Government Grants For Communities From the Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services is the primary Federal agency responsible for safeguarding the physical and mental health of Americans and plays a pivotal role in providing basic human services support particularly to those at or near the poverty threshold.

According to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance the Department of Health and Human Services funds over 395 programs in pursuit of its objectives. HHS operates through 11 divisions and maintains of budget of $460 Million.

Within HHS there are 18 offices that focus on providing services to different demographic groups or health related issues. The Administration for Children and Families (A.C.F.) is charged with responsibility for managing over sixty programs and provide essential human services individuals and families living in poverty.

The Office of Community Services (O.C.S.) is the department within A.C.F. that operates in conjunction with communities across the nation, and other federal and state agencies to ensure the provision of a range of human services and economic development resources to deal with the root causes and impact of poverty and deprivation on individuals and families in those communities. The ultimate goal of all O.C.S. activities is to provide support and models to these communities for increasing self sufficiency and the provide mechanisms for community revitalization that is primarily locally driven.

One of the major programs of the O.C.S. is the Community Services Block Grant which in 2010 will distribute $700 Million to states and other entities across the United States.

The Community Services Block Grant (C.S.B.G.) supplies funding to States, and recognized United States Territories and Indian Tribes. It also funds Community Action Agencies and other nonprofit groups specified by the States with the ultimate objective of eradicating the root causes and effects of poverty on communities around the nation.

The C.S.B.G. provides two types of grants – block grants and discretionary grants. Block grants are only available to States, Indian Tribes and other United States territories (e.g. Washington D.C., Puerto Rico). O.C.S is responsible for the Community Services Block Grant program funding and divides that funds amongst the states based on a methodology factoring in the proportion of people living in poverty in each State and Indian Tribe. The block grants are not awarded on a competitive basis.

Discretionary grants are open to nonprofit groups that have exhibited skill in training individuals and groups on methodologies to effectively deal with the requirements of low-income families and the communities in which they live. These organizations are most likely to be officially designated as Community Action Agencies (CAA’s).

Community Action Agencies are a type of nonprofit organization which had their genesis during the administration of President Johnson 1964 with the initiation of America’s War on Poverty. The mission of Community Action Agencies is an agenda of self-sufficiency – helping community residents to help themselves. Currently there are about one thousand CAA’s serving the people in need in every state and U.S. Territory.

In addition to the discretionary funding which flows through CAA’s, a large part of the block grant funding delivered to states is passed along to Community Action Agencies to support target populations.

Growing Your Small Business – Doing Business With the Department of Health and Human Services

In 1953 the Department of Health, Education and Welfare became a cabinet level department in the United States. In 1979 the Department of Education Organization Act split HEW into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS is responsible for the health, safety and well-being of residents of the United States. This mandate also extends internationally for cross-border health and safety issues.

HHS administers over 300 programs with a budget of over $737 billion. HHS mission includes a wide range of human issues, including substance abuse, Medicare and Medicaid, childrens health, health disparities, disease prevention and health promotion. It is the largest grant-making department within the Federal Government.

In 1979 the Department of Health and Human Services established the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to develop and implement outreach to the small business community. The Office performs its mission through small business fairs, procurement conferences, trade group seminars, conventions and forums.

The Office of Small Business Development, also called OSDBU, is host to Vendor Outreach Sessions that happen twice monthly. The purpose of these sessions is to introduce and educate vendors on the small business program and to provide them information so that they can effectively market their products and services to HHS.

The Department of Health and Human Services is the only executive agency where Small Business Specialists report to the OSDBU Director. These Small Business Specialists are located within the eleven agencies of HHS.

Every day, these Specialists work with Contracting and Program Office staff, so as to determine the best acquisition strategy; they also work to make their approach unified so that when vendors deal with Health And Human Services, this unity will benefit them.

Currently, HHS does not provide grants or loans to help small businesses get going, but it is in fact the largest organization to make grants within the federal government. It has over 300 grant programs today, and it handles mission-specific topics, which are in turn delegated among the various HHS operating agencies. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance profiles all Federal grant programs; these provide financial assistance and include HHS programs. In addition, specific points of contact for obtaining applications or additional information are also provided.

