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Water: Tribal

Clarifying Questions and Answers Regarding the Request For Applications (RFA) to Support the National Tribal Water Council (NTWC)

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Added March 31, 2011

Added March 30, 2011

Added March 29, 2011

Added March 23, 2011

Added March 21, 2011

Added March 16, 2011

Added March 14, 2011


What is the approximate percent of the grant funds allocated between the funding required by the current contractors to assist/facilitate/support the NTWC and administer the grant/work plan versus the amount of grant funds necessary to fund the needs/work/travel/coordination and communication of the Council and its members?  To be more specific, how much of the grant funds go to the contractors and how much to the Council and its members?

In your question, by "current contractors" do mean the incumbent cooperative agreement recipient?  We presume your reference to "current contractors" is referring to the incumbent cooperative agreement recipient.   EPA is using a cooperative agreement as the funding mechanism for this announcement.   EPA does not have a contract with the individual who currently provides technical support to the NTWC. 

Under the current cooperative agreement, the average amount of funding that the grantee allocated for Council member travel to approved meetings over a four year period is approximately 30 per cent of the total funding.  The remaining 70% of funding was used by the grantee to support the grantee's salary for managing/facilitating/assisting in administrative support for NTWC-related activities, and conducting outreach and projects in the workplan.  This is a rough estimate based on the past grant, which has a somewhat different project description to the current RFA (EPA-OW-IO-11-01).  However, to help applicants understand past needs and approaches, we are providing this estimate.

To be clear, funding under this cooperative agreement does not go directly to the Council, except to assist the NTWC members with travel costs.

It is up to the applicant to determine how they propose to allocate funding to meet the project description elements in I.B., which includes travel support for the NTWC.  As stated in the RFA, the project description elements provide some detail on roles and responsibilities that the successful applicant may be expected to assume in carrying out specific work objectives under the cooperative agreement.  The description does not attempt to be comprehensive, and applicants are encouraged to identify additional project elements (i.e., not included in the RFA announcement) that they would like to propose that may contribute to their overall vision for project success in their applications.  The applicant must justify their own budget based on their overall vision and technical approach in the application.  EPA will evaluate your budget on its own merits and will not assume that your budget should be based on using the same percentages listed here.  EPA is not requiring applicants to use this percentage split for estimating their proposed budgets in the application, nor will applicants necessarily score higher if they use this percentage cost split.

In addition, under this RFA, for the first time, EPA is providing additional resources, in the form of in-kind assistance, for an EPA contractor to support administrative work under this cooperative agreement, which may have the effect of enabling the successful applicant to accomplish more tasks in a workplan.  EPA has provided answers in the Q&A section on the RFA website (http://water.epa.gov/grants_funding/tribal) to several questions regarding what is the envisioned role of the contractor (i.e., the in-kind assistance provided by EPA in addition to the grant funding) and the role of the successful applicant (i.e., the grantee) for this project, as well as how these roles should be reflected in the applicant's proposed budget.  Applicants should include the type of contractor support they envision to use as part of their budget proposal and project description. 

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Regarding the National Tribal Water Council RFP, can a nonprofit organization that does not have 501c3 status apply?

Yes. As long as the organization is recognized as a nonprofit or not for profit by the state in which it is incorporated, the organization need not have tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

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Would a nonprofit organization without this status qualify as a “nonprofit” as defined for the purposes of this RFP?

Yes, see previous question.

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Could such an entity be a subawardee?

Yes.   EPA awards funds to one eligible applicant as the recipient even if other eligible applicants are named as partners or co-applicants or members of a coalition or consortium.  Funding may be used to provide subgrants or subawards of financial assistance, which includes using subawards or subgrants to fund partnerships, provided the recipient complies with applicable requirements for subawards or subgrants including those contained in 40 CFR Parts 30 or 31, as appropriate (Please see RFA section II.C. for more information).

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How is a tribal consortium defined for the purposes of the RFA?

Please use the definition found at 40 CFR Part 35.504, copied below:
TITLE 40 - PROTECTION OF ENVIRONMENT
CHAPTER I - ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
SUBCHAPTER B - GRANTS AND OTHER FEDERAL ASSISTANCE
PART 35 - STATE AND LOCAL ASSISTANCE
subpart b - ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAM GRANTS FOR TRIBES

35.504 - Eligibility of an Intertribal Consortium.

