|DATE:||March 3, 2023|
|SUBJECT:||FY 2023-2024 FMNP e-Solution Grant: Notice of Funding Availability|
|TO:||All FNS Regional Offices|
All FMNP State Agencies
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (PL 117-2, ARPA) provided the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with $390 million, available through FY 2024, to carry out outreach, innovation, and program modernization efforts to increase participation and redemption of benefits for both the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).
As part of the FMNP innovation and modernization efforts under ARPA, FNS will provide funds through non-competitive grants to FMNP state agencies, including Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) and territories, to complete projects aimed at modernizing benefit delivery via procurement of web-based mobile benefit delivery software. This transition to electronic transaction technology in FMNP is important so WIC families can keep using benefits to purchase fresh and locally grown fruits and vegetables and farmers can participate using similar payment technology that they use with other customers. The primary goals of these funded projects must be to: (1) modernize benefit delivery for FMNP state agencies, participants, farmers and farmers’ markets; and (2) increase benefit utilization at farmers and farmers’ markets.
Eligibility and Funding Levels
This is an announcement of the availability of funds for grants to be awarded in FY 2023 and FY 2024 to FMNP state agencies with proposed projects that meet the technical requirements outlined in this memorandum. Only current FMNP state agencies that did not receive an FMNP Benefit Delivery Modernization Grant in FY 2022 are eligible to apply for grant funding under this FY 2023-24 announcement. An eligible state agency may receive only one grant in either FY 2023 or FY 2024. Therefore, an eligible state agency must only submit one application in either FY 2023 or FY 2024. This eligibility criteria includes any applications submitted as a part of a multi-state agency collaboration.
Funding of these awards will be provided through the Grant Award/Letter of Credit process. The awards will be made via an FNS-529 Grant Award Agreement between FNS and the grantee, with accompanying terms and conditions. The grants will be awarded on a noncompetitive basis, subject to the availability of federal funds. See the “How to Apply” section for application due dates.
FNS expects to make awards of up to $350,000 per state agency, or per member of a multi-state agency collaboration. A lead state agency must be selected for a multi-state agency collaboration. FNS may elect to fund an application in its entirety, may limit funding to specific items of the proposals contained in an application, and/or may negotiate with proposed applicants to stay within available funding and/or the goals of the grant.
Use of Funds
As part of this grant opportunity, FNS will provide funding to current FMNP state agencies for procurement of an electronic solution (e-Solution) or software technology for the purposes of assisting state agencies with the transition from coupon-based operations. State agencies may include in their request funds for project staff to assist with planning and implementation. FNS will also fund state agency requests for maintenance and operations for e-solution technology procured using this grant, during the grant’s period of performance.
Allowable uses of project funds include, but are not limited to:
- Contractual costs associated with procurement of e-solution technology. Please see Appendix A of FMNP and SFMNP FY 2022 Guidance Package for a list of solution providers. Please note that Appendix A is not an exhaustive list of e-solution providers and grantees should procure all services and goods in accordance with their state procurement requirements.
- Planning costs, including personnel costs, related to e-solution procurement and implementation (up to 20% of the request may be used for this).*
- Costs associated with agency evaluation efforts to investigate the impact of transitioning from coupon-based operations to an e-Solution.* Training, outreach, and/or promotional material costs, including the costs associated with translating materials.
- Costs (in total) not to exceed $25,000 to purchase supplies needed to perform e-solutions transactions onsite. Such costs may include, but are not limited to, cellular hotspots and/or a shareable number of mobile phones or other devices to loan to farmers, farmers’ markets, or non-profit market managers. State agencies must include a justification for any supply purchases in their grant proposal.
- Costs associated with working with the WIC program to leverage the FMNP e-solution to support the use of the WIC cash-value benefit (CVB) at farmers and farmers’ markets.
- Note: For WIC state agencies, funds to support the use of WIC CVB at farmers and farmers’ markets are expected to be available via FY 2023-24 WIC Shopping Experience Improvement Grants.
- Costs associated with working with the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) to streamline implementation across FMNP and SFMNP.
- Additional costs associated with modernizing FMNP operations (which are otherwise not outlined here) may be requested. State agencies must include justification in their application and include line-item budget narrative.
Unallowable use of project funds includes:
- Transaction fees associated with processing FMNP mobile payments, including those accepted by farmers and farmers’ markets using any e-solution.
State agencies are required to ensure the security requirements outlined below.
