In February 2021, House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced the House Democratic Appropriations Committee would restore earmarks and rebrand them as “Community Project Funding.” This gives lawmakers a greater ability to direct money to specific projects.  Specifically, this creates new congressional influence over the spending of $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending annually – 1% of total discretionary spending. 

The Senate has not yet acted to bring back earmarks, though Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, did indicate an intent to do so.

WHAT RULES DO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS HAVE TO COMPLY WITH?

  • Every Member of the House of Representatives can only make 10 Community Project Funding (CPF) requests, though not all ten are guaranteed. However, not every Member of the House supports this new funding mechanism and will likely not submit any CPF requests.
  • They must be for the fiscal year 2022 funds only and cannot include multi‐year funding.
  • You must include accurate recipient information when filling out the online request. The recipient’s name entered into the online database should be the organization’s legal name that will be receiving these funds. Please do not include abbreviations, acronyms, or use a “The” before the recipient’s name.
  • You must include a project description, which must be limited to 1,000 characters.
  • You must include a budget breakout specifically describing how the requested Federal funding will be used by the grantee, such as amounts for salaries for providers or instructors, tuition payments, educational materials, exhibits, supplies, evaluation activities, equipment, travel, etc.
  • You must include an explanation of the request, including a description of why this is a good use of taxpayer funds—this information must also be included on the Member’s official House website (explained below).
  • You must indicate whether the grantee is a for‐profit entity. Note that in FY 2022, the Subcommittee will not fund any for‐profit entities.
  • Please indicate whether you are aware of another Member requesting this same project (just Yes/No, not which Member (s)).
  • All project information submitted to the database must be consistent with the information included in the signed disclosure of financial interest certification letter.

WHAT CAN COMMUNITY PROJECT FUNDING (FORMERLY KNOWN AS EARMARKS) FUND?

The U.S. House of Representatives released their rules with specific lists of allowable projects broken down by subcommittee, a federal agency, and program- you can find all of the links here: https://appropriations.house.gov/appropriations-requests.

Example of Community Project Funding Request: a funding request for a specific non‐governmental entity to carry out a specific project. Example: Provide $500,000 for a substance abuse treatment program in City, State.

ALLOWABLE FUNDING REQUESTS FOR THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON LABOR, HEALTH + HUMAN SERVICES (LHHS) – APRIL 28, 2021 DEADLINE

Click Here for Detailed Guidance

Employment and Training Administration 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act demonstration program is the only Labor Department program that supports community project funding.-Community project funding is designated under Training and Employment Services. 

These projects must meet all statutorily mandated requirements, except that they are exempt from the requirement to compete. In addition, all projects must: 

  1. Include direct services to individuals to enhance employment opportunities; 
  2. Demonstrate evidence of a linkage with the State or local workforce investment system; and 
  3. Include an evaluation component. 

Equipment purchases may be included within community project funding only as an incidental part of the entire project. A similar standard applies to curriculum development, which should be incidental to the project’s emphasis on direct services to individuals. 

Community project funding cannot be used for the construction or renovation of facilities.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Community project funding within SAMHSA should be submitted through the Health Surveillance and Program Support account. Community project funding must fall under one of the following categories:

  • Mental Health—grants to support programs that promote the prevention or treatment of mental health disorders, including rehabilitation, outreach, and other support services.
  • Substance Abuse Treatment—grants to support programs that improve access, reduce barriers, and promote high quality, effective treatment, and recovery services.
  • Substance Abuse Prevention—grants to support programs to prevent the onset of illegal drug use, prescription drug misuse and abuse, alcohol misuse, and abuse, and underage alcohol and tobacco use.

Community project funding cannot be used for construction (other than a limited amount of renovation necessary to carry out a funded project).

Community project funding for elementary and secondary education should be submitted through the Innovation and Improvement account. Elementary and secondary education community project funding includes instructional services, afterschool centers, curricula development, teacher training, acquisition of books and computers, arts education, social and emotional learning activities, full-service community schools, and early childhood education. In general, the focus of elementary and secondary education community project funding should be providing early childhood or K‐12 educational services. 

Community project funding to improve special education services at the elementary and secondary levels is also eligible under elementary and secondary education. Community project funding may include early intervention services for infants and toddlers, transition services, and postsecondary education services.

Eligible grantees are state education agencies, school districts, colleges and universities, and other public and private nonprofit entities. Generally, community project funding intended for individual schools is provided to the applicable school district and not directly to the individual school. 

Community project funding cannot be used for the construction or renovation of school buildings, except in the case of minor remodeling required as part of technology upgrades. Daycare and childcare projects that do not include educational services are also not eligible.

ALLOWABLE FUNDING REQUEST ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE (EDI) DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING + URBAN DEVELOPMENT (HUD) – APRIL 30, 2021 DEADLINE

Click Here for Detailed Guidance

Guidelines and Requirements for Appropriations Submissions Database

EDI community project requests may be used for economic and community development activities, including land or site acquisition, demolition or rehabilitation of housing or facilities, construction and capital improvements of public facilities (including water and sewer facilities), and public services. Requests may also include planning and other activities consistent with the Community Development Block Grant program’s underlying authorization within HUD. EDI community project requests are not eligible for the reimbursement of expenses for activities already undertaken (including debt service or debt retirement). 