(a) An Intertribal Consortium is eligible to receive grants under the authorities listed in 35.501 only if the Consortium demonstrates that all members of the Consortium meet the eligibility requirements for the grant and authorize the Consortium to apply for and receive assistance in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section.

[deleted paragraph (b) because it only applies to the General Assistance Program]

(c) An Intertribal Consortium must submit to EPA adequate documentation of: (1) The existence of the partnership between Indian Tribal governments, and (2) Authorization of the Consortium by all its members (or in the case of the General Assistance Program, all members that meet the eligibility requirements for a General Assistance Program grant) to apply for and receive the grant(s) for which the Consortium has applied.

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Can we use the funds to run a pilot program in Pine Ridge that can be used in all other reservations with some changes for specific Tribal interests and concerns?

The project that you describe would not be consistent with the terms of Section I. B. of the EPA request for applications (RFA).   EPA is soliciting applications from organizations interested in supporting the operations of a tribal co-regulator group, the National Tribal Water Council (NTWC), to increase tribal awareness and expertise on a wide variety of issues, related to the quality of tribal water resources, watersheds, drinking water, and the health of tribal communities.    The successful applicant will enable and support the NTWC to address a full range of policy and technical issues affecting tribes related to EPA water authorities, and a full range of outreach, training and information exchange mechanisms to benefit tribes nationally. 

The primary purpose of this project is not to run a pilot program with extensive testing of contaminated ground water for one particular purpose.  An applicant who limits the project description in I.B. to only enable the implementation of an existing specific project, such as the Native American Cancer Society arsenic/metals in water project, (no matter how worthwhile or viable that project may be) will not receive a competitive score using the criteria in Section V.A.

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Can the funds be used to test water in the ponds (children are breaking out in rashes when they swim there) and some untested wells and water tanks where water is supplied through ground water?

Technically, yes, but only if the testing would support a study by the NTWC on a national issue that affects all tribes as opposed to testing water in ponds for the benefit of one particular tribe.  In their applications, applicants may propose any subject areas that achieve the objectives described under this announcement for possible studies (i.e., that are consistent with the CWA 104(b)(3) and SDWA 1442).  Please keep in mind that the NTWC has the final say on which studies will be conducted that are otherwise consistent with the EPA approved scope of work.  There are a wide range of competing issues, and funding is limited. 

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Can we set up a blog or part of the  website that  links to the monthly testing done by the water organizations on all Tribal lands?

Yes, as part of developing appropriate outreach or delivery of information mechanisms in an application, and if the NTWC chooses to support this mechanism, an applicant may set up a blog or part of a website that links to the monthly testing done by the water organizations on all tribal lands.  A blog or part of a website may be useful in reaching a broad tribal audience and facilitating participation of tribes in EPA initiatives and actions on water resource protection topics. 

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Is the training and information sharing just for the NTWC or can this be disseminated to all Tribal members and other Tribes?

The training and information sharing conducted under this cooperative agreement is not limited to just the NTWC, but should be made available broadly benefit all interested tribes and tribal members.

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Although we have worked extensively in Nepal for over 9 years, can this experience be counted as important with EPA? We are a registered 501 C 3

It is up to the applicant to list the experience that they feel is most relevant to answer the criteria in Section V.A. Criterion 5.  The applicant should provide information that best demonstrates the applicant's experience and ability to successfully manage a federal grant or cooperative agreement, to fully meet reporting requirements, and based on past performance, has a high probability to complete project actions (within the scope of the workplan) and achieve project objectives.  It is up to the applicant to decide what information on experience to provide in its proposal based on its proposal strategy, and EPA cannot provide detailed direction in this area.

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Would this grant allow us to develop water programs for women in the Cancer Society which is multi-tribal , they are very passionate about helping their families?

EPA is not making funds available to develop water programs that operate independently of the NTWC even though those programs may have merit.  The successful applicant should propose an overall vision and approach to conducting studies and training to support the operations of the NTWC and to address national issues relating to tribal water programs as described in Section I. B.  It is up to applicants to propose projects which they believe would best support the operations of the NTWC and meet the needs of tribes nationally.

