[Image via EAC]
Yesterday, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission released more information on the election security grants included in the federal omnibus budget bill, along with some answers to key questions about the funds. Here’s the funding table (PDF):
|State||Final Payment||5% Match||Total Award|
|District of Columbia||3,000,000||150,000||3,150,000|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||600,000||n/a||600,000|
And here are the key questions:
How much money is available and how much will each state be awarded?
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 provides $380 million to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), as authorized under Title I Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 (P.L. 107-252), to make grant payments to states using the voting age population formula described in Sections 101 and 103 of HAVA…
Who is eligible to receive funds?
Awards will be made to the entities eligible to receive federal assistance under Title I of HAVA, which includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands (herein referred to as ‘the states’). The states may re-grant/distribute funds to local election districts/offices at their discretion. [emphasis added]
When will the funds be available for states to use and how long do we have to spend the funds?
States will receive grant award notification letters from the EAC by early April 2018. The letter will allow states to incur costs, with prior EAC approval, against the forthcoming grant awards, effective the date of the notification letter. Funds will be available for states to deposit in their state election accounts when they return signed grant documents and the required certifications and assurances. States have until September 30, 2023 to request their funds and get the money in their accounts, after which time any funds remaining at EAC will automatically be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
What is the process for applying for funds?
The funds are available as formula, non-competitive grants. States will be required to submit a 2-3 page narrative overview of activities to be supported with the funds and a line item budget within 90 days of receiving their Notice of Grant Awards. Detailed guidance on development of the plans and budgets will be forthcoming. Note that the awards will be issued and funds available for drawdown prior to receipt of the plan overview to expedite and support any needed expenditures ahead of the 2018 Election. [emphasis in original]
Is there a state match requirement and when/how do states have to provide the match?
States must match 5 percent of the federal funds awarded within two years of receiving federal funds. States may either deposit matching funds in their state election accounts or track eligible funds/activities from their state and local general operating budgets to meet the match obligations. State and local funds used for match must be different from funds used to meet Maintenance of Effort (MOE) or state match associated with HAVA Requirement Payments. American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands are exempt from the match requirement.
How can we use the funds?
States will determine how they will spend the money. By releasing this money quickly, it is hoped that the grants can have an immediate impact, even utilized possibly in the 2018 election cycle. The EAC can answer specific questions about how the money can be utilized. While states make the decision on spending, some possible uses could include:
- Purchasing or leasing voting systems;
- Designing, implementing, or conducting post-election audit systems;
- Modernizing and better securing election-related computer systems, including voter registration systems;
- Upgrading election-related computer systems to address cyber vulnerabilities identified through U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or similar scans or assessments of existing election systems;
- Purchasing cyber security training for state and local election officials; and,
- Implementing established cybersecurity best practices for election systems and other activities that will improve the security of elections for federal office.
Will the funds be available in time to impact the 2018 elections?
The EAC is committed to making funds available as soon as feasibly possible. How the funds will impact the 2018 elections will be entirely determined by how and at what pace states and localities deploy the federal resources.
What are the reporting requirements for states receiving funds?
States must provide an annual standard Federal Financial Report and program narrative for the period ending September 30, which is due by December 30 of the same year.
What if our State still has some HAVA funds remaining?
Any HAVA funds still remaining at the state level should be tracked and reported on separately from this new award. HAVA funds disbursed in earlier years are available for use until expended and have no impact on the amount awarded for this grant program.
Can funds be distributed if the EAC does not have a Commissioner quorum?
Yes. A quorum is not needed to distribute funds to states.
I had wondered about the quorum issue now that there are only two sitting Commissioners; glad to see that will not complicate the distribution of the funds. It is encouraging to see the EAC moving so quickly to notify states about the new money and highlight potential uses for the funds – here’s hoping the larger federal government makes the money available as soon as possible.
Stay tuned …