Chapter 2 Program Compliance
Compliance is defined as the action or fact of complying with a wish or command, the state or fact of according with or meeting rules or standards. AmeriCorps State and National Programs are required to follow Office of Management and Budget Circulars, federal regulations, and provisions for financial management of the program. Programs must report on project accomplishments and participate in statewide training and service projects.
Governing Documents and Regulations
Compliance begins with knowing and understanding the federal and state laws, regulations, and guidance. AmeriCorps programs face an increasing large list of compliance requirements. Compliance also needs to be seen as not just a one-time exercise, but rather a continuous effort. Many of the AmeriCorps compliance pieces require ongoing updates and checks to ensure they are accurate and complete. Due to this complexity, it is important that grant recipients become very familiar with all program guidance resources.
AmeriCorps is a federally funded program so all programs receiving those funds are subject to federal regulations. AmeriCorps State programs receive their notice of grant award and monitoring/oversight from the Illinois Department of Human Services via BVCS. Please note that even though these items are issued and/or undertaken by the state that the funding is Federal, and all grant recipients are held to all AmeriCorps federal regulations.
In order to maintain compliance, there are multiple regulations/rules/policies that AmeriCorps programs must adhere to. Here is a list of documents that each grantee should maintain and have a clear understanding of what each document requires. (See https://americorps.gov/about/agency-overview/statutes-regulations):
• National and Community Service Act of 1990
• Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
• Uniform Guidance (part of CFR)
• Uniform Grant Agreement (UGA)
• Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO)
• Notice of State Funding (NOSA)
• Certifications and Assurances
• Notice of Grant Award (NOGA)
• Terms and Conditions/AmeriCorps Policy and Guidance/Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
• Program Director’s Manual
The National and Community Service Act of 1990 as amended by the Serve America Act – This is the statute that authorizes AmeriCorps to exist and governs all AmeriCorps activity. While it is important to know about this, it is unlikely that you will have to refer to the statute in the day-to-day management of your program.
The grant certifications and assurances were electronically agreed to in the grant application process by the authorized representative. The certifications and assurances include agreeing to follow basic Federal and AmeriCorps procedures such as: non-discrimination, non-duplication and non-displacement, grievance procedures, drug-free workplace, and lobbying. They are also listed on the same page as the grant terms and conditions.
The Notice of Funding Opportunity or NOFO. This document is published annually by AmeriCorps and provides details on the appropriate use of AmeriCorps grant funds, the content and process for submitting an application, and information on AmeriCorps priorities.
The Notice of Grant Award or NOGA. Each AmeriCorps program is governed by this and it is provided by AmeriCorps for AmeriCorps National Direct programs and the State Commission/state agency for AmeriCorps State programs. This document will contain the number of member slots and MSY’s awards, grant budget amounts and grant start and end dates for the Commission/state agency as the prime applicant to AmeriCorps.
The Notice of State Award or NOSA. This document is written notification from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to each sub-grantee (program provider) of the approved funding amount. This document will also list the requirements and conditions for receiving the award from the IDHS.
Code of Federal Regulations. The Code of Federal Regulations or CFRs AmeriCorps’ interpretations of the Statute and they set out the agency’s purpose, powers and the circumstances of applying the statute, and guides all AmeriCorps activities. There are 252 pages of regulations that apply to AmeriCorps and their programs. The CFR’s that specifically apply to AmeriCorps can be found in Title 45, Chapter 25 and section 2520-2550. Any changes to the CFR’s must go through the rulemaking process which last happened with the new NSCHC regulation. During the rulemaking process, there is always a public comment period allowing for public input on any proposed changes. Whenever looking for clarification or an answer to a question, this is the document to start with first since it is the federal law in relation to AmeriCorps.
This document is ordered to allow you to drill down to a specific answer. Some of the main headings in this document are:
• General provisions
• Eligible AmeriCorps program applicants and types of grants available for award
• AmeriCorps participants, programs and applicants
• Agreements with other Federal agencies
• AmeriCorps technical assistance and other special grants
• National service trust
• Eligibility for an education award
• Determining the amount of an education award
• Using an education award
• Payment of accrued interest
• Transfer of education awards
• Solicitation and acceptance of donations
Terms and Conditions are published annually and govern AmeriCorps programming activities. A copy of the terms and conditions usually accompanies the notice of grant award. They can also be found on the AmeriCorps website.
