Got a Question About Stimulus Funding for Healthcare? Learn From Our Grants Partner
Governments around the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis with stimulus efforts to help individuals and organizations. In the U.S., healthcare organizations have received billions of dollars in federal funding to respond, recover, and build capacity to improve access to care.
While healthcare organizations may know that funding is out there, wading through eligibility and application information can be a tricky and time-consuming process.
“We see the same questions pop up time and again — particularly during the pandemic when stimulus and other funding is abundant,” said Cheryl Henshaw, president and founder of Learn Design Apply (LDA), Zoom’s grant consulting partner that works with U.S.-based organizations in a variety of industries, including healthcare.
Read on for Henshaw’s answers to some of the most common questions LDA sees from healthcare organizations.
Q. How do I know what is (or is not) an eligible use of funds? I can’t seem to find a list of eligible expenditures in many of the stimulus funding programs, and this makes me nervous about whether the project we are proposing will be approved.
A. Federal grant program guidance usually provides a list of both “eligible” and “ineligible” budget items, which helps applicants clearly understand what can be included in the grant budget.
COVID-19-related stimulus funding eligibility is a bit different. Rather than specific items being eligible, the stimulus funds focus on eligible activities or “use cases” — the way a specific technology or service supports the funding priority through its intended use.
Some examples might include:
- Limiting viral spread by using Zoom to provide access to telehealth services, such as primary care, specialty care, chronic condition care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, counseling, and support services, so patients can continue to receive care at home
- Providing virtual training to healthcare professionals on COVID-19 vaccine administration and subsequent observation
- Using Zoom Phone to conduct contact tracing
The applicant or awardee must align their proposed application of funds to the approved use case through a justification narrative.
Q. How do I apply for a stimulus grant? What’s the best way to justify the use of funds and align them with the approved use cases?
A. We recommend starting with a very detailed line-item budget, with requested expenses organized by site and necessary quantities, so that the evaluators understand which location will be receiving specific budget line items.
Then, create a narrative that describes how you are proposing to spend your funding and the ways in which those activities or purchases align with the priorities established by the grant.
Here’s a step-by-step process, with examples:
- Identify the funding priorities
For example, a hospital is requesting stimulus funding that prioritizes COVID-19-related activities.
- State the problem
In our example, the hospital serves a rural, high-poverty population where limited broadband availability and lack of personal devices in residents’ homes creates significant barriers to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Consequently, the only option for many of these residents is to schedule appointments via telephone.
At the onset of the pandemic, the hospital transitioned much of its administrative staff to work from home to limit viral spread. Incoming calls to schedule appointments for COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 vaccines are being routed to the homes of hospital call center employees. The hospital’s phone system is old and employees are experiencing major disruptions as a result.
Additionally, when call center employees use their home phone to call patients for appointment reminders or changes in scheduling, it creates the potential for a caller ID to identify their name and number, presenting privacy and security concerns.
- Describe how the proposed use of funds addresses the problem
Going back to our example, the hospital might detail how a cloud-based voice system will replace an outdated and failing phone system needed for appointment scheduling.
This system allows for greater efficiencies in scheduling COVID-19 testing and vaccine appointments, enables contact tracing capabilities, and allows appointments to be made for health exams for patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Additionally, it protects the privacy and security of hospital employees who are now working from home to limit viral exposure.
Q: What is the best way to find funding that is a good fit for my healthcare organization?
A: There is an unprecedented amount of funding available today, but that sometimes makes the process of finding relevant grants even more challenging. Here are some tips for finding grants that are a good fit for your organization.
- Search for programs that match your organizational eligibility. Be sure to read the qualifiers when determining eligibility. For example, a HRSA grant focused on nursing programs might state that institutions of higher education (IHEs) are eligible applicants, but if you read further you might find that the IHE must also be an accredited School of Nursing.
- Read through the program description and determine the eligible use of funds. Some grants allow funding to be used for personnel and benefits. Some have limitations on capital expenditures. Make sure the funding aligns with your specific needs before reading any further.
- Look at the evaluation criteria and associated points. Determine whether you meet the competitive priorities. Many discretionary grant programs are very competitive and without those points, you may not have a strong chance of receiving an award.
Q: What is the number one reason that grant applications are not funded?
A: The answer may surprise you! Most often, the reason grants are rejected has nothing to do with how well-written they are or how well-qualified an applicant is. Grant agencies typically begin their review process by first looking at required elements:
- Do your System for Award Management (SAM) registration and Data Universal Number System (DUNS) numbers match?
- Are the certifications within SAM checked off? Is your SAM registration active or will it expire during the review process?
- Does the budget request on your Application for Federal Assistance match the grant budget included in your narrative or your budget worksheet?
- Did you attach all the required elements (in the correct location)?
- Did you use the correct font and follow the page limitation requirements?
- Do you have the correct signatures (and from people with obvious signature authority?)
The list above is by no means exhaustive, but it illustrates the fact that the simplest things can get your grant rejected before anyone has had the chance to read the brilliant narrative you worked so hard on! Ask for a second or third set of eyes before you submit — you will be glad that you did.
Work with a grants specialist
Our grant partners at LDA can help simplify the process and give you guidance to successfully fund projects that will set up your organization for the post-COVID-19 future. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.