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Will the contractual assistance for logistical support noted in the RFP include the costs associated with securing meeting space, or should the proposal budget/budget justification include such costs?

The costs associated with securing meeting space (I.e., costs to rent the meeting space) should be included in the applicant's proposed budget and budget justification.

In addition, to the extent that these may affect your cost estimates, please be aware that there are provisions in 40 CFR Parts 30 and 31 that require compliance with the Hotel/Motel Safety Act.

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When applying, do we submit a proposal for one (1) year at $220,000 or for four (4) years at $880,000?

Please submit a proposal for four (4) years at $880,000.  Also, in reviewing the RFA, we noticed the following inconsistency between Section IV.B.1.(b) and IV.C.1.(b) (copied below).  EPA will revise the RFA on-line to correct the inconsistency in IV.C.1.(b).

IV.B.1. (Grants.Gov Submission)
(b) Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs (SF-424A). Complete the form. There are no attachments. The total amount of federal funding requested for the four-year project period should be shown on line 5(e) and on line 6(k) of the SF-424A. If indirect costs are included, the amount of indirect costs should be entered on line 6(j). The indirect cost rate (a percentage), the base (e.g., personnel costs and fringe benefits), and the amount should also be indicated on line 22. If indirect costs are requested, a copy of the Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement must be submitted as part of the application package. (See instructions for document j, below.)

IV. C.1. (Application Materials)
b. SF-424A – Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs.
The total amount of federal funding requested for the three-year project period should be shown on line 5(e) and on line 6(k) of the SF-424A. If indirect costs are included, the amount of indirect costs should be entered on line 6(j). The indirect cost rate (a percentage), the base (e.g., personnel costs and fringe benefits), and the amount should also be indicated on line 22. If indirect costs are requested, a copy of the Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement must be submitted as part of the application package. (See instructions for document j, below).

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Can grant funds be used to pay for guest speakers to come to the meetings and make presentations?

Yes, the successful applicant may use cooperative agreement funds to pay for the travel of guest speakers to attend meetings for the purpose of promoting direct interactions with water professionals that have interests in tribal water resource protection issues at both the national and regional levels.  The successful applicant could pay for travel directly or negotiate reasonable speaker fees. The amounts available for travel and/or speaker fees would be subject to negotiations between EPA and the successful applicant.

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It is not clear whether EPA would like to sponsor one meeting total over the 4 years of the project or whether it will sponsor one meeting each year. Can EPA clarify how many meetings it would like to co-sponsor in D.C. during the 4 years of the project?

EPA anticipates two face-to-face meetings between NTWC and EPA per year. To best enable the full participation of EPA managers, EPA envisions co-sponsoring one meeting each year in Washington, DC, for a total of four meetings in Washington, DC, over a four-year period.  EPA will co-sponsor the meetings under an agreement which specifies the roles and responsibilities of the Agency and the cooperative agreement recipient with regard to planning and executing the agenda for the events.  Essentially, EPA will be responsible for the federal portion of the agenda and the recipient will be responsible for the portion of the agenda that covers subjects that are important to NTWC members.

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Can you clarify travel costs for Council members? Is it up to the contractor what travel costs are paid or the council member? For example, if the meeting is held at a location where a rental car is not needed, can the contractor tell the council member that rental cars will not be paid for or if the council member wants a rental car anyway, will the contractor be required to pay for it?

The successful applicant will pay the travel costs for Council members, and will decide the type of travel assistance that will be provided given budget limitations.  The successful applicant rather than EPA's contractor will decide which NTWC members receive travel assistance to specific relevant events (for examples of relevant events, see Section I.B.3.b in the RFA).

In terms of the successful applicant's role (the grantee) and the EPA contractor's role regarding travel: the successful applicant will be responsible for making all travel arrangements for NTWC members, although EPA's contractor may be tasked to provide expert support to the successful applicant on negotiating transportation rates.  As noted in the RFA, the specific activities EPA's contractor will perform will be determined during pre-award negotiations with the successful applicant.

