Peters Convenes Hearing on Improving Access to Federal Grants for Underserved Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing to discuss challenges faced by governments and organizations in small and rural communities when applying for federal grants. The Committee examined how lawmakers can modernize, simplify, and streamline the federal grant application process to provide underserved communities with an equal opportunity to receive federal funding. During the hearing, Peters highlighted that small communities often lack the resources needed to effectively compete for federal grants that could help advance important initiatives including upgrading infrastructure, improving public health and safety, and addressing climate change. Peters also said that he is working on legislation to increase access to federal grants and will continue working to root out waste, fraud, and abuse to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars. The hearing featured testimony from expert witnesses, including Dr. Meagan Elliott, who oversees all public grant funding for the City of Detroit.

“Smaller communities often lack the resources to hire grant writers or ensure compliance with complicated federal guidelines, missing out on important opportunities that could help them better serve the public. By ensuring communities have access to funding, we can also encourage the fair and efficient distribution of grants to states, cities, localities, and organizations with the greatest need, not just to those with the greatest capacity,” said Senator Peters during his opening statement.

Peters continued: “And while it’s critical that we streamline the federal grants process to promote better access for smaller communities, we must do so in a way that ensures the federal government receives the information it needs to fairly distribute awards, and conduct appropriate oversight.”

To watch video of Senator Peters’ opening remarks, click here. For text of Peters’ opening remarks, as prepared, click here.

To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions, click here.

During the hearing, Peters and the witnesses discussed how duplication and lack of consistency in rules for administering federal programs can present additional barriers to entry for communities that are applying for federal grants. The hearing also examined how challenges with federal information technology systems have also made it harder for applicants to access grants. For example, Peters highlighted how technical issues with the System for Award Management or, the government-wide registration system for federal funding awards, prevented small businesses and non-profit organizations from fully benefitting from federal programs. Dr. Elliott discussed how the City of Detroit has effectively used federal grants to improve services for residents, and provided examples of how the grants process can be improved to help other communities. She also highlighted actions the city took in 2017, including reorganizing their grants management staff into one consolidated department that resulted in a significant increase in Detroit’s success rate when applying for federal funding. During the hearing, the witnesses emphasized that by improving and updating the federal grants application process, lawmakers can ensure that every community has an equal opportunity to receive federal funding.