Security and Privacy
The grantee and technology must comply with confidentiality requirements outlined in 7 CFR 248.24(c), offer data security, have adequate measures to prevent fraud, comply with credit/debit card industry security standards, and protect all technology users’ privacy. Explicit measures must be outlined and taken to protect personally identifiable information (PII) such as, but not limited to, encryption at rest and encryption in transit. Grantees must comply with any departmental or agency guidance issued at the time of the award related to security and privacy. Technology solutions with web servers receiving a grade of less than B on server tests (see https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest or similar) must provide a timeline and plan for resolution of outstanding items such as, but not limited to, use of insecure transportation security protocols (e.g. SSLv3, TLS 1.0, TLS 1.1).
Damages if Data is Compromised
FNS expects the grantee to adequately secure the technology solution, network, and databases under the control of the grantee or any subcontractor. FNS requires the grantee to agree that, if selected, it will replace all FMNP benefits that are stolen as a result of employee or subcontractor fraud, or external hacking resulting from failure to adequately secure the technology.
Selling and Sharing of Data
It is common practice among many businesses and non-profit organizations to sell or share subscription data and other data to outside parties. The personal information, e.g., name, address, or email address collected through the procured technology under this grant must not be compromised, sold, rented, or shared with any third party without authorization from FNS.
Requesting an ARPA Waiver
As a part of this grant opportunity, FNS may consider state agency waiver requests to waive FMNP legislation and federal regulations, consistent with the authority granted by ARPA. To request an ARPA waiver, state agencies must submit a written formal waiver request in advance of the submission of the grant application to their respective regional office. Please see “Appendix C: For FMNP State Agencies Only - State Plan Amendment Submission Instructions for ARPA Waiver Request” of the FMNP and SFMNP FY 2022 Guidance Package for information on how to submit an ARPA Waiver Request.
State agencies should alert their respective FNS regional program POC if they expect to need an ARPA waiver to carry out a project or activity under this funding announcement.
How to Apply
To apply for a FY 2023-24 FMNP e-solution Grant, interested state agencies or multi-state agency collaborations (with one state agency identified as the lead) must submit their application via email to their respective FNS regional office Grants management administrative services (GMAS) point of contact with cc: to the relevant regional office program staff listed below. Applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. ET by the deadlines outlined in the table below. Late applications will not be considered.
|FY 2023 Deadline for Submission||FY 2024 Deadline for Submission|
|April 18, 2023||Jan. 23, 2024|
|FNS Regional Office||Grants Management Administrative Services POC||Program POC|
|Mid-Atlantic Regional Office||Howard.Lockstein@usda.gov||Jaime.VanLieu@usda.gov|
|Midwest Regional Office||Michael.Chambers@usda.gov||Samia.Hamdan@usda.gov|
|Mountain Plains Regional Office||Cynthia.Archuleta@usda.gov||Sandra.Clark@usda.gov|
|Northeast Regional Office||Li.Liu@usda.gov||Michelle.D'Auria@usda.gov|
|Southeast Regional Office||Dionne.Bounds@usda.gov||Sandy.Benton-Davis@usda.gov|
|Southwest Regional Office||Jeff.Wingate@usda.gov||Darrell.Allen@usda.gov|
|Western Regional Office||Rebecca.Hobbs@usda.gov||Chad.Davis-Montgomery@usda.gov|
State agencies may reach out to their GMAS POC with questions or technical assistance requests when preparing the submission. The regional office GMAS will coordinate with the program POC, as applicable. All standard forms (SF) listed below can be found on Grants.gov (where they must be opened in Adobe and saved as PDF) or as an attachment to this announcement. Please ensure all standard forms (SF-424, SF-424A, SF-424B, SF-LLL) have wet signatures (i.e., print, sign, and scan/email with application).
A complete application will include:
- Attachment A - FY 2023-24 non-competitive FMNP e-Solution grant proposal template (to be completed by state agency)
- SF-424 - Application for Federal Assistance
- SF-424A - Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs
- Please submit a budget request (SF-424 form) for an amount up to $350,000 per grantee or per member of a multi-state agency collaboration. For multi-state agency collaborations, the lead state agency will be responsible for the funds. FNS may adjust the award amount depending on the availability of funds.
- SF-424B - Assurances for Non-Construction Programs
- SF-LLL - Disclosure of Lobbying Activities
Certain application materials will be subject to a collaborative review by the FNS regional GMAS and program office, i.e., the grant proposal and budget.
508 Compliance: Deliverables, systems developed, and any FMNP participant-facing technology under an approved grant award must be designed to be 508 compliant (i.e., software/applications/sites are designed to be interoperable with assistive technology). Chapter 5 of the Revised 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines (www.access-board.gov), outlines the key components to achieve such interoperability.