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The RFA response is only allowed to be 10 pages single-spaced.  The RFA states that the cover page is one of these 10 pages and states what should be included on the cover page.  Is the cover page restricted to only those items listed on Page 19 of the RFA or is the respondent allowed to response on the cover page?

The applicant is allowed to provide additional information on the cover page, if he/she so desires, as long as the other required information is also provided.

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Is the contractor who will assist in the logistical support for the NTWC already selected or will there be a separate competition process for that work?

The EPA contractor who will assist in the logistical support for the NTWC is not yet selected.  EPA will be making the selection over the next several months based on existing available contract vehicles.

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There seems to be overlap between what the contractor will do and what the selected applicant will do.  Is the split between the work based on what the applicant wants to do?  How much input will the applicant have in terms of which work the applicant does and which work the contractor does?

Yes, the split between what the contractor will do is based on what the applicant envisions and lays out in their application.  Applicants should include the type of contractor support they envision to use as part of their budget proposal and project description.  Applicants have the discretion to propose the approach that they believe to be the most efficient and effective. However, as noted in the RFA, the final specific activities EPA's contractor will perform will be determined during pre-award negotiations with the successful applicant.

The RFA provides examples of the envisioned role for the EPA contractor, and describes the EPA contractor role as assisting with general logistical activities necessary to support the NTWC as a form of in-kind assistance to the successful applicant.  The successful applicant will have responsibility for the content of NTWC meetings and work products while EPA's contractor will focus on process, location, and administrative responsibilities relating to dissiminating NTWC materials.  For additional clarification of the role between the successful applicant and the EPA contractor, please refer to the newly posted "Questions and Answers" section to the EPA webpage containing the RFA at http://water.epa.gov/grants_funding/tribal/index.cfm.

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Is the grantee ever in a situation where they are doing what might be considered advocacy work on behalf of the council or supporting a council position in a conflict or over a controversial issue?

Yes.  The successful applicant will act as an advocate on behalf of the NTWC to promote effective tribal "co-regulator" participation in the development of national policies that impact tribal water programs.  This may include providing policy level research and technical assistance to the NTWC on issues relating to tribal water programs even if those issues are controversial.  However, the successful applicant may not use EPA funds to litigate or to lobby Congress for the passage of legislation.

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There are 2 CFDA numbers: 66.424 and 66.436; How do you submit two CFDA numbers in the grants.gov submission process? Should we pick one of these two numbers?

Yes, in the Grants.gov system the applicant should select one of the CFDAs (either 66.424 or 66.436) to submit the application.

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The actual separation of duties between the EPA contractor and the applicant are not very clear. They are in a general sense, but words such as “facilitation” needs to be defined before we can accurately create a budget. What it means to you to facilitate a meeting may be different than what it means to me. Also, in the text it talks about the applicant disseminating materials, but then it also talks about the contractor “broadly disseminating NTWC products.” Who is doing what? Do activities of the contractor come from the budget of the applicant?

In the RFA, the term “facilitate” for the purposes of your application refers to your proposed technical approach to assisting the NTWC operate as an effective forum to promote tribal "co-regulator" participation in the development of national policies that impact tribal water programs. The successful applicant will provide policy level research and technical assistance to the NTWC. Its role will be more substantive than that of EPA's contractor which may facilitate meetings and provide routine logistical support as a service to the NTWC and EPA. The successful applicant will have responsibility for the content of NTWC meetings and work products while EPA's contractor will focus on process, location, and administrative responsibilities relating to dissiminating NTWC materials. The successful applicant will be responsible for making all travel arrangements for NTWC members although EPA's contractor may provide expert support on negotiating transportation rates. Finally, as noted in the RFA the specific activities EPA's contractor will perform will be determined during pre-award negotiations with the successful applicant.

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Regarding our past performance: We are a national organization that is comprised of 6 regional organizations which are independent. We are currently (and have been for roughly 30 years) funded by EPA. We assist small, rural communities with their water and wastewater problems and these communities include tribal communities, of course. The national office is the applicant. Do we submit work done by our regions for past performance or by the national office?

