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SSBG Q & As Hurricane Sandy Supplemental FY 2013

Published: April 30, 2013
Audience:
Social Services Block Grants (SSBG)
Category:
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Q & As

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Social Services Block Grant (SSBG)
Hurricane Sandy Supplemental 2013

The following document provides information in a question and answer (Q&A) format based on technical assistance questions received by the Office of Community Services (OCS).  At least one additional round of Q&As will be developed and disseminated on the SSBG website at the following address.   http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/programs/ssbg

Questions related to the specific circumstances of each State should be addressed through consultation with an assigned Federal program liaison.  A list of staff assignments is provided on the following weblink:  http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/ssbg-staff-assignments-by-r...

I. GENERAL INFORMATION

Question:
Is the purchase of food cards an allowable cost under Social Service Block Grant (SSBG) regulations?
Answer:
Yes, SSBG funds can be used to pay for the food card costs for individuals and families who the State has determined were affected by Hurricane Sandy and are targeted for services within the State’s intended use plan.  The program serves families with multiple, complex problems who are in crisis and at high risk for family separation and this satisfies one of the five statutory goals of “preventing or remedying neglect, abuse, or exploitation of children and adults unable to protect their own interests, or preserving, rehabilitating, or reuniting families.” The costs of food cards can be categorized as Protective Services for Adults. The Uniform Definitions of Services established in Federal Regulations for the SSBG program at 45 CFR Subtitle A, 96.14(a) defines Protective Services for Adults as “those services or activities designed to prevent or remedy abuse, neglect, or exploitation of adults who are unable to protect their own interests. Examples of situations that may require protective services are injury due to maltreatment or family violence; lack of adequate food, clothing, or shelter; lack of essential medical treatment or rehabilitation services; and lack of necessary financial or other resources.”

Question:
What costs should be included on line 31 “Administrative Costs” on the SSBG post-expenditure report form?
Answer:
States may use SSBG for administrative costs including planning and evaluation, personnel training and retraining directly related to the provision of services, licensing activities, and the overhead costs of providing services as authorized under Section 2002(a)(2)(B) of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C.1397a(a)(2)(B)]. States may pay for these administrative functions entirely with SSBG. Some States include administrative costs within the expenditures reported for particular service categories.

II. TIME LIMIT

Question:
What is the time period to expend these relief funds?
Answer:
The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 [Public Law (P.L.) 113-2], was signed into law on January 29, 2013.  States must obligate and expend 2013 SSBG Supplemental Funds by September 30, 2015.

III. ALLOWABLE COSTS

Question:
What services can the 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds cover?
Answer:
States may use the 2013 SSBG Supplemental Funds for the usual array of human services, provided that the services directly relate to Hurricane Sandy.  In addition, the funds may be used to help meet the health care, mental health, and child care needs of people affected by the Hurricane Sandy occurring during October 2012.  Although Title XX does not include specific eligibility criteria for services, States are expected to determine appropriate eligibility criteria and verification procedures to ensure that services reach populations targeted for services in the State’s intended use plan.  All individuals and families targeted for services must be impacted by Hurricane Sandy and meet additional eligibility criteria established by the State for specific services included in the intended use plan. Hurricane Sandy SSBG Supplemental Funds are available for services directly related to Hurricane Sandy that fall within the goals of the SSBG program and services as outlined in Title XX of the Social Security Act, as amended [42 U.S.C. § 1397 et seq.]. Title XX stipulates that States must direct services to one or more of five social services goals:

• Achieving or maintaining economic self-support to prevent, reduce, or eliminate dependency;
• Achieving or maintaining self-sufficiency, including reduction or prevention of dependency;
• Preventing or remedying neglect, abuse, or exploitation of children and adults unable to protect their own interests, or preserving, rehabilitating, or reuniting families;
• Preventing or reducing inappropriate institutional care by providing for community-based care, home-based care, or other forms of less intensive care;
• and Securing referral or admission for institutional care when other forms of care are not appropriate or providing services to individuals in institutions.

The funds may also be used for the repair, renovation and rebuilding of health facilities, including mental health facilities, child care centers, and other social service facilities that were directly damaged by Hurricane Sandy and which have been determined by the State to be a priority for repair or reconstruction. States must establish procedures for verifying that the requested repair, renovation or rebuilding costs are not reimbursable through FEMA disaster assistance, under a contract for insurance, or by self-insurance. 

