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LIHEAP IM 2013-1 Model Plan Application for LIHEAP Funding for FY 2014

Published: April 4, 2013
Audience:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Category:
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Information Memorandums (IM), Model Plan

 Transmittal No.  LIHEAP-IM-2013-01                       Date: April 4, 2013

TO:                LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (LIHEAP) GRANTEES AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES

SUBJECT:      Model Plan Application for LIHEAP Funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 (All Applications due September 1, 2013)

RELATED           Low Income Home Energy Assistance Act, as amended (Title XXVI of
REFERENCES:   Public Law (P.L.) 97-35, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, as amended).

BACKGROUND:  States, Territories, and Indian Tribes/Tribal organizations that wish to administer a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) must submit an application for funds each year.  Section 2605(c)(3) of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, as amended, provides that not later than April 1 of each fiscal year, the Secretary shall make available a model LIHEAP plan which may be used, at the option of each grantee, to prepare the application required under Sections 2605(a)(1) and (c)(1).

PURPOSE:  To provide LIHEAP grantees with a copy of the Model Plan and Model Program Integrity Assessment format and to remind States, Tribes, and Territories that all applications are due September 1.

To provide grantees with guidance on the requirement for submission of the required plan supplement, the Program Integrity Assessment.

To inform grantees of a new electronic method for submitting all plan documents through the Online Data Collection system.

To encourage early submission of plans.

CONTENT:  Attached for your use is the Model Plan format for use by States, Territories, and Indian Tribes/Tribal organizations in developing your Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 plans.  You are not required to use the Model Plan format.  You may submit your application in any format you wish, as long as it includes all of the information required under the statute and implementing regulations which are outlined in the Model Plan.

For those grantees that choose not to use the Model Plan, we have included a list of reminders that may be helpful in submitting a complete application.

Deadlines:

Submission: Grantees must submit an application (Plan) to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) each Federal fiscal year (FY) in order to receive LIHEAP funds.  The deadline for all grantees to submit the annual Plan is no later than September 1, 2013.

Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations must, as always has been the case, submit their LIHEAP Plans by September 1, unless the State(s) in which the Tribe or organization is located agrees in writing to a specific later submission date.  This extension approval must be received by ACF no later than September 1. A Final Rule published on October 15, 1999 in the Federal Register (64 FR 55843) states in Section 96.10(c)(2) that applications from States and Territories must also be submitted by September 1 unless the Department agrees to a later date. 

Completion: The final rule also established a due date for the submission of all information required to complete the LIHEAP Plan. Tribes, States and Territories must submit all revisions and missing information sought by ACF in order to consider the Plan complete no later than December 15, 2013. States, Tribes, and Territories must all meet this completion deadline, unless ACF receives and agrees to a written extension request specifying a later date. Tribes must also include written approval specifying a specific, reasonable date, from the State(s) in which the Tribe is located. 

All extension requests must be in writing; list a specific, reasonable date; and provide a brief explanation of the reason for needing an extension.

Detailed and Abbreviated Plans:

Attached to this information memorandum are both a “Detailed Model Plan” and an “Abbreviated Model Plan”.  The Detailed Model Plan is essentially the same as the Model Plan that we have used for many years.  The Abbreviated Model Plan is for the optional use of grantees that are not scheduled to file a detailed application for FY 2014.  Each grantee must submit either a Detailed Plan or an Abbreviated Model Plan each fiscal year.

Grantees must submit a “Detailed Plan” every three years, or sooner if they are making major changes to their LIHEAP programs.  As most grantees do not substantially change their programs in a typical two to three-year period, this frequency will assure that we have a full description of basic plan elements.  As part of the Detailed Plan, a full description of how grantees will carry out all of the assurances specified in the statute and the other program-specific information required in Section 2605(c) of the statute must be submitted.  Grantees that are making more than two substantive changes should complete the detailed application.

In the alternate years, an “Abbreviated Plan” may be submitted, and must include:

  1. the statutorily required assurances signed by the Governor/Chief Executive Officer or his/her designee;
  2. a description of any changes from the last detailed application;
  3. a report on applicant and recipient households for the previous year;
  4. a description of the opportunity for public participation which must be offered;
  5. a description of the dates and results of the public hearings on the plan which is required for States;
  6. the Carryover and Reallotment Report for the previous fiscal year  (due August 1, 2013);  
  7. the appropriate certifications;
  8. the LIHEAP Household Report (as described further below); and
  9.  a completed Program Integrity Assessment Supplement.