You should submit past performance information for the national office since it is the applicant for the cooperative agreement and will be accountable for proper management of EPA funds and successful performance of its proposed activities. In evaluating the applicant’s qualifications, past performance, and reporting history, it is important for the review panel to consider the most relevant performance information, and the review panel will consider the information in the context of the component criteria listed in Criterion 5 (Section V. A. Criterion 5: Past Performance).

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Because of our 6 region structure we generally receive funds from the federal government to our national office and then have individual agreements with our regional organizations. We don’t go through a competitive bid sort of process since the national office exists to serve the regional offices. I need to know that this is ok.

Please refer to section II. C. (Award Information; Contracts and Subawards) of the RFP regarding partnerships, contracts and subawards. Provided the regional offices are separately incorporated, nonprofit organizations and the agreements between the national office and the regional offices meet the definition of a subaward at 40 CFR 30.2(ff), the transactions between the national office and the regional offices are not subject to the competition requirements in the Procurement Standards in 40 CFR Part 30.

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Does an applicant need to be Native American to qualify for this opportunity?

No, Section III. A. Eligible Applicants, does not limit qualifications soley to Indian Tribes or persons defined as Native Americans. In addition the selection criteria found in Section V. A., do not contain criteria for scoring proposals based on an applicant's status as a Native American.

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Would the recipient of these funds work in consultation with the two, current facilitators or is the current facilitation team being replaced per the NTWC by-laws or by the recipient of the current proposal? Or does this RFA represent the first addition of an "outside" facilitator/coordinator to the project?

The recipient of these funds would not work with the current facilitators, and would instead replace them. (EPA will retain the current facilitators only if they successfully compete for the cooperative agreement). The purpose of this open competition is to select an applicant under a new cooperative agreement with EPA, which will replace the current cooperative agreement between the outside grantee and EPA. EPA has established these cooperative agreements to run in four-year increments. This action represents the first time that EPA is re-competing the cooperative agreement for an outside applicant to manage and support the NTWC since it was established in 2006. The request for proposals (RFA) provides a new opportunity for outside applicants to propose their own approach and vision that fits within the RFA project description.

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The RFA describes a bifurcation of duties between the applicant and the subcontractor, yet many of the duties described in the RFA are logistical, coordination, and facilitation tasks. How will the facilitation duties of the applicant differ from the facilitator duties of the contractor that EPA will or has selected? Can you separately list the duties of each?

EPA is providing additional support to the selected applicant in the form of "in kind" contractor services in lieu of providing funds. The Agency has determined that providing in kind assistance through an EPA contractor is the most efficient and effective means of carrying out the project. The contractor will be managed by EPA, and is available to directly support the work envisioned by the selected applicant. The Agency will require that the successful applicant work with EPA's contractor. The actual list of duties the Agency contractor will perform for the successful applicant and the contractor will be negotiated between the successful applicant and EPA as part of the workplan for the cooperative agreement. EPA envisions that the contractor would be engaged as "another pair of administrative hands" to supplement the work of the successful applicant, and would be available to conduct certain "logistical" or "administrative" types of support activities, examples of which are listed in the RFA at the end of Section I.B. For example, an applicant may desire to use the contractor to compare hotel room rates among several cities when deciding where to hold a meeting, or to negotiate meeting space at a hotel in preparation for a meeting. A contractor may also be used to send out scripted emails to a tribal listserv, or format a meeting agenda or technical report. Applicants should include the type of contractor support they envision to use as part of their budget proposal and project description.

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Regarding the "technical assistance" cited on page 5, sections 2c and 2d of the RFA, will the contractor facilitate the NWTC's discussion of research needs, or conduct the research itself?

EPA envisions that the successful applicant would directly interface with the NTWC to identify research needs and conduct research. The role of the EPA contractor in providing technical assistance would be limited to administrative support, such as a meeting "facilitator" during meetings to help discussions run smoothly, or to help format research reports or conduct technical edits of reports that are otherwise produced by the successful applicant and NTWC members. EPA does not envision that the EPA contractor would conduct the research itself. An applicant may propose to subgrant to an eligible entity to conduct research as part of their application.

