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LIHEAP IM 2011-07 Model Plan and Program Integrity Assessment Application for FY 2012 Funding

Published: April 6, 2011
Audience:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Category:
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Information Memorandums (IM), Model Plan

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Information Memorandum

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Office of Community Services
Division of State Assistance
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20447

Transmittal No.  LIHEAP-IM-2011-07 Date:  April 6, 2011
TO: LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (LIHEAP) GRANTEES AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES

GUIDANCE
INTENDED FOR:
__X__STATES

__X__TRIBES/TRIBAL ORGANIZATIONS

__X__TERRITORIES

SUBJECT:  Model Plan and Program Integrity Assessment Application for LIHEAP Funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 (All Applications due September 1, 2011—new electronic submission requirement)

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 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 format and to remind States, Tribes, and Territories that all applications are due September 1.

CONTENT:

Attached for your use is the Model Plan format for use by States, Territories, and Indian Tribes/Tribal organizations in developing your Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 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.

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:

We wish to remind grantees that they must submit an application each fiscal year in order to receive LIHEAP funds.  Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations must, as has always been the case, submit their applications by September 1, unless the State(s) in which the Tribe or organization is located agrees to a later submission date.  A Final Rule published on October 15, 1999 in the Federal Register (64 FR 55843),  section 96.10(c)(2) of the LIHEAP regulations (45 C.F.R. §96.10(c)(2)), requires that applications from States and Territories must also be submitted by September 1 unless the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) agrees to a later date. 

The final rule also established a due date for the submission of all information required to complete the LIHEAP application, i.e., respond to inquiries and submit revisions to the HHS, by Tribes, States and Territories as December 15 of the fiscal year for which funds are being requested, unless the State(s) in which a Tribe is located (in the case of Tribal grantees) or HHS (in the case of States and Territories) agrees to a later date. 

Requests by grantees for extensions to the September 1 deadline must be submitted in writing prior to the due date, explain the cause for the delay and the date by which the materials can be submitted or completed. 

Detailed and Abbreviated Plans:

A detailed application is due from each grantee every three years.  In the alternate years, an abbreviated application may be submitted, consisting of:  (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; and (3) a report on applicant and recipient households for the previous year.  In addition, (4) an opportunity for public participation must be offered, and (5) States must also hold a public hearing.  Also, (6) the Carryover and Reallotment Report for the previous fiscal year must have been submitted.  The Carryover and Reallotment Report is due August 1.  In addition, (7) the appropriate certifications must be submitted, and lastly (8) the LIHEAP Household Report must be submitted with the application as described below.

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 2012.  Each grantee must submit either a Detailed Plan or an Abbreviated Model Plan each fiscal year.

Grantees must submit a “detailed application” every three years, or sooner, if they are making major changes to their LIHEAP programs.  Since 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 application, 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 must complete the detailed application.

Some current grantees must submit detailed applications for FY 2012 while the remaining portion of grantees will have the option of filing an abbreviated application for FY 2012.  Grantees that submit an abbreviated application for FY 2012 will be required to submit a detailed application for FY 2013 or FY 2014.  Attached is a schedule specifying which State grantees are required to file detailed applications in FY 2012 and FY 2013 (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 LIHEAP statute.  Grantees who choose not to use the Model Plan still may wish to use these pages.  Please be sure that (1) the Governor or Tribal Chairperson signs the assurances or (2) has specifically delegated authority to sign the LIHEAP assurances to the person who signs the assurances.  If a grantee has a new Governor or Tribal Chairperson, a new delegation letter is required.

In applying for LIHEAP funds for FY 2012, 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:

We wish to remind you 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 should include the information in your plan that will be necessary for activities to count for leveraging funds awarded the next year.   Grantees should also amend their current year’s plan to include any activities that are added during the year, but were not previously included in the plan, e.g., cooling component.

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 (See 45 C.F.R. §96.87(d)(2)(iii)). 

The plan must describe not only the resources/benefits to be counted under criterion 96.87(d)(2)(iii), but the plan must also 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/resource/funding-applications

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, before grant awards are made, complete LIHEAP applications MUST include the LIHEAP Household Report for the previous year on households applying for and assisted by LIHEAP.

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
the 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 2011 applicant and recipient households in order to submit the data as part of their FY 2012 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.

Carryover and Reallotment Report:

The required report on the amount of funds each grantee will carry over from FY 2011 to FY 2012–or will have available for reallotment—is due August 1.  Prompt submission of this report allows grantees and HHS to identify potential under obligation of funds in time to make adjustments before the end of the fiscal year.