Vendors who are interested in doing business with Health And Human Services do not have to have any special certification, but instead, the Small Business Administration provides certification to firms under the Business Development Program, the Historically Underutilized Business Zone Program, and the Small Disadvantaged Business Program. Businesses that are Women-Owned, Veteran Owned, Service Disabled Veteran Owned, or Small Businesses are generally managed with self-certification. Self-certification is not challenged unless or until an interested party or competitor provides protest to it. In addition, an HHS Contracting Officer may request that the SBA provide a size determination.

Health and Human Services Insurance Coverage

Like most business, health and human services organizations, social service agencies, and other non-profit organizations must purchase basic insurance packages in order to operate legally and effectively. Some of the insurance packages a human services agency or non-profit organization will purchase are common to all businesses: worker’s compensation, umbrella insurance, and business insurance. However, the non-profit nature of health and human services agencies, combined with the special coverage needs specific to these agencies’ staff and the populations they serve, will often require specialized insurance coverages and targeted choices in insurance brokers.

Directors and Officers Insurance Coverage

Most health and human services and non-profit organizations will require Directors and Officers Liability Insurance, or “D&O insurance.” The very nature of non-profit and social services jobs – services done for the public good, and often, specifically for at-risk, under-served, or challenging populations — makes lawsuits against directors distinct possibilities, because of their daily agency duties and roles. D&O insurance provides coverage for non-profit or social service agency directors if they are sued for job-related activities or conduct.

As in the for-profit world, harassment lawsuits and discrimination grievances are prevalent in non-profit organizations. These types of lawsuits pose some of the greatest threats possible to non-profit and human service organizations: actions brought against directors and officers present great financial risks to agency boards or investors. In the event that a suit is brought against a social service agency director or officer, a D&O insurance coverage program drastically lowers the risk that any one board member will lose his or her personal assets as the result of a lawsuit. This type of insurance protection is so important that D&O is a standard requirement when assembling a board of directors.

D&O insurance plays several other important roles in a non-profit or health and human services organization. It can protect an organization in the event that a director or officer inadvertently releases classified or proprietary company information in good faith. This type of insurance can also protect the company in the event of a questionable hiring, termination, or promotional decision. Directors and Officers Liability Insurance is also beneficial in suits regarding how the non-profit manages its investment portfolio(s) and can be an asset in “conflict of interest” legal charges brought against the non-profit.

Unemployment Insurance

Most for-profit companies pay a certain premium percentage each month for unemployment insurance, an essential type of coverage that is legally mandated in order to own or operate a business. In the for-profit world, each time a former worker successfully files for unemployment compensation, the unemployment insurance premiums and taxes for all employees go up. This is especially deleterious to small for-profit entities, because the smaller the company is, the higher the per-employee cost will jump.

Unlike their for-profit brothers, non-profit companies can pay state taxes only for unemployment claims that are actually paid out. It’s an unfortunate truth that many social service agencies and non-profit organizations are unaware that they are eligible for tax reimbursements. Those health and human service organization employees who are responsible for unemployment benefits administration should consult with their unemployment insurance brokers to register as “reimbursing employers.” Then, rather than paying excess taxes on social service unemployment claims, non-profit and social service agencies can use the money for the betterment of their organizations.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance

A cursory reading of the business section of the local newspaper will reveal that lawsuits against employers are common, even on the rise, depending upon the industry. Reasons for such suits can include, but are not limited to: sexual harassment; discrimination on the basis of race, faith, or sexual orientation; wrongful termination, and more. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) provides non-profit and human service organizations with coverage in the event of lawsuits.

Other types of human service and non-profit insurance coverages

Many non-profits and human service agencies offer specialized care or community services. Food banks, for example, provide nourishment to those who cannot afford complete meals from their own means. Jewish community centers lend cultural programs, childcare, and often, fitness and recreational opportunities to both Jewish and secular populations. YMCA branches offer services ranging from temporary sheltering; to fitness opportunities and youth day camp, to job training and placement programs. Group homes might provide services for the frail elderly; the mentally ill, or adults with Down Syndrome. Accordingly, each non-profit must consider its risks carefully and purchase insurance accordingly. Coverage options range from child abduction liability to patient molestation and abuse coverage to insurance for clinic volunteers and helpers.

Before a non-profit or health and human services organization commits to any insurance package, however, they must consult with experienced insurance brokers to determine the coverage packages that are most suitable for specialized organizational needs.