AmeriCorps State and National Policy and Guidance documents. These documents are published by AmeriCorps on various aspects of grant and program management. They can be updated/added throughout the grant year and provide policy guidance to grantees. It is important to remember that these strictly provide guidance and do not carry the force of the law, so it is recommended to consult the CFRs and terms and conditions prior to these policy and guidance documents. Serve Illinois has added a sample of the most often used documents in the Appendix. In fact, AmeriCorps states on many of the document’s language such as – “This guidance outline is a training tool designed to help new AmeriCorps program staff create a strong member position description. It will be most helpful when used alongside the Grant Terms and Conditions, AmeriCorps Regulations, and other agency-specific guidance.”
National Service Criminal History checks. This is an area that AmeriCorps has emphasized heavily and has the potential for high cost-findings.
AmeriCorps has developed multiple resources to assist programs with carrying out National Service Criminal History checks that are compliant with AmeriCorps rules and regulations. Included in the Appendix is a copy of the National Service Criminal History Check (NSCHC) Manual. NSCHC regulations and requirements can also be found in CFR 2540.200-2540.207. It is important that sub-grantees are fully aware of all of the NSCHC rules and regulations.
The purpose of the NSCHC is to protect individuals served by members. It is a multi-part check with a lot of information to track. It is important that programs have written policies and procedures on how they conduct their NSCHC and ensure that what they are actually doing matches their written policies and procedures.
There are a few options available for where to conduct the NSCHCs.
As of January 1, 2019, AmeriCorps developed a process for grantees to conduct background checks through AmeriCorps approved vendors. These vendors are Fieldprint for the FBI fingerprint check and Truescreen for the NSOPW and State checks. Under the AmeriCorps agreements with these two vendors, AmeriCorps is ensuring high compliance on background checks. It is important to note, that if a program uses these vendors, it must be done under the AmeriCorps agreement to experience the compliance benefits. If you have questions on how these vendors work, please visit the AmeriCorps NSCHC resource page.
It is important to note that if a program makes a mistake on a NSCHC, depending on the mistake it can be VERY costly. As of July 2019, a cost-based disallowance went into effect. This means that if a member or staff member was serving or working for weeks or months with a noncompliant NSCHC than all costs associated with that individual will be disallowed. This means the salary/stipend/living allowance (as applicable) and FICA during the period of noncompliance for which costs are disallowed will need to be paid back. Additionally, the State Commission and/or AmeriCorps has the discretion to enforce other administrative remedies if a program is particularly lacking in oversight of NSCHCS. These include:
• Grant Suspension
• Grant Termination
• Impact of future awards
• Manual holds on reimbursement requests
IDHS/Office of Community Service and Youth Development Periodic Performance Report (PPR): these reports are due on a quarterly basis with a final report submitted at the end of the actual program year. Providers submit five PPRs total by the end of the program year. Refer to the guidance on completing PPR reports for instructions and more information.
ASN GPR/PROGRESS REPORT: includes information on: progress toward performance measures, Member and volunteer hours, program challenges, and any program changes. GPR’s are submitted semi-annually.
The GPR is built from several components including in My AmeriCorps. Note the following:
|Accomplishments & Challenges
AmeriCorps Agency Support for Performance Measures
The AmeriCorps Agency has developed resource materials and tutorials to help awardees, subawardees and sponsors understand the AMERICORPS STATE AND NATIONAL performance measures.
You are encouraged to use this material to improve your understanding of key performance measurement concepts including:
• Performance Measurement Basics
• Theory of Change
• Quality Performance Measures
• Data Collection and Instruments
Programs completing the final year of their three-year grant cycle must submit a Final Project Report in addition to their Progress Report due October 31 of each year. A Final Progress Report is a cumulative report covering the entire project period. This report is due by the date determined by BVCS (most likely January 20th) following the end of the three-year grant cycle and should include the following information:
The narrative should include a three-page, double-spaced summary of the qualitative accomplishments that the AmeriCorps grant has made for the duration of the grant period. Include a discussion of the impacts of any special initiatives that fall within this grant. Discuss what exists now in the communities that are served that did not exist prior to the grant. Use of quantitative data to support the impact statements is encouraged.
Final Federal Financial Report
BVCS aggregates the Federal Financial Report (FFR) for Illinois. The EDF (reimbursement requests) that program providers submit to BVCS are used to complete this form. There is no action program providers need to take to complete this form. This is shared with you for planning purposes for FFRs are used to determine if and when a program provider will be selected for a pay integrity audit conducted by the AmeriCorps Agency. Pay integrity audits can be conducted years after the end date of your program year or 3-year program cycle.
Equipment and Supply Inventory Form
Programs completing the final year of their three-year grant cycle must submit two (2) inventory forms. These are due March 1 following the end of the three-year grant cycle. One form is for any equipment inventory having a current fair market value of $5,000 or more and purchased with federal grant funds. The second form is for any unused or residual supplies inventory purchased with federal funds exceeding $5,000 in value. These reports should be completed on the Equipment and Supply Inventory Form included in this chapter. If no equipment or supplies were purchased using federal funds, programs should reflect this on each form. For more information, please refer to the AmeriCorps Provisions.