Award and Reporting Requirements
Grant Agreement: When awards are made, state agencies and FNS must sign a FNS-529 Grant/Cooperative Agreement Award form. A fully executed FNS-529 form, with accompanying terms and conditions, will serve as the official grant agreement. Grant funds will not be released to any state agency until the FNS-529 is returned with signature and can be fully executed.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA): The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number for this grant project award is: 10.557.
Reporting: Selected applicants will be required to provide quarterly SF-425, Financial Status Reports, and quarterly FNS-908, Performance Progress Reports.
FNS-908 Performance Program Reports will be submitted via email to the regional office program POC found in the table above in PDF form. Only pages 1-3 need to be completed. Page 1 contains the applicant’s information while pages 2 and 3 contain 8 questions that should be completed. State agencies are not required to complete anything beyond page 3, including the program activities and objectives. This report must be submitted on a quarterly basis to the regional office program POC listed above. This report allows the grantee to provide periodic project updates to FNS to be reported to the Secretary of Agriculture in accordance with Executive Order 14058. Upon award, FNS will send instructions on completing the FNS-908 Performance Progress Report for these awards.
The SF-425, Financial Status Report must be submitted in FNS’ Food Program Reporting System (FPRS) on a quarterly basis. The title for this report is: PAN-WIC-ARPA-FMNP-BDM.
Final reports will be required for both the FNS-908, Performance Progress Report, and the SF425, Financial Status Report, 120 days after the period performance has ended. For the FNS-908, the grantee shall submit a final summary using the narrative portion of the FNS-908 to include evaluation results of the project as they relate to improving FMNP technology, as evidenced by increasing the redemption of FMNP benefits, improving participant access to authorized farmers and farmers’ markets, and improving participant satisfaction.
Throughout the course of the project, FNS will be conducting an evaluation of ARPA-funded projects on WIC outreach, innovation, and program modernization efforts. Per the FMNP program regulations at 7 CFR 248.24(d), State and local WIC agencies and contractors must cooperate in studies and evaluations conducted by or on behalf of the Department, related to programs authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 USC 1786). The grantee must participate in FNS-sponsored research related to the overarching evaluation of ARPA-funded WIC and FMNP modernization that will be managed by the national program office; this evaluation may include surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups for grantees. The grantee must also be willing to participate in activities to share best practices, such as FNS regional office webinars, roundtables, conferences, etc.
State Plan Amendments
Prior to obligating FMNP ARPA grant funds for an FMNP e-solution grant, the state agency must have an approved state plan amendment in accordance with Appendix B of the FMNP and SFMNP FY 2022 Guidance Package, (i.e., the amendment will capture the e-solution addressed in the project plan). Any required state plan amendments must be approved before the state agency can receive a fully executed FNS-529 Grant Award Agreement. A state agency may only begin obligating funds for the costs of implementing those initiatives once a fully executed FNS-529 Grant Agreement is in place. FNS regional program offices will provide the regional GMAS offices with the plan approval confirmation.
Period of Performance
For FY 2023 awards, the period of performance for this funding is from May 15, 2023 through Sept. 30, 2025.
For FY 2024 awards, the period of performance for this funding is from March 1, 2024 through Sept. 30, 2026.
Regional office GMAS will make funds available to state agencies for the approved FMNP ARPA grants only after the grant agreements are fully executed (i.e., signed by both FNS and the state agency).
Grants will be awarded and managed by the FNS regional offices. The FNS regional program offices will provide ongoing technical assistance to state agencies via the quarterly FNS-908 performance progress reports and the GMAS offices will provide quarterly reviews of the FNS-425 financial reports. These reports are designed to monitor the grantee’s project activities and ensure costs are within the FMNP e-solution grant scope and require a degree of collaboration between the program and GMAS offices. Regional FNS program office staff may also provide periodic on-site and off-site technical assistance to provide evaluation and guidance on project activities and outputs as they relate to this project, including:
- Review of project plans and milestones;
- Review of project documents;
- Evaluation of technology, including systems and/or apps;
- Other technical assistance and program evaluation related to project objectives.
If you have questions on this grant opportunity, please contact your respective FNS regional office GMAS POC.
Director, Office of Innovation
Supplemental Nutrition and Safety Programs
Director, Grants and Fiscal Policy Division
*Pre-award costs may be included only when the applicant has costs that precede an award by up to 3 months that are associated with proposal activities undertaken to obtain the award and/or that are incurred prior to the effective date of the award pursuant to negotiation and in anticipation of the award. Such costs must be necessary for efficient and timely performance of the scope of work to be approved for this award. If charged to the award, these costs must be charged to the initial budget period of the award, unless otherwise specified by FNS. Additional information on pre-award costs is available at 2 CFR 200.458.