Due to the impact of COVID-19, public-sector organizations are faced with the challenge of where to look for additional funding that may help their budgets. In a joint webinar, Charlie Francis, Senior Consultant at Questica, and Maria Howeth, Customer Success/Tribal Specialist at eCivis examined the biggest budgeting and grant management challenges governments are facing and the advantages of having automated budgeting solutions to help save on costs while maximizing funding opportunities.
Additional Funding: Why Now?
In this economy, governments will need to be especially strategic with their budget planning. Francis discussed findings from a survey from the National League of Cities and U.S. Conference of Mayors. These findings highlight that, under the CARES Act, only municipalities with 500,000 residents or more will receive direct funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The survey also shows that 96 percent of all cities report that budget shortfalls are the result of unanticipated revenue declines. Additionally, 53 percent have seen an unanticipated revenue decline while 43 percent have seen this in addition to an expenditure increase.
Regardless of local, state, or tribal level, all governments will be feeling the economic impact from loss of revenue sources that they depend on to fund essential services. For example, more than half of all cities of all sizes report that police will be affected. This doesn’t even begin to mention furloughs and layoffs that will occur in an effort to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. During the webinar session, more than half of government participants expressed that they have already taken measures like reducing staff and cutting services as a result of COVID-19.
Francis shared specific ways governments can be strategic with their budgets to make cuts and reductions less painful while conserving fiscal health.
Where to Look for Funding on the Budget Side
First, Francis discussed five categories of retrenchment techniques that were curated from the Government Finance Officer Association (GFOA)’s Fiscal First Aid handbook and some best practices from Questica customers:
- Reduce Personnel Costs. This is your biggest area of expense, so a serious retrenchment effort (like governments are experiencing now) will have to address personnel costs.
- Reduce Capital Spending. Capital assets are often very costly, so even a modest reduction in spending could result in significant cash savings. Improve capital project management while reducing the scope of capital asset investments.
- Reduce Materials or Contractor Costs. Though not as significant as personnel or capital costs, many governments can find savings in existing contracts that may not be as painful to cut. In short, you may need every penny you can squeeze.
- Create More Advantageous Inflows and Outflows of Cash. These techniques won’t balance your current year budget but can help better manage the incidence of expenditures and revenues during the year.
- Get New Resources. Governments should also explore possibilities for new resources, even if those opportunities are limited, such as technology systems that can help reduce paper or manual processes, saving time and costs.
Some methods are more brutal than others. However, to determine what techniques you need, it’s important to assess the level of impact COVID-19 is having on revenue and your agency or department’s ability to deliver services. To assist government agencies in addressing many of the challenges brought on by COVID-19, Questica has created a site with access to a variety of resources.
Where to Look for Funding on the Grants Side
When the Families First Act and the CARES Act were passed and signed into law, trillions of dollars of federal funding became available for governments and businesses affected by COVID-19. Some of this funding was made available through payments to businesses, some made directly to states, local governments, tribes, and U.S. territories, and some by formula-funded grants. Some were also made available by application to federal agencies for grants and cooperative agreements.
Howeth shared insights as to where governments can go to look for grant funding. First, there are a number of federal grant opportunities. Most know that grants.gov is the official website where federal agencies post their funding opportunities and that there are twenty six federal grant-making agencies. It’s important to note here that organizations and individuals must be registered with grants.gov to apply for funding through the portal. What many do not realize is that eCivis also has a curated, searchable database of opportunities available in a newly released COVID-19 Funding Toolkit.
For state grant opportunities, many states have robust grant departments. Take Illinois and Arizona for example. Other state governments may have opportunities posted on each agency webpage for their individual states. Regardless, states receive funding and can act as pass-through entities for organizations within their states. They also make grant and cooperative agreements available through their state funding. For COVID-19, the states received a minimum of $1.25 billion depending on their population size. This funding can also be funneled down to cities and counties who request assistance.
For example, New Mexico, with a relatively low state population of 2.1 million, is expected to receive the minimum amount of $1.25 billion from the Federal Government, according to Federal Funds Information for States. How much of that $1.25 billion will go to the city of Albuquerque depends on its population.
Lastly, foundations are another avenue to find funding. Many have released much needed dollars for COVID-related activities.
Benefits of Cloud-Based Budget and Grants Management Solutions
Both budgeting and grants management are processes that can be complex, challenging and time consuming. Today’s climate of ‘telework’ has added to these struggles. However, having a centralized, remote (or cloud) solution can help keep everyone on track.
Budgeting often involves working with multiple stakeholders, and frequently requires clear communication between finance teams and other departments. Similarly, grants management means sorting through a great deal of administrative and programmatic requirements, which can mean a great burden on already-lean staff. Many governments still use spreadsheets for budgeting and grants management or try to modify their other systems to handle these huge undertakings, making it hard for collaboration and compliance–especially when staff are working from different locations.
So how can your department or agency stop wasting time, money and resources? The key is to align resources accordingly to connect both your budgeting AND grants management processes.
You need solutions that allow for remote collaboration and communication with distributed teams. You also need to be able to access additional funding whenever possible. Lastly, you need to be able to forecast, create budget scenarios and what-if scenarios efficiently.
Both Questica and eCivis, which are sister companies under GTY Technology, offer centralized cloud computing systems to help streamline communication and collaboration; integrate budgeting information and documents; all while being able to plan budgets and manage grant funding with a single source of truth.
Additionally, by connecting budgeting to grants management in the cloud, governments can leverage:
- A consolidated and integrated approach
- Improved analysis
- Greater organizational and community impact
- Transparency across organizations
- Reduced administrative burden
- Increased efficiency and better use of time
For more information regarding Questica, contact one of our budgeting experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information regarding eCivis, reach out to one of our grants management experts at email@example.com.