Since FirstNet became operational in March 2018, many federal agencies have expanded their grant programs to allow expenditures for the procurement, sustainment, and/or maintenance of FirstNet interoperable communications equipment and services.
These federal agencies include the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Commerce, and Agriculture. Each federal grant program delineates its own program guidance and eligibility/allowability criteria. Therefore, applicants intending to leverage multiple grant programs to support their FirstNet project will need to be familiar with the guidance and applicant eligibility for each grant program that they intend to apply for. While most federal grants are administered through a state agency, be aware that some of these grant programs such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Edward Byrne Memorial Grants are discipline specific (e.g., law enforcement only).
The largest multi-discipline funding source for FirstNet projects is the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Specific to FirstNet Projects, it is important to recognize that FirstNet requires participating agencies to demonstrate a subscription to public safety-prioritized broadband services to purchase FirstNet broadband devices or applications. Additionally, grant recipients (States) must coordinate with the FirstNet Authority in advance of any strategic acquisition of broadband LTE equipment to ensure that purchases adhere to all applicable standards for public safety entities. Projects are not limited to a single funding source provided the funding sources are properly coordinated to ensure that there are not any duplications of funding. However, caution should be exercised through verification that the likelihood of securing all potential funding sources is highly probable so as to avoid a part(s) of the project not being funded.
Multi-Jurisdiction and Multi-Discipline coordination of projects is strongly encouraged and may be viewed more favorably by the granting State Administrative Agency and/or State governing body. Horizontal and vertical cooperation and collaboration is paramount in the process to ensure that all FirstNet projects are made a significant priority and are interoperable within each state and state-to-state. The probability of successfully funding and completing a FirstNet project is dependent on establishing the priority and importance of funding these projects in order to achieve communications interoperability for all first responders within each state.
“The importance of understanding the grant process and guidelines, the political landscape, and how collaboration impacts interstate and intrastate efforts can impact the likelihood of a project being funded,” says Kamala Kuhn, former Deputy Administrator of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management. In her over 26 years of experience with grants, Ms. Kuhn expressed that while the grant process can be daunting, research, education, and collaboration can help a grant applicant be more successful.
To learn more about federal grant application process, download
the grant series Understanding the Grants Process for FirstNet projects:
To register for the upcoming “Funding FirstNet Communications Projects with Federal Grants” webcast on June 17, 2019 please click on the button below.