Some current grantees must submit Detailed Plans for FY 2014 while the remaining portion of grantees will have the option of filing an Abbreviated Plan for FY 2014.  Attached is a schedule specifying which state grantees are required to file detailed applications in FY 2014 (See Attachment 2).

Generally, Tribes and Tribal organizations must file a detailed application in the same year as the States in which they are located.  In some cases, Tribes and States are not on the same three-year cycle if a Tribe applied with a Detailed Plan during a year in which the State submitted an Abbreviated Plan.

Assurances:

The assurances printed at the beginning of the Model Plan are from the current LIHEAP statute (42 U.S.C. § 8624).  LIHEAP regulations at 45 C.F.R. § 96.10(b) require that the 16 assurances (15 for Tribes and some Territories) in the LIHEAP statute must be signed by the grantee’s Chief Executive Officer or “by an individual authorized to make such certifications on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer.”  Please be sure that the Governor or Tribal Chairperson (1) signs the assurances or (2) has specifically delegated authority to sign the LIHEAP assurances to the person/position (not merely the department or agency) who may sign the assurances.  A delegation of authority to administer the LIHEAP program, or one that delegates authority to sign assurances but does not specify the LIHEAP program is not sufficient.  If a grantee has a new Governor or Tribal Chairperson, a new delegation letter is required. 

In applying for LIHEAP funds for FY 2014, please remember that the statute requires States and Territories receiving more than $200,000 to describe in their plans how they will carry out assurance 15 (Section 2605(b)(15) of the LIHEAP statute).

In addition, please note assurance 16, which sets a 5 percent limit on the amount of LIHEAP funds that can be used for certain activities designed to reduce the need for home energy and, thereby, the need for energy assistance.

Leveraging Activities:

Please remember that the Model Plan includes a place to report leveraging activities to take place during the Federal fiscal year that will be coordinated with LIHEAP.  You must include the information in your plan that will be necessary for activities to count for leveraging funds awarded the next year (e.g., FY 2015).   Grantees must also amend their FY 2013 plan to include any activities that are added during the year but were not previously included in the plan (e.g. cooling component) in order to submit a Leveraging Report based on FY 2013 activities, if such reports are solicited.

Under the Final Rule on implementing the leveraging program that was issued on May 1, 1995 (60 FR 21322), additional information must be included in the plan for those leveraging activities claimed under criterion 96.87(d)(2)(iii), that is, those resources that are appropriated or mandated by the State for distribution under the plan, and are coordinated/integrated with the grantees’ LIHEAP program, but are not a part of LIHEAP. 

The plan must describe the resources/benefits to be counted under criterion 96.87(d)(2)(iii), and identify and describe their sources and the way in which they are integrated/coordinated with the grantees’ LIHEAP program.  See especially the middle column of page 21339 of the May 1, 1995 Federal Register (60 FR 21339) for further discussion of these requirements. These documents can be found on the LIHEAP website under the “Guidance, Policies, and Procedures” section at:

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap

If your leveraging activities to be claimed under criterion 96.87(d)(2)(iii) were fully described in your most recent Detailed Plan, you do not need to describe them again in an Abbreviated Plan unless they have changed.  If any of the required information on the resources/benefits has changed, please be sure to submit new descriptions with your Abbreviated Plan.

Household Report:

The statute requires that complete LIHEAP plans MUST include the LIHEAP Household Report for the previous year Federal fiscal year regarding assisted households and households applying for assistance.

The LIHEAP statute requires the Secretary to collect data on the number and income levels of households assisted and the following additional household data:

  • number of assisted households with at least one young child;
  • number and income levels of households applying for LIHEAP assistance; and
  • number of assisted households with at least one or more individuals who are 60 years or older or disabled. 

States, the District of Columbia, and Territories with regular allotments of $200,000 or more (i.e., Puerto Rico) will need to collect this data on their FY 2013 applicant and recipient households in order to submit the data as part of their FY 2014 grant applications.  Tribal grantees and Territories with regular allotments of less than $200,000 are required to submit only information on the number of households served in each of its program components (i.e., heating, cooling, crisis, and weatherization).  We will issue a separate Action Transmittal with forms and instructions for the Household Report.

The FY 2013 Household Report must be submitted no later than September 1, 2013, with at least estimates provided. If estimates are provided or changes to final numbers have occurred, the FY 2013 Household Report must be resubmitted no later than December 15, 2013, with final numbers.

Carryover and Reallotment Report:

The FY 2013 Carryover and Reallotment Report is required is due no later than August 1, 2013.  This report includes the amount of funds each grantee will carry over from FY 2013 to FY 2014 up to the 10 percent cap. The report also includes any balance of funds that the grantee has available for reallotment by ACF (i.e., due to exceeding the carryover cap). Prompt submission of this report allows grantees and ACF to identify potential under-obligation of funds such that program administration adjustments might be made to ensure timely obligation of funds before the end of the Federal fiscal year.

