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LIHEAP Action Transmittal 2014-03 Model Plan Application for FY 2015

Published: July 18, 2014
Audience:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Category:
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Action Transmittal

LOW-INCOME HOME ENERGY
 ASSISTANCE

ActionTransmittal

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Office of Community Services
Division of Energy Assistance
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20447
   http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap

Transmittal No. LIHEAP-AT-2014-03                                     Date:  July 17, 2014

TO:                             

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

SUBJECT:                             

Model Plan Application for LIHEAP Funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 (All Applications due September 1, 2014)

RELATED  REFERENCES:                

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Act, as amended (Title XXVI of 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 the 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 the Secretary shall make available a model LIHEAP plan which may be used to prepare the application required under Sections 2605(a)(1) and (c)(1).

 

PURPOSE:                            

To provide LIHEAP grantees with instructions for how to access and submit the new LIHEAP Plan, explain changes to the Plan requirements, to remind states, tribes, and territories that all applications are due September 1 through the On-Line Data Collection (OLDC) system, and to make all grantees aware of a training webinar on submitting the Plan through OLDC.                                                                                   

CONTENT:                           

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published two Federal Register notices announcing changes to the LIHEAP Plan and Program Integrity Assessment.  After considering comments receiving in response to those notices, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved ACF’s revised LIHEAP Plan (Clearance number 0970-0075, through 6/30/2017).   The new LIHEAP Plan contains required content for all LIHEAP grantees for the FY 2015 Plan and is due to ACF via OLDC on September 1, 2014.  In addition to some new questions, the major change to the LIHEAP Plan has been the incorporation of the Program Integrity Assessment questions, which used to be a separate report.  ACF has also provided response options to most questions based on the most common responses grantees submitted in prior years.  Every question has an “other” response choice, the selection of which then requires a narrative explanation.  Additionally, grantees may submit as many attachments to their Plan as they wish.  The other major changes relate to a new form requirement, the SF-424M, and the requirement of an electronic signature to the LIHEAP assurances. These requirements are explained below under Assurances.

The LIHEAP Plan can be accessed through OLDC at:

                                    https://extranet.acf.hhs.gov/ssi/

                                    Training webinar for all LIHEAP grantees:

ACF will conduct a webinar for all LIHEAP grantees on July 24, 2014 at 3:30pm EST.  The webinar will cover how to access OLDC and submit the new LIHEAP Plan using the system.  A reminder email with instructions for how to connect to the webinar will be sent to all grantees beforehand.  We encourage grantees to invite all staff that will be using OLDC to complete parts of the LIHEAP Plan to participate in this webinar.  This webinar will also be recorded and made available online after the event.

Deadlines:

Submission: Grantees must submit an application (Plan) to the ACF each federal fiscal year in order to receive LIHEAP funds.  The deadline for all grantees to submit the annual Plan is no later than September 1, 2014.

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 tribal 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 ACF 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, 2014. 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:

There is no longer a distinction between detailed and abbreviated LIHEAP Plans.  All LIHEAP grantees must complete the entire LIHEAP Plan for FY 2015 in OLDC.  In future years, the information you provided in the prior year will be prepopulated into your next year’s draft LIHEAP Plan in OLDC.  You will then be able to update any changes to your Plan as needed.

            Assurances:

The assurances displayed in the second to last section of the LIHEAP Plan are from the  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.

As noted in our regional grantee training meetings this spring, there is a new federal form that is required of all grantee applications for funding. This form, the SF-424M, is available in OLDC as the first section of your LIHEAP Plan.  It is a new requirement in FY 2015 that the person that is designated to “sign the LIHEAP assurances” have an OLDC account and be the person to “certify” the LIHEAP Plan by clicking the “Certify” and “Click to Sign” buttons once the LIHEAP Plan is ready for submission.  This is because the SF-424M now requires electronic signatures to program assurances.  Therefore, if your Governor or Tribal Chairperson chooses not to designate someone else to sign the LIHEAP assurances, then the Governor or Tribal Chairperson must have his or her own OLDC account and “certify” the FY 2015 LIHEAP Plan.  The OLDC Administrator in your office can establish additional OLDC accounts for users such as your Governor or Tribal Chairperson.  You may contact your liaison with our office if you need assistance with this.  The contact information for all LIHEAP liaisons are at the end of this guidance.  A tutorial on how to create new accounts in OLDC can be found here: https://extranet.acf.hhs.gov/oldcdocs/materials.html.  It is called OLDC Assignment Delegation and is listed under the subsection, FVPS Training Demonstrations.

It is not sufficient to scan and attach a hardcopy signature to the LIHEAP assurances.  It must be the electronic signature of the Governor/Tribal Chairperson or his or her designee.  If the Governor/Tribal Chairperson signs a delegation letter, then the delegation letter must be attached to the Plan in OLDC and the designee must be the person to “certify” the Plan in the system.

In applying for LIHEAP funds for FY 2015, 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 LIHEAP Plan includes a section to report leveraging activities to take place during the federal fiscal year that will be coordinated with LIHEAP.  You must include the information in Section 14 of your plan that will be necessary for activities to count for leveraging funds awarded the next year (e.g., FY 2016).   Grantees must also amend their FY 201 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 2014 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

            Household Report:

The statute requires that complete LIHEAP plans MUST include the LIHEAP Household Report for the previous 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  will need to collect this data on their FY 2014 applicant and recipient households in order to submit the data as part of their FY 2015 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 instructions for the Household Report.
 
The FY 2014 Household Report must be submitted no later than September 1, 2014, with at least estimates provided. If estimates are provided or changes to final numbers have occurred, the FY 2014 Household Report must be resubmitted no later than December 15, 2014, with final data.  All grantees must submit the Household Report through OLDC.
 
            Carryover and Reallotment Report:
 
The FY 2014 Carryover and Reallotment Report is required of all grantees and is due no later than August 1, 2014.  The report must be submitted through OLDC.  This report includes the amount of funds each grantee will carry over from FY 2014 to FY 2015 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 2015 grant until it has submitted the Carryover and Reallotment Report for its FY 2014 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 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.  When completing this certification, be sure to enter the grantee’s physical address in the appropriate fields, rather than a P.O. Box.
 
All of the above certifications are incorporated into the Model Plan in OLDC, in Sections 18-20.  Please ensure that the certification checkbox is marked in each required certification’s section.  Please note that the Drug-free Workplace and the Debarment and Suspension certifications do not require signatures. Submission of the model plan with the certification checkbox selected for each certification indicates agreement to adhere to the specified certifications.  While the Lobbying certification does require signature, it does not need to be signed separately in OLDC.  Clicking the “Certify” and “Click to Sign” buttons prior to submission of the entire Model Plan effectively renders that certification signed.
 
Program Integrity 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” in order to receive funding.  As discussed above, this form is no longer a separate report.  The questions previously asked in the Program Integrity Assessment are now incorporated into the new Plan. Therefore, grantees do not need to submit a separate Program Integrity Assessment for FY 2015.
  
 
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, and the annual LIHEAP Plan through OLDC, a web-based system.
 
We do not accept plans via email, mail, or fax, unless technical limitations require an alternative submission method. If this is the case, please contact the ACF Liaison for your region as soon as possible. 
 
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.
 
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.
                       
INQUIRIES:              LIHEAP Regional Liaisons

 

 
                                                                        ______/s/_______________________
                                                                        Jeannie L. Chaffin
                                                                        Director
                                                                        Office of Community Services