M should be for just seven months?
Answer: You should budget for how you will use the $2.5M in Federal funds plus an equal amount in matching funds during the initial period of the grant, from March 1, 2019 to September 30 2019. This timing aligns the grant with the anticipated progress-reporting periods and future awards that are based on an October 1 – September 30 time period. As noted on page 3 and elsewhere in the Notice of Funding Opportunity, selected grantees will have until September 30, 2022, to fully expend funds and provide the required match under these grants.
Cash or In-kind Matching Funds (10/2/2018)
Answer: No, there is no required allocation or limits to allocations between cash and in-kind sources of matching funds. See page 7 of the current General Provisions for Grants for University Transportation Centers (https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/utc/261086/fast-act-generalprovisions-nov-2016-rev-june-2018-ver-13.pdf) for information about match on UTC grants.
SPR (State Planning and Research) Funds as Matching Funds (10/2/2018)
Question: Does it have to be a specific part of SPR, or can it be either Part 1 or Part 2?
Answer: The matching funds may include Federal funds provided to a recipient under 23 U.S.C. § 504(b) or 505, including Parts One and Two of the State Planning and Research Program. By definition, matching funds on a Federal grant must support activities done under that grant, so any SPR (or LTAP/TTAP) funds counted as match against a UTC grant would need to fund activities that support the conduct of the UTC grant as that is described in the applicant’s proposal.