June 1, 2009
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides significant new funding for the Centers for Independent Living (CILs) program authorized under Title VII, Chapter 1, Part C of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Rehabilitation Act). The CILs program supports non-profit, consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, nonresidential centers for independent living (centers) that provide an array of independent living (IL) services to individuals with significant disabilities in order to maximize their leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity, and to promote the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society.
The ARRA CILs program funds provide an unprecedented opportunity to implement innovative strategies to improve and expand IL services to individuals with significant disabilities. Under the ARRA, $87.5 million in recovery funds are provided under the CILs program authority. Information about each state's allocation under the CILs program is available at: http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/statetables/index.html. This Web site also provides information about ARRA funds available under the IL State Grants Program and the IL Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind program.
Overview of ARRA
Principles: The overall goals of the ARRA are to stimulate the economy in the short term and invest in education and other essential public services to ensure the long-term economic health of our nation. The success of the part of the ARRA that provides support for IL programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act will depend on the shared commitment and responsibility of all involved in supporting improved outcomes for young people and adults with significant disabilities. Collectively, we must advance ARRA's short-term economic goals by investing quickly, and we must support ARRA's long-term economic goals by investing wisely, using these funds to strengthen the CILs program, drive reforms, and improve outcomes for people with significant disabilities.
The following principles, which are particularly relevant to the CILs program, guide the distribution and use of ARRA funds:
Spend funds quickly to save and create jobs. ARRA funds will be distributed, consistent with program requirements, as quickly as possible to new or existing centers. Existing centers as well as any new centers, in turn, are urged to move rapidly to develop plans for using ARRA CILs program funds, consistent with program requirements and ARRA's reporting and accountability requirements, and to begin spending funds promptly to help drive the nation's economic recovery.
Ensure transparency, reporting, and accountability. To prevent fraud and abuse, support the most effective uses of ARRA funds, and accurately measure and track results, recipients must publicly report on how funds are used. Due to the unprecedented scope and importance of this investment, ARRA funds are subject to additional and more rigorous reporting requirements than normally apply to federal grant recipients.
Invest one-time ARRA funds thoughtfully to minimize the “funding cliff.” ARRA represents a historic infusion of funds that is expected to be temporary. For the CILs program, these funds will be available to new or existing centers for obligation until September 30, 2011. Centers should invest the ARRA CILs program funds in ways that do not result in unsustainable continuing commitments after the funds expire.
Awarding ARRA CILs Program Funds
The ARRA CILs program funds and the regular 2009 CILs program funds have been allocated among states using the population-based funding formula described in Section 721(c) of the Rehabilitation Act. Together, these awards constitute a state's total FY 2009 allocation for the CILs program. The Department then awards funds allocated for each state through competitive grants to centers for independent living within each state, except in Massachusetts and Minnesota, where these funds are administered by the state under the authority in Section 723 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The Department has reserved funds from all three ARRA IL programs, including the CILs program, for the required set-aside under Section 21(b) of the Rehabilitation Act for capacity-building activities of minority entities and Indian tribes. The Department has also reserved ARRA CILs program funds for training and technical assistance as required by Section 721(b) of the Rehabilitation Act.
As in past years, the Department plans to award to existing centers the regular FY 2009 CILs program funds by September 30, 2009. The Department plans to award any ARRA CILs program funds to existing centers by September 30, 2009, and any ARRA CILs program funds that will be distributed through a competition to establish new centers by December 31, 2009.
The commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is required to distribute the total FY 2009 allocation for the CILs program for each state based on the order of priorities set forth in Sections 722(e) and 723(e) of the Rehabilitation Act and 34 CFR 366.22 and 366.34 of the program regulations. Accordingly, RSA will:
provide existing centers that comply with the standards and assurances in Section 725 of the Rehabilitation Act with the level of funding each center received for the previous fiscal year;
provide those existing centers with a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase;
fund new centers, selected on a competitive basis, that comply with the standards and assurances in Section 725 of the Rehabilitation Act, if sufficient funds are available and there is a region in a state that is unserved or underserved, consistent with the approved State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL); and
if there are insufficient funds to establish a new center in a state, award any remaining funds to existing centers consistent with the SPIL, or reallocate the funds to other states.
To inform RSA's determination of whether to establish new centers in a state or to use the ARRA CILs program funds to provide supplemental funding to existing centers, RSA will contact each designated state unit (DSU) and Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) to:
review the information in the current SPIL, verify the amount of CILs program funds available to the state once existing centers receive their required minimum award and cost-of-living increase, and reach a common understanding of how the current SPIL addresses the uses of the state's total FY 2009 allocation for the CILs program;
discuss the options, including strengths and limitations of each, that the DSU and the SILC have considered for uses of these funds;
discuss whether or not the increase in the allocation to the state is sufficient to establish a new center or centers and how to address the independent living needs of individuals with significant disabilities living in unserved or underserved regions in the state;
discuss the state's options for sustaining any new centers after the ARRA funds expire;
provide guidance on whether, depending upon the decisions made regarding the proposed use of the funds, the SPIL needs to be amended; and
determine the next steps for awarding ARRA CILs program funds to new or existing centers in the state, including plans for RSA to hold a competition for any states in which new centers will be established.