Question: 
Can 2013 SSBG Funds be used to repair, renovate, or rebuild child care centers?            
Answer:
Yes, States can use funds for the repair, renovation, and rebuilding of child care facilities. Child care is provided in a range of environments including child care centers, family child care homes operated as a small business, before-and-after school settings, and community-based organizations. SSBG Funds may be used for the costs of renovating facilities or family child care homes that suffered flooding or other damage, as well as for the costs of replacing supplies, learning materials, outdoor play equipment, or furniture, such as cribs. Child care is a critical piece of restoring the economic health of a community, allowing families with children to return to work and move towards self-sufficiency. In addition, child care helps children return to normalcy, mitigating traumatic effects of the disaster.

Question: 
Can 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds be used for child care vouchers?                                                      
Answer: Yes, 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds can be used to support child care services, and State governments have significant discretion in the organization and delivery of services.  The State may establish a voucher or subsidy payment approach, but would need to make sure appropriate controls were in place to ensure that vouchers were directed to disaster-affected populations and that funds would be obligated and expended within the allowable time frames.  Alternately, the State may also choose to enter into a contract or grant with child care centers or providers in order to reserve slots for children of impacted families. The State has significant discretion in developing its policies and procedures, but OCS staff can advise in the process and can review specific state plans to ensure compliance with SSBG disaster supplemental requirements. Child care services must meet applicable health, safety, and regulatory standards of State and local law.

Question:
Must all 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds be spent on Hurricane Sandy victims?
Answer:
Yes, the statute states that these funds are for necessary expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy.

Question:
Can repair or replacement of vans and equipment at nonprofits be funded with 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds?
Answer:
Yes, these funds are for necessary expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy. Funds may be used to help meet the needs of people affected by Hurricane Sandy such as repair or replacement of vans and equipment in order to access services, or obtain medical care or employment.

Question:
Can this money be used to purchase future supplies and/or equipment which will aid in future disasters?
Answer:
No, 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds cannot be used to purchase supplies and/or equipment that will aid in future disasters.  The supplemental SSBG funds are solely to address necessary expenses resulting from Hurricane Sandy.

Question:
Can expenditures directly related to Hurricane Sandy that were incurred by community agencies qualify as a reimbursable expense?
Answer:
Yes, 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds can be used to reimburse units of local governments, emergency responders, faith-based agencies and consortiums that incurred expenditures providing social services to people directly affected by Hurricane Sandy in your State.

Question:
Can 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds be used for computer equipment (hardware & software) to develop a data base for the impacted areas - identification of the people and services affected by Hurricane Sandy which will in turn improve our response capabilities for future events? 
Answer:
2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds cannot be used for computer equipment to develop a database with the purpose of preparing for future disasters.  The supplemental funds are to address necessary expenses resulting from Hurricane Sandy.  These funds were not allocated for preparation for future disasters. Therefore funds shall not be used for this purpose.  However, if the purpose of a database is to track and coordinate services to people and organizations impacted by Hurricane Sandy, hardware and software could be purchased for this purpose.

Question:
If an individual lost their house to Hurricane Sandy, would temporary housing be an allowable cost under 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds?
Answer:
Yes, 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds may be used to pay for temporary housing for someone displaced due to Hurricane Sandy.  This cost can be categorized as Housing Services. The Uniform Definitions of Services established in Federal Regulations for the SSBG program at 45 C.F.R. § 96.14(a) defines Housing Services as "services or activities designed to assist individuals or families in locating, obtaining, or retaining suitable housing."

Question:
A long term recovery committee still has expenses for which they have not been reimbursed.  Are the expenses covered under 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds?
Answer:
Yes, expenses which have not yet been reimbursed related to Hurricane Sandy are allowable costs. However, the funds are not allocated for preparation for future disasters.

Question: 
Can home repairs, mold removal, repairs to septic systems and water lines, purchase of appliances and furniture, bedding, and debris removal be covered by 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds?
Answer:
If the State determines payments for home repairs, repairs to septic system and water lines, purchase of appliances and furniture, bedding, and debris removal are consistent with the goals outlined in SSBG authorizing legislation or are integral but subordinate to the services to help meet the health care needs, achieve or maintain economic self-support, or prevent abuse of individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy, these repairs would be covered.

Question:
Can 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds to be used to pay for staff traveling to remote locations for eligibility determination purposes?
Answer:
Yes, 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds can be used to pay for staff traveling for eligibility determination purposes. This would fall under the case management service category.  Component services and activities may include individual service plan development; counseling; monitoring, developing, securing, and coordinating services; monitoring and evaluating client progress; and assuring that client’s rights are protected.