However, please remember the statute provides that no grantee will receive its FY 2012 grant until it has submitted its Carryover and Reallotment Report for its FY 2011 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 application, 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, as must the Drug-free Workplace certification, unless a State has submitted a statewide assurance to HHS.  Please note that the Drug-free Workplace and the Debarment and Suspension certifications do not require signatures.  Submission of those forms with the LIHEAP Plan application indicates agreement to adhere to the specified certifications.

Program Integrity Assessment and Plan

Beginning last year with the FY 2011 Plans, we adopted an ongoing requirement that all grantees, including States, Tribes, and Territories, supplement their Plan each year with a “LIHEAP Program Integrity Assessment” (“Assessment”) in order to receive funding.  The Assessment is part of an effort by HHS 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 by each grantee 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 a public hearing.Additionally, the Assessment must be submitted with the LIHEAP Plan no later than September 1.

After receiving feedback from grantees and the LIHEAP Program Integrity Working Group on the first Assessment, 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 of the Assessment for other questions.  However, please do not answer questions only by referring to sections in your LIHEAP Plan.  In order for the assessment to be marked complete, please provide a thorough response and refer to the Plan or other attachments only as supporting documentation.
Please enter a response in each box, if the model format is used, even if the answer is “None” or “N/A.”  Explain explicitly whether any changes are planned for FY 2013.  Note:  There are three categories of questions/response boxes in each of the 13 topic areas.


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.
Also ensure your responses 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.
Clarify whether policies, such as documenting and verifying identity, apply to the applicant only or all household members
Mention if there are any exceptions to these policies, e.g., a grantee may not require a Social Security Number for infants.  Explain what alternate procedure, if any, is followed for such exceptions.


Remember that each topic area asks about what steps you took in FY 2011 and what changes, if any, you anticipate making to your policies and/or procedures in FY 2012.  Please address both program years.


Clarification of Individual Question Topics:

In an effort to document accurately all program integrity activities in which LIHEAP grantees engage, we ask grantees to provide sufficient detail in each response to the Assessment as to fully address each topic.  There are 13 topic areas (rows in the Model Assessment), each of which requires responses to three questions (columns in the Model Assessment). The following are details that we saw in many of the responses grantees submitted in the first Assessment.  We recommend that you address these details in your FY 2012 Assessment to enable us to clearly understand what steps your program takes to address each area:

Topic 1/Audit Findings:  Please list the types of audit findings   received in recent audits, e.g., reporting, financial, monitoring, eligibility, etc.  In addition, please describe the activities taken to resolve those findings.
Topic 2/Monitoring:  This topic’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, e.g., on-site visits, desk reviews, progress reports, corrective action plans, etc.  It should cover compliance relating to all levels of interaction, including grantees, subgrantees, vendors, and clients.
Topic 3/Fraud Reporting: This topic addresses the methods by which the public may report fraud, e.g., fraud web page, hotline, email address, dedicated staff to receive fraud reports, etc.  Several grantees also provided information on separate procedures for fraud reporting by grantee staff, local agencies, and vendors.  If you have additional or separate procedures for these or other groups, please indicate this.
Topics 4, 5, and 6/Identity Verification:  Implied in topic 4 is the distinction between documentation and verification.  Please indicate both how identity is documented, e.g., type of government ID’s accepted,  as well as how identity is verified, e.g., contacting the government agency that issued the ID document.  This topic overlaps considerably with topics 5 and 6.  Topic 4 seeks a broad overview of identification policies, whereas topics 5 and 6 focus on Social Security Number (SSN) policies only.  For all three questions, please clarify whether policies apply to applicants only or all household members. 
Topic 7/Income Verification:  Again, this topic seeks information about verification practices, which also implies a request for documentation practices.  Many grantees referred to 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.  Other example verification sources may include State New Hire databases, commercial services such as The Work Number, etc.  The response should also clarify what exceptions or special rules are in place for which household members’ income are excluded and why
Topic 8/Confidentiality Practices:  Responses to this topic may range from having a confidentiality policy in place, to staff training on confidentiality, to database safeguards and monitoring.  This should include policies that affect local agencies, if applicable.  It should also indicate what types of data are considered confidential and explain when confidential information may be shared, to whom, and through what process.
Topic 9/Benefits Policy:  This topic seeks information about fraud deterrence when determining the benefit amount for each household and in making payments on behalf of clients to energy vendors.  Examples of responses may include notifications to households of benefits paid directly to vendors, proof of physical residence of the household, coordination of payments among similar programs, requirements for submission of bills or certification of accounts and balance by vendors, centralized payment database, checks and balances between benefits determination approvers and payment issuance approvers, computer safeguards, monitoring, and training for vendors.  It also covers special policies concerning eligibility and income determinations as they affect the benefit amount determination, e.g., special rules regarding zero income certifications, counting income from those excluded as household members, etc.
Topic 10/Unregulated  Vendor Payments: This topic overlaps with topic 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.
Topic 11/Authenticity of Vendors:  Topics 9 and 10 relate to delivery and financial transactions.  In contrast, topic 11 seeks a description of policies that ensure vendors are who they say they are before a transaction takes place.  Responses may include vendor registration/licensing policies, verification of registrations with the appropriate government agency, vendor agreements, monitoring, checking against suspension and debarment lists, and requiring submission of vendor Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) or SSNs and verification of those TINs/SSNs.
Topic 12/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.  Responses are typically explain if there are training manuals, videos, and other tools available, how the tools are disseminated, the frequency of training and updating of tools, and whether there is any test or certification of completion of training required.
Topic 13/Local Agency Audits:  This topic only applies to those grantees that utilize subgrantees.  Please define “subgrantee” or “local agency” as it applies to your program and describe audit requirements that are placed on subgrantees/local agencies.  This will likely include the type of audit required, how audit reports are used by grantees, e.g., as part of the monitoring process, and what follow-up process the grantee uses regarding findings.
Timely Application Submittal and Completion by Tribes, States and Territories:

In accordance with the E-Government Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-347), beginning with FY 2012 Plans, we are requiring that all Plans, reports and other attachments be submitted in an electronic format (Microsoft Office files and/or PDF) to the “submissions” email address provided below.  Please submit each document, e.g., Plan, Program Integrity Assessment, and Household Report, as a separate attached file that is clearly labeled with your grantee name and file type, e.g., “2012 PI Assessment_Alabama.”  Ensure that a PDF copy of the original signature of the Governor/Tribal Chairman (or authorized delegate of record) to the LIHEAP assurances is included with your Plan submission.

For all documents that are due on September 1, please enter the following in the subject line of your email to our office:  “FY 2012 LIHEAP Plan Submission for [Grantee name].” 

In the “Grantee name” field, please spell out your entire name, e.g., Alabama, Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, etc.
Here is an example of a correct email subject line and list of attachments:


EMAIL MESSAGE
From:  Doe, John [Grantee]
Sent:  Thursday, September 1, 2011 9:00 AM
To:  Imani.moye@acf.hhs.gov
Subject:  FY 2012 LIHEAP Plan Submission for [Grantee Name]

Attachments:

2012 LIHEAP Plan_grantee name
2012 PI Assessment_grantee name
2012 Household Report_grantee nam
If you have technical limitations that will prevent submitting electronically, e.g., lack of Internet service or scanning machine, please notify the contact listed below as soon as possible regarding the limitation and how you intend to submit your Plan and other required documents. 

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.

We wish to remind grantees, in considering the specific opening dates established for their LIHEAP programs, that they should allow four to six weeks for the HHS review of their applications and issuance of grant awards.  A longer time may be required if we have to request additional information because an application is not complete.

The Cash Management Improvement Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-453, as amended by P.L. 102-589), is 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 F.R. 60676-606894, published December 21, 1992) implementing the statute, which affects the LIHEAP program.  It is important that we receive your application several weeks before you intend to draw funds from the 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 application 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 applications 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.

Another reason the approval process often takes longer than necessary is the submission of letters of delegations of the Governor’s or Tribal Chairperson’s authority that do not specify authority to “sign the LIHEAP assurances.”

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.”  A letter of 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.

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

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/funding-applications


ATTCHMENTS:
(1) LIHEAP Application Reminders
(2) Schedule for Detailed LIHEAP Plans
(3) LIHEAP Detailed Model Plan for FY 2012 and Certifications
(4) LIHEAP Abbreviated Model Plan for FY 2012 and Certifications
(5) LIHEAP Program Integrity Assessment Framework

INQUIRIES:
Matt Orlovick, Program Analyst
Division of Energy Assistance                           
Telephone: (202) 260-5329
E-mail: matthew.orlovick@acf.hhs.gov

ELECTRONIC
SUBMISSIONS:


Ms. Imani Moye
E-mail: imani.moye@acf.hhs.gov

 


_______/s/_________________
Nick St. Angelo
Director
Division of Energy Assistance
Office of Community Services