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What proportion of the award is expected to be grants to tribal participants?
The RFP does not require that the successful applicant use a specified portion of the amount of the award for subgrants to tribes. Applicants should explain how they intend to support participation by tribal members of the NTWC in the Council's activities.  However, applicants may propose to provide that support by direct payments to NTWC members for travel, meeting stipends and other allowable program participant support costs ( 2 CFR Part 230, Appendix B, Item 33) rather than through subgrants to the NTWC members or the tribes to which the NTWC members belong. Applicants have the discretion to propose the approach that they believe to be the most efficient and effective.

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Will the selected applicant play more of a facilitative or technical support role? Do you want someone who can do technical analyses or could that be subcontracted?

Based on the project description, it will be important for the successful applicant to be efficient and effective in a facilitative role overall, including the ability to facilitate and manage the development of technical analyses and technical support. The successful applicant may develop technical analyses either through its own staff, a competitively awarded contract with an individual consultant or commercial firm or a subgrant with a university or other nonprofit institution. (See section II.C.,Contracts and Subawards).  Please note that all technical analyses must be responsive to the needs of the National Tribal Water Council.

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What is the role of the EPA’s contractor? What do you see as the difference between the applicant’s role and the contractor?

EPA envisions that the contractor would be engaged as "another pair of administrative hands" to supplement and support the work of the successful applicant, and would be available to conduct certain "logistical" or "administrative" types of support activities, examples of which are listed in the RFA at the end of Section I.B. For example, an applicant may desire to use the contractor to compare hotel room rates among several cities when deciding where to hold a meeting, or to negotiate meeting space at a hotel in preparation for a meeting. An applicant may also desire to use the contractor to send out scripted emails to a tribal listserv, or format a meeting agenda or technical report. Applicants should include the type of contractor support they envision to use as part of their budget proposal and project description. EPA is providing this additional support to the selected applicant in the form of "in kind" contractor services in lieu of providing funds. The Agency has determined that providing in kind assistance through an EPA contractor is the most efficient and effective means of carrying out the project, and will require that the successful applicant work with EPA's contractor. The contractor will be managed by EPA, and the contractor is available to directly support the applicant, based on activities that are envisioned by the selected applicant. The actual list of duties the Agency contractor will perform for the successful applicant and the contractor will be negotiated between the successful applicant and EPA as part of the workplan for the cooperative agreement.

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How many NTWC and other meetings do you anticipate per year?  It appears there will be only two NTWC meetings.

EPA anticipates that there will be two face to face NTWC meetings per year (this has been the case over the last four years), however the applicant may propose additional meetings as part of their overall proposed approach to the project. Additionally, EPA anticipates periodic conference calls with the NTWC. Over the last four years, the NTWC has conducted monthly teleconferences. However, the applicant may propose a different schedule for conference calls as part of their proposed approach to the project.

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Will all NTWC members require travel expenses to all meetings? How many do you anticipate will require travel from the budget?

Yes, the successful applicant will support the travel needs for participating NTWC members at all meetings. The NTWC is composed of 15 members (9 Regional and 6 at large). Not all members attend all meetings due to unavoidable conflicts, but there is usually a majority in attendance.

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How important is it to have had prior experience with EPA grants and/or assistance agreements?

The selection criteria in section V.A, Criteria 5 Past Performance (a total of 15 points out of 100 total) is intended to evaluate the applicant’s ability to successfully complete and manage the proposed project. It is helpful to know if an applicant has managed a cooperative agreement or grant (federally or non-federally funded), to gain insight on and evaluate the likelihood that the applicant would be successful in carrying out the grant and  work plan efficiently and effectively and consistent with federal grant law. Where an applicant has prior experience with EPA assistance agreements, EPA prefers that the applicants list the EPA agreements that they have managed, so that EPA will have the most relevant information possible. Applicants are not penalized in their score if the information they provide on prior experience is with non-EPA grants. It will be important for applicants to provide information on non-EPA assistance agreements that is adequate to demonstrate the applicant’s ability to complete and manage the grant successfully. In addition, if a grantee has no relevant or available past performance information or reporting history, the applicant will receive a neutral score for Criteria 5 (I.e., a score of 7.5 out of 15).

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