- Are there changes to HRSA’s process for reviewing Health Center Program Service Area Competition (SAC) and Renewal of Designation (RD) applications this year, including when areas of non-compliance with Health Center Program requirements are identified in the application review?
No, there are no anticipated changes to HRSA’s process for reviewing Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Health Center Program Service Area Competition (SAC) and Renewal of Designation (RD) applications. In FY 2021, HRSA will continue several processes initiated in FY 2019. More specifically, a health center’s Project Officer will not be reviewing the FY 2021 SAC or RD applications. Additionally, HRSA is continuing to use a pre-award process to support compliance assessments of FY 2021 SAC and RD applicants. Specifically, in cases where the existing awardee is the only applicant (i.e., there is no competitor for the service area) and for all look-alikes, there will be an opportunity during the application review period for communication between the health center’s Authorizing Official and the HRSA staff (HRSA Reviewer) reviewing the SAC or RD application on identified areas of non-compliance.
- How will HRSA notify me if there are any compliance findings during the review of my SAC or RD application?
The HRSA Reviewer (not the Project Officer) will contact a health center’s Authorizing Official through the HRSA Electronic Handbooks (EHB) using a feature that enables the HRSA Reviewer to request additional information on any areas of non-compliance identified through the review of the SAC or RD application and enables applicants to respond to these requests and submit additional information that may correct these program compliance issues prior to award or designation.
Such requests will appear in the applicant’s EHB Pending Tasks list as “Urgent Application Correspondence” tasks and the applicant will also be notified through an EHB-generated email (see below) to their Authorizing Official. As indicated in the Correspondence Request, applicants will have up to 14 calendar days to respond with additional information demonstrating compliance. There will be no extensions or exceptions.
In addition, to further enhance this pre-award process, HRSA Reviewers will contact the applicant’s Authorizing Official by phone when a Correspondence Request is sent. The purpose of this phone contact is to ensure the applicant has received and reviewed the request; specify the reason for the compliance finding(s) based on the content of the application; and answer questions the applicant may have related to the request.
When an Authorizing Official receives a Correspondence Request, respond to this task via EHB as soon as possible since no deadline extension will be provided. Information shared via methods other than the EHB Correspondence Request submission (e.g., phone calls, emails) will NOT be considered in HRSA’s final compliance assessment.
- Is there anything I can do to prepare for any correspondence on any compliance findings during the review of my SAC or RD application?
Yes, there are several actions that you can take to be prepared for any correspondence on any compliance findings during the review of you SAC or RD application.
First, you can ensure that contact information (email and phone number) in EHB for the Authorizing Official – the individual who submits your SAC or RD application – is up to date and accurate. The EHB Correspondence Request will be initiated by a HRSA Reviewer who is NOT the health center’s designated BPHC Project Officer. These requests will come from ‘HRSA GEMS’: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can add this email address to a “safe senders” or contacts list, to avoid messages potentially going to your junk folder.
Second, if your Authorizing Official receives a Correspondence Request, the Authorizing Official should respond to this task via EHB as soon as possible since no deadline extension will be provided.
- Since my Project Officer is not reviewing my SAC or RD application, am I able to ask him/her questions about the application review process, including questions about the EHB Correspondence Request received from the HRSA Reviewer?
No. If you receive a Correspondence Request in EHB regarding your SAC or RD application, do not contact your Project Officer. The HRSA Reviewer will contact a health center’s Authorizing Official through the EHB in order to request additional information on areas of non-compliance identified through the review of the SAC or RD application.
HRSA Reviewers will also contact the applicant’s Authorizing Official by phone when a Correspondence Request is sent. The purpose of this phone contact is to ensure the applicant has received and reviewed the request; specify the reason for the findings of non-compliance based on the content of the application; and answer questions the applicant may have related to the Correspondence Request.
- How can I check and/or change my health center’s Authorizing Official in EHB?
You can check and change the Authorizing Official via EHB using the process identified in the resource guide (PDF - 301 KB) on this topic.
- What steps can my health center take to prepare a high-quality SAC or RD application?
There are several steps a health center can to prepare a high-quality SAC or RD application.
Carefully review and refer to both the Health Center Program Compliance Manual and the Fiscal Year 2021 SAC Notice of Funding Opportunity or RD Instructions. The SAC and RD instructions clearly indicate what portions of the application are used to assess compliance; and
Ensure the narrative responses, forms, and attachments in your application support your health center’s demonstration of compliance and are internally consistent.
- If my health center has existing, unresolved conditions related to Health Center Program requirements, will this impact my SAC award or RD designation?
Yes, current unresolved conditions may impact project/designation period length. Therefore, if your health center has current, unresolved conditions, make all efforts to take corrective actions that demonstrate compliance.
Respond to and resolve outstanding conditions as soon as possible, and in particular, before you submit your SAC or RD application. Please contact your designated Project Officer with questions about responding to conditions and refer to the condition language on the Notice of Award or Designation.
- If my health center is awarded a one-year project or designation period, are we required to submit a plan to come into compliance and respond to active conditions?
Yes, if awarded a one-year project or designation period, your health center must respond to both a 120-day Compliance Achievement Plan condition and to any Progressive Action conditions on your Notice of Award or Designation. For the 120-day Compliance Achievement Plan condition, you will be required to provide HRSA with a plan that:
Discusses your organization’s approach for achieving compliance with all areas of non-compliance that have been identified through conditions on the Notice of Award or Designation; and
Indicates that compliance will be demonstrated within the timeframes and deadlines specified by these conditions.
- The amended Health Center Program statute (Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act) refers to an Implementation Plan to outline steps of achieving compliance. Is that the same thing as the Compliance Achievement Plan?
Yes, the Implementation Plan referenced in the Health Center Program statute is the same thing as the Compliance Achievement Plan.
- Will health centers with a one-year project or designation period have an operational site visit (OSV) during the one-year period?
Yes, an OSV will be scheduled within two to four months of your project or designation period start date. The timing of this OSV is to provide health centers with an opportunity to address any non-compliance issues prior to a HRSA decision to award a new project or designation period.
- If a health center had a one-year project/designation period in 2019 and 2020, is the organization at risk not to receive a subsequent health center grant/designation?
The FY 2021 SAC NOFO and current RD Instructions state the following, respectively:
This is consistent with the Program Oversight process and the Health Center Program statute. For more information, please see the Health Center Program Compliance Manual: Chapter 2
You will not receive an FY 2021 SAC award if you had consecutive one-year project periods in FY 2019 and FY 2020.
You will not receive an RD designation if you had consecutive one-year designation periods in the previous two years.
- Can a first time Health Center Program SAC awardee receive a three-year project period?
No. As stated in the SAC Notice of Funding Opportunity, new applicants will be awarded a one-year project period.
- Who will review my Budget Period Progress Report (BPR) or Annual Certification (AC) report?
Your designated Project Officer will typically review these progress reports and, if necessary, communicate with your organization during this review.
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