Please remember that the statute provides that no grantee will receive its FY 2014 grant until it has submitted its Carryover and Reallotment Report for its FY 2013 funds.  In some cases, we had to delay grant awards to grantees with otherwise complete applications because they had not submitted their Carryover and Reallotment Report.

Other Certifications:

Please remember that all States, whether or not they use the Model Plan and whether or not they file a detailed plan, must file the Lobbying certification and, if applicable, Form LLL, which discloses lobbying payments.  Tribes and Tribal organizations are not required to file the Lobbying certification. 

The Debarment and Suspension certification must be filed by all grantees.

All grantees must submit the Drug-free Workplace certification, unless a State has submitted a statewide assurance to the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Please note that the Drug-free Workplace and the Debarment and Suspension certifications do not require signatures. Submission of those forms with the application indicates agreement to adhere to the specified certifications.

Program Integrity Assessment (Assessment)

Beginning with FY 2011 Plans, we adopted an ongoing requirement that all grantees supplement their Plan each Federal fiscal year with a “LIHEAP Program Integrity Assessment” (“Assessment”) in order to receive funding.  The Assessment is part of an effort by ACF to ensure that effective preventive controls, fraud detection, monitoring, and prosecution systems exist at all levels of the program’s administration to prevent improper payments, fraud, waste or abuse.  Grantees must specifically address how the plan will address key elements of an effective fraud prevention system. Attachment 5 provides a framework and checklist that States may use to provide this information.  While LIHEAP grantees are not required to use this format, the format that is submitted must include all of the information requested in Attachment 5.  As a reminder, the Assessment should be included in the Plan for purposes of public comments and public hearing.

After receiving feedback from grantees and the Program Integrity Working Group, we are providing further clarification below on the information requested in the Assessment.  For more background on the Assessment, please see LIHEAP-AT-2010-6.

In General:

  • Many of the questions in the Assessment address overlapping topics.  Please place responses under the most appropriate question.  If information is relevant to more than one question, you may provide the information once and refer to that section for other questions.  However, please do not answer questions only by referring to sections in your application for funding.  In order for the assessment to be marked complete, please provide a response and refer to the application or other attachments only for documentation.
  • Please enter a response in each box, if the model format is used, even if the answer is “None” or “N/A.”
  • Please make sure to distinguish between documentation and verification.  For example, a grantee may require documentation of identity, such as a Social Security card, but may not verify that documentation through a database or other means.  Verification requires documentation to be checked against an independent source, and does not include mere inspection of documentation.
  • Please make sure to distinguish between requiring and requesting information.  Some grantees may require Social Security Numbers, while others may only request them.  Please be clear about this distinction when describing your policies.
  • Please make sure to clarify whether policies, such as documenting and verifying identity, apply to the applicant or all members of a household, and any exceptions to these policies (e.g., for infants).

Clarification of Individual Questions:

  • Question 1, concerning audit findings:  Please list the types of findings, if any, in recent audits (e.g., reporting, financial, etc.).  In addition, please describe the activities taken to resolve such findings.
  • Question 2, concerning monitoring:  This question’s focus is the monitoring activities at the grantee and local agency levels, if local agencies are used.  Compliance monitoring of grantee and local agency procedures should clearly be addressed, with a description of how monitoring is undertaken.
  • Question 3, concerning fraud reporting: This question addresses the methods by which the public may report fraud.  Several grantees also provided information on separate procedures for fraud reporting by local agencies or vendors.  If you have additional or separate procedures for these or other groups, please indicate this.
  • Questions 4, 5, and 6, concerning identity verification: Implied in question 4 is the distinction between documentation and verification.  Please indicate both how identity is documented as well as how identity is verified. This question overlaps considerably with questions 5 and 6.  Question 4 seeks a broad overview of identification policies, whereas questions 5 and 6 focus in on Social Security Number policies.  For all three questions, please clarify whether policies apply to applicants or all household members. 
  • Question 7, concerning verification of income:  Again, this question seeks information about verification practices, which implies a request for documentation practices.  Many grantees included income documentation that is required of applicants, such as pay stubs, bank statements, tax records, unemployment insurance documents, employer letters, etc.  For example, a response might indicate that unemployment insurance documentation is checked against the state unemployment insurance database.
  • Question 8, concerning confidentiality practices:  Responses to this question may range from having a confidentiality policy in place, to staff training on confidentiality, to database safeguards.  This should include policies that affect local agencies, if applicable.
  • Question 9, concerning direct payments to energy vendors:  This question seeks information about fraud deterrence when making payments on behalf of clients to energy vendors.  Examples of responses include computer safeguards, coordination of payments among similar programs, monitoring, requirements for submission of bills, and training for vendors.
  • Question 10, concerning payments to unregulated vendors: This question overlaps with question 9, but seeks to determine whether there are additional or different policies in place to deter fraud in transactions with unregulated fuel vendors.  Grantees should describe how the grantee assures that unregulated vendors deliver what is promised. 
  • Question 11, concerning authenticity of vendors:  Questions 9 and 10 relate to delivery and financial transaction.  In contrast, question 11 seeks a description of policies that ensure vendors are authentic before a transaction takes place.  Responses may include vendor registration policies, vendor agreements, monitoring, checking against debarment lists, and requiring submission of vendor Taxpayer Identification Numbers.
  • Question 12, concerning training and technical assistance:  Please be sure to explain training practices for each of the four groups listed – grantee staff, subgrantees, clients, and vendors – and how training is different for each group.
  • Question 13, concerning audits of local agencies:  This question only applies to those grantees that utilize subgrantees.  Please describe audit requirements that are placed on subgrantees, as well as if and how those audit reports are used by grantees (e.g., as part of the monitoring process).