IV. FEMA INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE DATA AND MATCH

Question:
Is a State limited to using 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds only in those counties for which the President declared a major disaster and in which Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual Assistance programs were authorized?
Answer:
No, there is no specific guidance or requirement to limit the use of the 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds to only those counties for which the Hurricane Sandy and FEMA Individual Assistance programs were authorized.  In some circumstances, hurricane victims may have relocated from one area to another.  The State should conduct its own assessment of needs, geographic locations, and priority areas in order to support services for affected populations of disasters and to repair, renovate and construct health care facilities (including mental health facilities), child care centers, and other social services facilities.

Question:
Is FEMA Individual Assistance registrant data available by county for use by the State?
Answer:
Yes, please refer to the FEMA website http://www.fema.gov/disasters for information on Individual Assistance registrant data.

Question:
Can SSBG funds be used for FEMA match?
Answer:
Although FEMA has primary authority and responsibility for oversight and verification of any required nonfederal match, neither the federal nor the nonfederal share of a particular grant program may be used by a grantee to match funds provided under another federal grant program unless specifically authorized by law. In other words, unless expressly authorized by statute, a grantee may not use funds received under one federal grant as the matching share under a separate grant, nor may it use the same grantee dollars to meet two separate matching requirements. We are not aware of any FEMA statutes or authorities that allow SSBG supplemental appropriations to be used to meet State cost match requirements.

V. REPAIR, RENNOVATION AND REBUILDING

Question:
Is prior Federal approval required to use 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds for construction or renovation?
Answer:
Yes,  prior approval is required. Based on expressed Congressional intent that SSBG funds be available for health, mental health, and building renovation, repair, or rebuilding activities, ACF will conduct expedited review of all waiver requests.  Waiver requests for renovation, repair, or rebuilding must include a description of the services and activities to be supported and the extraordinary circumstances warranting a waiver.  Since disaster related renovation, repair, and rebuilding will be considered extraordinary circumstances, the primary purpose of the waiver requests will be to obtain necessary information for Federal monitoring purposes.  States must also certify that the requested costs are not reimbursable through FEMA disaster assistance, under a contract for insurance, or by self-insurance.

Question:
When is a Notice of Federal Interest (NFI) required?
Answer:
When undertaking renovations that cost more than the lesser of $200,000 or 25 percent of the approved project budget of total repairs to the property, the property owner must file an NFI. Renovation costs that fall below this threshold are not covered by the requirement. However, all real property purchases and new construction are covered regardless of dollar level.

Question:
Does a State follow its own administrative rules in regards to bidding as it applies to the use of 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds for construction?
Answer:
Yes, bidding is covered by the two qualifications for States to utilize when they intend to use 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds for private, as well as public and non-profit entities, to repair, renovate or construct health care facilities.

1. States will apply their own administrative standards when they issue sub-awards of 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds for construction. This means State standards relating to the protection and disposition of real estate purchased or constructed with grant funds are applicable to funds awarded.

2. States must establish, as a condition of funding to all entities receiving 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds for construction, the requirement that a Notice of Federal Interest (NFI) is filed as a condition of the award.  In this way, the NFI officially recognizes the Federal government's continuing financial interest in the property.

Question:
When the Notice of Federal Interest is completed and notarized, do we have the benefiting facility just keep it on file?
Answer:
The requirement is that all entities receiving 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds for construction file a Notice of Federal Interest (NFI) with the State as a condition of the award. As such, the State retains the NFI and a copy is mailed to Administration for Children and Families, Division of Mandatory Grants, 370 L'Enfant Promenade, SW, 6th Floor East, Washington, DC 20447.

Question:
How can a sub-recipient repay the funds to satisfy the NFI? Are there any penalties or will the provider be required to pay any interest?
Answer:
When the facility is not longer needed for SSBG purposes, the funds can be repaid based upon the proportion of the Federal contribution to the current market value. For example, if 30% of the invested construction cost for a facility was from Federal government funds, then the Federal government should receive 30% of the fair market value of the facility at disposition.  If the provider pays the Federal government its share of the fair market value in the facility at the time of a sale or other disposition, there is no question of interest or penalties on the amount.

Question:
Does the Davis-Bacon Act apply to 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds?
Answer:
The Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that the Davis-Bacon Act does not apply to construction activities paid for in whole or in part with 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds.

A Federal grant program can only require a grantee to follow provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act if the statute authorizing the program requires it.  However, the State law must be followed in States that require construction grant projects to follow the Davis-Bacon Act. ACF recommends that States check with their own Attorney General to determine whether State construction projects supported by Federal funds are subject to prevailing wage rate requirements under State law.

VI.  REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Question:
Can the intended use plan (pre-expenditure report) submitted in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 be amended for 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds?
Answer:
Yes, States that received 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds are required to submit an amendment to their FY 2013 pre-expenditure report (intended use plan) regarding the use of the 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds.  ACF will award up to 50 percent of each State’s allotment upon receipt of an initial 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds pre-expenditure report. This report should outline how the State will use available funding for activities allowable under the regular Title XX program, as well as clear timelines for execution and completion of grant activities.