All projects must be: 

  • Supported broadly by local stakeholders, including residents, businesses, and elected officials. 
  • Administered by governmental or non-profit entities, including public housing agencies and tribes and tribally designated housing entities. 

Members will need to provide specific information through the electronic submission process for each EDI community project request. The electronic online database will include the following questions to assist the Subcommittee in vetting and selecting projects. Several of them will require additional information from your office.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW PROCESS

  • Members will be capped at submitting ten earmark requests per fiscal year, though members aren’t guaranteed to get those earmarks included in the annual government funding bills. Lawmakers must provide evidence their communities support the earmarks they submit. And any member submitting a request must post it online at the same time they submit their proposal to the Appropriations Committee.
  • The House panel plans to create a “one-stop” online portal for all House members’ earmarks requests.
  • The House will continue to require the oversight and transparency restrictions Democrats put in place before the ban took effect in 2011 and add in new rules as well.
  • The pre-2011 rule changes included requiring members to make their requests and the justifications for the public and requiring them to certify neither they nor their spouses have any financial interest in a particular earmark.
  • The new provisions will require the Appropriations Committee to release a list of “community project funding” 24 hours before the full committee marks up the bill. And members will have to certify that no immediate family members have any financial interest.
  • Members will need to provide specific information through the electronic submission process for each EDI community project request. The electronic online database will include the following questions to assist the Subcommittee in vetting and selecting projects. Several of them will require additional information from your office.

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PREPARING STRONG PROJECTS:

The latest incarnation of earmarks will favor projects from state and local governments and nonprofits. Members of Congress exploring earmarking will be eager to back projects with strong local support and well-documented potential benefits that are as close to “ready to start” as possible. The perfect project, however, is an illusion. Requesters must take a hard look at their proposed projects for both strengths and weaknesses:

Practicalities: What is the project’s timeline? Is the project ready to begin, and if not what further steps are needed? What are the documented public safety, health, or educational benefits of the project? Are there any trade-offs in investing in this project versus others in the region?

Economics: How many and what kinds of jobs does the project create, and for how long? What is the regional economic benefit of the project? What is the estimated impact on the local tax base? Is the project located in a disadvantaged or underserved area, or will it support an underserved population? 

Politics: How much are non-federal entities (such as the state and local governments, private donors, or other funders) contributing to the project? Do regional local governments, businesses, and residents support the project? Do other members of Congress support the project?

Identify and develop champions: Beyond preparing a strong proposal, applicants will boost their bids for an earmark by securing bipartisan and bicameral congressional champions willing to put their name to these proposals. For larger regional projects, your pool of potential champions only grows.

Prepare for the long haul: The earmark and appropriations process is a year-long cycle, requiring months of advocating and pushing to maximize your chances for success. Having a strong local group of supporters of your project willing to advocate will help. You can keep pushing through grassroots advocacy, committee-level outreach, and appealing to leadership.

WHY AND WHEN DID EARMARKS GO AWAY?

Congress banned earmarks in 2011 amid bipartisan concerns about wasteful “pork” spending on questionable projects as well as bribery scandals involving earmarks and the rise of the conservative “Tea Party” movement. However, overall federal spending did not go down after earmarks went away- which was about 1% of the overall federal budget. Some analysts would argue that this policy decision pushed all of the federal discretionary spending to the executive branch. Earmarks’ champions argue that the tool added an incentive for members to collaborate and vote for major legislation.

WHAT IS NEW ABOUT THE EARMARKS COMING BACK IN 2021?

  1. Increased Transparency:
    • Members are required to post every request online simultaneously with their submission to the Appropriations Committee. 
    • The Appropriations Committee will release the list of projects funded before the full committee votes on the legislation.
    • Members must certify that they, their spouse, and their immediate family have no financial interest in the projects they request.
  2. Ban on For-Profit Recipients:
    • Members may not direct funding to for-profit grantees. Members may request funding for State or local government grantees and for eligible non-profits.
  3. Cap on Overall Funding:
    • “Community Project Funding” may constitute no more than 1 percent of discretionary spending.
  4. Enhanced Auditing:
    • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will be required to audit a “sample” of community project funding and report its findings to Congress.
  5. Demonstrated community support: 
    • Members must provide evidence of community support that were compelling factors in their decision to select the requested projects.
  6. Request in Writing:
    • Members requesting Community Project Funding must do so in writing including the name and location of the intended recipient and the purpose of the spending item.
  7. Committee Consideration:
    • When reporting legislation containing Community Project Funding, a Committee must identify each item in the corresponding committee report or joint explanatory statement, and make it publicly available online.
  8. Disclosure Before Floor Consideration:
    • Rules prohibit a vote on a bill or a vote on adoption of a conference report unless the chair of the committee in question certifies that a complete list of Community Project Funding has been publicly available for at least 48 hours.
  9. Point of Order Against New Projects in Conference Reports:
    • A point of order may be raised against a provision of the conference report if it includes Community Project Funding that was not included in either the House or Senate bills.
DATE

April 1, 2021

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