OMB: Agencies must pay to upgrade

Grant-making agencies must cover the costs to strengthen the governmentwide grants portal to accommodate the crush of stimulus funds applications.

The Office of Management and Budget has directed the 26 grant-making agencies to pay for improvements to the government’s grants Web portal because applications for awards under the economic stimulus law have overwhelmed the site.

OMB has assessed agency payments ranging from $34,131 to $872,031 for The Health and Human Services Department, which manages the e-government effort, must pay the highest amount, OMB Director Peter Orszag said in a memo dated April 8.

The payments are in addition to agencies’ annual contributions for the operation of, he said. OMB based the amount of each agency’s assessment on the same formula that the Grants Executive Board used in July 2008 to determine each agency’s shared costs for fiscal 2009, Orszag said. Some agencies have not paid their previous annual contributions, he added.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the government announced $151 billion in formula and block grants that will be made available to the states. Members of the public may also apply for grants, Orszag said. In one week in March, received 11,000 applications, compared with an average of 3,900 applications a week in 2008, he said. That pace is expected to grow as important deadlines related to the stimulus law approach, he added.

“As it currently stands, the existing infrastructure would not be able to handle that influx of applications,” Orszag said.

HHS has developed a plan to meet the immediate needs of the portal, and the General Services Administration will provide short-term help for select agencies while determining a longer-term approach to improving service delivery, he said. HHS plans to improve the existing production system, including storage, servers, hardware and software, and the portal’s infrastructure, customer and business support functions, according to the memo.

Some agencies might need to ask Congress for the additional funding for, Orszag said. Agencies should send those requests to OMB for approval before sending them to Congress by April 13. OMB will review agencies’ progress in receiving the necessary funds, the memo states.

Some of the departments and their assessed contributions are:

  • Agriculture — $493,131, plus a previous balance of $1.07 million, for a total of $1.56 million.
  • Homeland Security — $239,331, plus the previously unpaid $517,763, for a total of $757,094.
  • Defense — $239,331.
  • Treasury  — $34,131.