Thursday, August 13, 2009

Alert: Agencies Extend Broadband Stimulus Filing Deadline for 'Pending' Applications

(Editor's Note: We are reporting this story in real time, today, 08/13/09, and will add information as we receive same, including federal agency responses to our inquires. First post: 12:11 pm, Last Update: 6:33 pm.) 08/13/09
In a surprise announcement of late this morning, intended to correct the reported processing delays in a vendor operated electronic filing system, the 2 federal agencies administering the $7.2 'broadband stimulus' program of the federal Recovery Act have extended by 6 days, until August 20, the grant application filing deadline for "pending" electronic applications.

The Federal Register Notice published today makes clear that neither federal agency has issued a blanket extension of the filing deadline. In order to qualify for the filing extension, applicants must be able to prove that they "have already started the electronic application submission process," according to a Federal Register Notice (download: .PDF) published today.

Multiple reports had emerged this week of serious delays in the electronic filing system, operated by the 2 federal agencies, used to process the expected hundreds of funding applications. A consensus emerged by yesterday, August 12, among attorneys, consultants, and grant writers supporting municipalities, service providers, and tribal governments working to file the complex funding applications that the electronic system had fully broken down.

The Notice outlines a 5 step process necessary for an applicant "to be recognized as having a pending application...".

Applicants submitting paper applications, allowed for applications of less than $1 million in federal funds, must still comply with the August 14 deadline.

The electronic grant application filing system administered by the 2 federal agencies carries the branded and trademarked name Easygrants(TM), as developed by the privately held Altum, Inc. of Reston, VA. According to a press release on the company's website, Easygrants(TM) 6.0 was released in June of this year as the " major version" of the firm's "enterprise management solution." Company representatives have not responded to voice and e-mail requests for comment, to date.

The initial filing deadline for grant, loan, and grant - loan combination applications was tomorrow, August 14 at 5 p.m. ET. That deadline was established in a document first released on July 1, called a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), issued jointly by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce, and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the Department of Agriculture. The July NOFA was subsequently published as a Federal Register Notice on July 9.

The following "Update" notice was posted on late this morning:

"UPDATE: The application closing deadline for the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) is extended until 5 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on August 20, 2009, for any electronic applications pending as of
5 p.m. ET on August 14, 2009. There are no changes to the filing instructions for paper applications.

For more information see Federal Register Notice: Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Extension of Application Closing Deadline for Pending Electronic Applications.

The Notice is being provided for informational purposes only. If there is any difference between this document and the Notice officially published in the Federal Register, the Federal Register Notice is controlling."

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