Understanding the Grant Process

As an applicant, we want you to understand what happens before and after we make grant awards.

What is the pre-award process?

HRSA staff work together to develop a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).

A NOFO includes:

  • The grant or cooperative agreement
    • Both provide assistance and follow the same administrative requirements.
    • The primary difference – the level of programmatic involvement.
  • The project period (start and end dates)

Some grant programs require you to submit audit program reports, which we evaluate to determine your financial viability.

How do you contact us?

You can find contact information in the NOFO, which will help you in a variety of ways.

Federal Assistance Management staff can:

  • Provide advice and clarity on budget and fiscal concerns
  • Explain grants management policy
  • Assist with Grants.gov registration and submission

Program staff can:

  • Provide advice and clarity on programmatic issues
  • Explain evaluation criteria

How do we review applications?

Every application receives a thorough review by a panel of independent reviewers.

We choose reviewers based on their knowledge, education, experience and any criteria included in the NOFO to which the applicants must respond.

  • Each reviewer reads between six and eight applications and scores each according to the evaluation criteria published in the NOFO.
  • The review panel meets and develops consensus statements identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each application.
    • We provide you this information in a summary statement whether or not you receive an award.
  • HRSA decides which applications receive funding.

What is the post-award process?

We issue a Notice of Award (NoA) for each application selected for funding.

The NoA stipulates the

  • project and budget period;
  • amount of federal assistance;
  • terms and conditions of the award; and
  • reporting requirements.

It’s in this phase of grants management where the day-to-day activities of grant monitoring occurs.

The NoA states how the grants management specialist will monitor the business management aspects of the grant.

This includes:

  • Lifting conditions
  • Providing permission for prior approvals
  • Reviewing any Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreements (NICRAs)
  • Responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests
  • Issuing notices of suspension/termination
  • Monitoring fiscal management to ensure fiscal/program integrity

What are the budget requirements?

The NOFO includes any specific budget requirements, such as budgeting by objectives or budget limitations.

We monitor all grantees to ensure adherence to these and other budget requirements, including allowability, reasonability, and allocability of costs.

Indirect Costs
Indirect costs, brought about by common or joint objectives, that can’t be readily identified, but are necessary to the operations of the organization.

The grants management specialist

  • reviews and verifies any indirect costs charged; and
  • provides guidance to grantees/applicants with no negotiated rates

Any non-federal entity (NFE) that has never received a negotiated indirect cost rate can charge a de minimis rate of 10% of the modified total direct costs (MTDC) if a negotiated cost rate has never been established.

Unallowable/Restricted Costs
We evaluate your adherence to program guidance relating to budget, including basic policy and legislative requirements.

If there are no conditions on the budget listed in the NoA, we have approved the budget.

Site Visits
Site Visits are an opportunity for us to meet with you -- the grant project team -- and see the project in action.

The site visit is a monitoring tool and also an information exchange. Our site visit team may include:

  • Federal program staff
  • Federal grant management staff
  • Technical assistance consultants

Financial Management Systems
We require all federal grantees to have financial management systems that provide for timely, accurate, current, and complete disclosure of financial information. These systems must also provide oversight and protection of federal funds. (See: Cost Principles)

If you don’t have an adequate system, it can prevent successful accomplishment of grant objectives.

Other Records
You must also have:

  • Personnel and Human Resources’ related policies and procedures
  • Subcontract records
  • Procurement policies and procedures
  • Any other basic administrative regulations relevant to the grant/project we awarded you


  • Progress Report – We require you to submit periodic reports that reflect the progress on activities-to-date.
    • The NOA spells out the frequency and information you need to include.
  • Federal Financial Report (FFR) – Due 90 days after the budget period ends.
    • This report contains details of the your spending for the period.
    • Continued funding decisions may be made based on the reports.

HHS Standards
Financial Management Requirements

Cost Principles
A set of rules used to achieve uniformity in the treatment of costs by specific types of recipient organization.

Specific types are:

  • Education
  • State, local, and Indian tribal governments
  • Non-profits

Federal Cost Principles

Entity Type Circular Grants-wide HHS Programs
Educational institutions OMB A-21 2 CFR 220 45 CFR 74.27
State and local governments OMB A-87 2 CFR 225 45 CFR 92.22
Non-Profits OMB A-122 2 CFR 230 45 CFR 74.27

Audit Requirements
An annual audit must be conducted and submitted if the recipient expends $750,000 or more in federal awards during the recipients’ fiscal year. (See 45 CFR part 75, subpart F)

What is the close-out process?

The final phase of the grant life cycle comes at the project period end date.

We require you to submit information on progress, equipment (purchase & disposition), supplies and a final Federal Financial Report (totally liquidated).


Date Last Reviewed:  March 2019