Timely Application Submittal and Completion by Tribes, States and Territories:

In accordance with the E-Government Act of 2002 (PL 107-347), beginning with FY 2012 Plans, we require that all Plans and attachments be submitted in an electronic format (Microsoft Office files and/or PDF).

In order to alleviate difficulties with submitting the plan by email, OCS is now requiring grantees to submit the Carryover and Reallotment Report, Household Report, annual LIHEAP plan, and LIHEAP Program Integrity Assessment through the ACF On-Line Data Collection (OLDC) system.  OLDC is a web-based system.

You will be able to enter data for the Carryover Report and Household Report directly into OLDC. 

Before submitting the Household Report through OLDC, you will be able to attach a copy of the completed Plan and Program Integrity Assessment to submit all three documents online.  We will no longer be accepting plans via email, mail, or fax, unless technical limitations require an alternative way of submitting. If this is the case, please contact the ACF Liaison for your region as soon as possible. 

Detailed information will soon be coming about how to register as a user for OLDC.  We will also be providing training on how to navigate the system and submit the required reports.

Early receipt and processing of your application will facilitate your ability to meet the statutory requirement to obligate at least 90 percent of your funds in the fiscal year in which they are appropriated. Grantees should allow approximately four to six weeks for to review the Plan and other required documents.  ACF issues grant awards after Congress appropriates funds for the given Federal fiscal year and receives the funding from the Office of Management and Budget. A longer time may be required if we have to request additional information because an application is not complete. 

Therefore, we strongly encourage early submission of completed Plans and required documents.  Plans will be reviewed in the order in which they are received, and early receipt will greatly increase our ability to approve Plans by the time funding is available to ACF.

The Cash Management Improvement Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-453, as amended by P.L. 102-589), remains in effect.  This statute, which covers States and Territories but not Tribes, imposes a requirement for timely transfers of funds between Federal agencies and States.  The Department of the Treasury issued a Final Rule (57 FR 60676-606894, published December 21, 1992) implementing the statute, which affects the LIHEAP program.  It is important that we receive your plan several weeks before you intend to draw funds from the Federal Payment Management System so that we may comply with the intent of this Act and its implementing regulations.

As noted above, all necessary information must be included in the plan before it can be accepted as complete and we can issue a grant. When we have to ask for additional information, it means that you may not receive the grant award on the schedule you had planned.  We have noticed that plans often fail to include the same kinds of additional information that we had to request the previous year in order to make the application complete.  Accordingly, we suggest that you include in your detailed application answers to the questions or the information we requested in previous years.

Please remember that all grantees have an ongoing responsibility to submit revised forms, as needed, based on changes to the information they originally reported to ACF.

The Model Plan can be downloaded from the ACF website under “Grantees, Forms, Funding Applications” at:

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/

ATTACHMENTS:    (1) LIHEAP Plan Reminders

                               (2) Schedule for Detailed LIHEAP Plans

                               (3) LIHEAP Detailed Model Plan for FY 2014 and Certifications

                               (4) LIHEAP Abbreviated Model Plan for FY 2014 and Certifications

                               (5) LIHEAP Program Integrity Framework

INQUIRIES:  LIHEAP Regional Liaisons

                 

 _____________/s________________

Nick St. Angelo
Director
Division of Energy Assistance
Office of Community Services