Staff Time Keeping and Time and Effort Reporting
Staff time keeping plays an important if not critical role in effectively managing program costs. Staff time keeping records must also be completed and maintained following federal requirements.
Under 2CFR 200 (formerly A-122), Federal guidelines and provisions require the program have internal controls in place that ensure charges are accurate, allowable, and properly allocated.
Any time and effort report, be it timesheets or another form of reporting, must reasonably reflect total activity for which the employee is compensated. The report must also support the distribution of employee’s salary/wages among specific activities/cost objectives.
The report must not be solely based on budget estimates made prior to the service are performed. These estimates must be backed up by actual data that shows they are accurate. This information most likely will be reviewed during a pay integrity assessment.
Deductions to Living Allowances
Program providers occasionally request the ability to deduct amounts from living allowances for Member absences and other purposes. Programs may make deductions to living allowances or other payments made to AmeriCorps Members; however, programs may not deduct any portion of the living allowance paid to the Member by the AmeriCorps Agency.
Before making any deductions, programs are advised to consider the implications related to the treatment of employment laws, including those laws addressing minimum wage and unemployment compensation. Further, programs that deduct amounts from Member living allowances may be required to increase their match funds as a result.
For more information, please refer to the AmeriCorps Provisions.
BVCS defines “sustainability” as a plan that, through an organization’s use of various resources, will provide for a stronger infrastructure, stronger programs, and community self-sufficiency regarding supporting the needs of its constituents, its financial health, and its ability to be well managed and accountable.
Programs must also follow the Sustainability Policy. Each program is required to gradually decrease reliance on federal funds, while continuing to meet the minimum match requirements.
More information on these topics may be found in the AmeriCorps Provisions.
The AmeriCorps Agency for National and Community Service has published the following increasing match requirements for all AmeriCorps programs.
Under this policy, each program is required to gradually decrease its reliance on federal funds, yet still meet the Overall Minimum Match requirements. By either cash or in-kind matches in any category, programs must reach the required match level each year. Please note that the AmeriCorps Agency has created an alternative match requirement for awardees located in either a rural or a severely economically distressed area prior to submitting their grant application.
The Commission will provide assistance to programs in the area of sustainability by sponsoring additional training and technical assistance on collaborations and partnerships, leadership, and fundraising, as needed.
The intent of the policy on sustainability is to decrease program dependency on federal funds, to ensure that services provided by AmeriCorps Members will continue if federal funding is discontinued, and to make more funding available to support new programs.
Each awardee must submit a Sustainability Plan as part of the initial application for funding. This plan must provide details on community outreach and collaborations, community, new partnerships, and new resources provided to, or received from, the community. Subsequently, a Sustainability Progress Report must be submitted with each Continuation Application showing the progress made that year in the Sustainability Plan.
Member Reporting Information
Programs need to know what is required of program/sites in terms of Member data collection in order to monitor that they have met their reporting requirements. The specific AMERICORPS NATIONAL rules as to when some of these forms must be completed are shown in the table below:
These forms are created through the Members My AmeriCorps Portal and approved by Program staff. It is important that Member forms are completed in a timely manner. Timely completion could also play a role in future grant funding decisions, especially for competitively awarded funds.
Timesheets track hours served by Members in direct service, fundraising and training. (Note: the average of Member training hours can be no more than 20% per awardee. Member fundraising hours may be no more than 10% per person.) Timesheets need to be completed on a regular basis in order to ensure that the program/site is tracking Member hours accurately as timesheets data is aggregated into the APR, and ultimately the GPR. It is critical that timesheets be up to date prior to the submission of these reports. Make sure all timesheets are signed and dated by both the Member and supervisor. Member timesheets must be kept on file at the program provider level. Submission of Member timesheets can be requested at any time using the process determined by IDHS.
My AmeriCorps has tools to help programs monitor Member progress. These tools can identify Members who are falling behind and at risk of not being able to complete their required number of hours of service to earn an education award before the end of the program year.
All financial records, supporting documentation, statistical records, evaluation and performance data, Member information, and personnel records must be retained for three years after the close of an AmeriCorps grant cycle (cycles are usually three years).
If any litigation, claim, negotiation, audit, or other action involving the records has been started before the expiration of the 3-year period, the records must be retained on site until completion of the action and resolution of all issues which arise from it, or until the end of the regular 3-year period, whichever is later.