Due to the significant one-time increase in funding for the CILs program this year, the DSU and SILC may not have anticipated this level of funding when the SPIL was developed. As a result, some states may need to change their SPILs to account for this increase. A state must collaborate with stakeholders to determine if it wishes to modify its priorities for the use of CILs program funds. If the proposed changes will result in a significant and relevant change
to the SPIL's information or assurances,
or to its administration or operation,
or to the organization, policies, or operations of the state agency that received the grant (if the change materially affects the information or assurances in the SPIL)
the DSU and SILC will need to amend the SPIL. This includes conducting public hearings as required by the IL program regulations and the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR).
Because the SPIL governs the use of funds authorized by both the IL State Grants and CILs programs, the DSU and the SILC should discuss with stakeholders whether the SPIL should be revised to reflect changes in the state's priorities resulting from the significant increase in ARRA funds for the IL State Grants program as well.
If a SPIL amendment is required, the Department cannot award ARRA funds for new or existing centers until the SPIL amendment is approved. In the event that an amendment to the SPIL is necessary, RSA will provide a timely review and approval of the amendment.
Uses of ARRA CILs Program Funds
All ARRA CILs program funds must be used consistently with the current statutory and regulatory requirements for the program, as well as applicable requirements in the General Education Provisions Act and EDGAR.
Grantees under the CILs program should consider how they can: use the additional funds to improve and expand the types of IL services provided; serve additional consumers, especially populations that are unserved or underserved; increase their capacity to provide IL services; and maximize employment opportunities and economic benefits to individuals with significant disabilities consistent with the goals and objectives established by individual consumers.
The ARRA CILs program funds constitute a large one-time increase that offers a unique opportunity for all centers to improve IL outcomes. Generally, these funds should be used by centers for short-term investments with the potential for long-term benefits, rather than for commitments that a center may not be able to sustain once ARRA CILs program funds are expended. Some examples of such uses are:
Designing or identifying and providing services that may be extended at low cost beyond 2011 to additional individuals who wish to transition from nursing homes to their communities;
Creating more efficient and effective ways of increasing IL services to students with disabilities transitioning from school to employment and independent living;
Building long-term capacity by improving the technological core of a center, including, but not limited to, purchasing equipment, improving electronic network connections, and obtaining software in order to better serve consumers;
Training current staff in effective ways of providing assistive technology to consumers;
Expanding information and referral and advocacy services to address the needs of consumers who were laid off and may need assistance replacing services or assistive technology previously provided through an employer;
Providing professional development opportunities that have both short-term and long-term benefits to staff of centers; and
Conducting resource development activities to obtain funding from sources other than chapter 1 of title VII of the Rehabilitation Act.
In accordance with the goals of the ARRA, the funds received by centers should be obligated expeditiously and with appropriate accountability. In accordance with the Supplemental Appropriations Act 2009, the ARRA IL Part C funds a center receives may be expended by the center during the project period of the grant, which may be for a period of up to 5 years from the date that center is awarded its ARRA IL Part C funds.
The ARRA provides a significant one-time increase in funding that could permit the establishment of new centers in areas that are unserved or underserved within states. These centers, like existing centers, will be eligible to receive CILs program funds in subsequent fiscal years, as long as they meet the standards and assurances in Section 725 of the Rehabilitation Act. Assuming regular federal appropriations for the CILs program remain constant, existing centers, and any new centers, will receive reduced federal funding once all ARRA CILs program funds are expended. In the short term, in order to minimize the impact of funding new centers on the level of federal funding available in the future for existing centers, the commissioner may use FY 2009 appropriations to fund the first two years of a grant to any new center. Providing more than one year of funding would give states and centers more time to develop other sources of funding, such as the IL State Grants program, state funds, or Social Security reimbursement funds, to ensure that centers have adequate levels of support.
As with all federal funds, centers are responsible for ensuring that the ARRA CILs program funds are used prudently and in accordance with the law.
ARRA requires that recipients of funds made available under that act separately account for and report on how those funds are spent. Further information on reporting instructions will be provided online at www.FederalReporting.gov.
President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan are committed to ensuring that ARRA funds are spent with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability. ARRA CILs program expenditures will be reported on the Recovery.gov Web site.
The Department will provide more guidance and updates as additional information becomes available regarding the details of the ARRA CILs program funds.
The Department will also provide further information on the government-wide data collection and reporting requirements as this information becomes available.
If you have any questions or concerns, please e-mail them to RSARecoveryActComments@ed.gov.