The deadline for submission of the complete 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds pre-expenditure report for the full State allocation will be June 30, 2013. This requirement is in accordance with Section 2004 of the Social Security Act [42U.S.C. § 1397c], which governs reporting requirements for the SSBG program and requires updates for substantial changes in activities supported.

States receiving 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds are also required to submit a post-expenditure report for the annual SSBG funding and a separate report for the 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds. Due to the unique nature of the 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds, some of the construction activities and health services may not fit the State’s definition of services or the Uniform Definition of Services provided by HHS.  In such cases, the States are advised to note the activity of services as “Other Services” and differentiate between construction costs, health care or mental health costs and include details in the 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds post-expenditure report using the definition provided below.

States are reminded to track expenditures of 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds separately from the annual SSBG allotments and submit expenditure data 2013 Supplemental SSBG Funds using the required OMB No.: 0970-0234 form. In cases where no fit is possible between the State-defined services and the Uniform Definitions of Services, States are advised to note expenditures using item 29, “other services.”  States should clearly define all expenditures noted under “other services,” including construction, health care and mental health services.

Definitions for construction services should include the type of construction service (e.g. repair and/or renovation) as well as the number and type of facilities (e.g. health and/or mental health) for which Supplemental funds were used. Health care and mental health services should include the types of activities (or services) supported, and the categories or characteristics of individuals served (such as children, adults 59 and younger, adults 60 and older).

VII. WAIVER REQUIREMENTS

Question:
What activities allowed under the Hurricane Sandy supplemental require a Federal waiver?
Answer:
Consistent with Section 2006 of Title XX, waiver requests are required for activities that involve either of the following activities:

• the purchase or improvement of land, or the purchase, construction, or permanent improvement  (other than minor remodeling) of any building or other facility; or

• the provision of medical care (other than family planning services, rehabilitation services, or initial detoxification of an alcoholic or drug dependent individual) unless it is an integral but subordinate part of a social service for which grants may be used under this title.

Grantees must document extraordinary circumstances justifying the waiver and must demonstrate that permitting the waiver will contribute to the State’s ability to carry out the purposes outlined in Title XX.

Question:
Doesn’t “Hurricane Sandy” in itself qualify as an extraordinary circumstance? 
Answer:
Yes.  However, a waiver request must outline how a proposed activity (e.g. building repair) is directly related to Hurricane Sandy.

Question: 
Are separate waiver requests required for each activity?  For example, are separate requests required for each building repair? 
Answer:
No.   A consolidated waiver request may be provided.  For example a table may be provided outlining proposed services and/or repair and reconstruction activities.  In some instances, ACF may approve a waiver contingent upon additional reporting or documentation, but may approve the inclusion of specific general services or activities in the States intended use plan.

However, a waiver request must outline how a proposed activity (e.g. building repair) is directly related to Hurricane Sandy.  Based on expressed Congressional intent that SSBG Hurricane Sandy supplemental funds be available for health, mental health, and building renovation, repair, or rebuilding activities, ACF will expedite the approval of requests for such services provided they are directly related to Hurricane Sandy. 

Question: 
Is there a prescribed form or format for waiver requests? 
Answer:
No, waiver requests may be included in the submission of the State’s full pre-expenditure report or may be provided through separate correspondence.  Waiver requests must be signed by the governor or by the SSBG official designated by the governor with oversight authority for SSBG. 

Question: 
What information should be included in a waiver request? 
Answer:
To satisfy the requirement that waivers be related to extraordinary circumstances, all waiver requests must describe how each of the identified services or activities included in the waiver are  directly related to Hurricane Sandy.   For waivers related to health or mental health services, the request must then describe the service activities, and provide eligibility criteria and verification procedures as appropriate.   Other aspects of administration and monitoring of activities may be included in the State’s overall intended use plan.

Waiver requests for renovation, repair, or rebuilding must also describe how the identified needs are directly related to Hurricane Sandy.  In addition, States must also certify and describe procedures for verifying that the requested costs are not reimbursable through FEMA disaster assistance, under a contract for insurance, or by self-insurance.  States must also provide the location(s) of impacted properties, describe the impact/damage from Hurricane Sandy, and discuss the necessary repairs.  This information may be provided in a table or narrative format.   Waiver requests should include a certification that a Notice of Federal Interest (NFI) will be established for rebuilding in excess of $200,000 and that ACF will receive a written copy of the NFI.  Lastly, the waiver request must certify that the State will provide any requested documentation requested in on-site or remote monitoring.