The Federal grant programs administered by FEMA, including the AFG grant, SAFER grant, and FP&S are some of the largest and most popular sources of grants for fire departments and EMS agencies across the US. There will be nearly $1 billion available in FY2021. At Firehouse Grants, too often we see departments jump right into preparing these applications without taking care of a basic requirement: ensuring their department has an active SAM.gov registration.
Get to know the FEMA grant basics
FEMA requires any grant applicant to maintain an active registration with the System for Award Management (SAM), a Federal database typically used for awarding government contracts. To put it simply, any entity “doing business” with the Federal government or receiving Federal funds from a fire grant or EMS grant has to be registered at SAM.gov.
Gaining access to FEMA’s new Grant Outcomes portal (FEMA GO) is another critical reason to maintain a valid SAM.gov registration. On FEMA’s old eGrants portal (in use until 2018), it was possible to submit a grant application without a current SAM.gov registration. However, under the new system, it is no longer possible to submit or even access the application without registering on FEMA GO, which in turn requires registering on SAM.gov.
The first step to register with SAM is to obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number), which is issued by the IRS; most fire departments already have one. Next, you’ll need to obtain a unique entity ID number for your organization. Until April 2022, you’ll need to contact Dun & Bradstreet for a DUNS number (Data Universal Numbering System) to serve as your unique ID. You can either request the DUNS number via the web (https://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/index.jsp) or by calling 1-866-705-5711. After April 2022, SAM.gov will begin providing a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) directly to organizations and the DUNS number will no longer be required. Once you obtain a DUNS or UEI, this unique identifier can be registered at SAM.gov. Although registration at the government’s website – www.sam.gov – is free, beware that there are many third-party vendors with similar names that will charge a fee to complete the registration.
You completed the SAM.gov registration. Now What?
The process of registering at SAM.gov can take several weeks to complete. FEMA advises departments to address their SAM.gov registration at least 4 weeks before the submission deadline, but any of the following issues can cause even further delays:
- Not able to login to SAM.gov because the member who previously registered the organization has left or passed away
- Not able to login to SAM.gov because the email account associated with the login is no longer active or available
- There is a mismatch for the name or address of the organization between Dun & Bradstreet, the IRS, and/or the respective department of state
- CAGE/DLA requires validation of additional information such as points of contact, business location, business type, etc.
Act smart and fast with your FEMA applications
Keep in mind that the application periods for AFG grants, SAFER grants, and FP&S only last for 30-40 days once each year. If you wait until the application period opens to register with SAM.gov, you probably won’t be able to submit the grant application before the deadline. It could take four weeks or more after submitting the SAM registration before the registration actually becomes active, and then an additional 1-2 days before the FEMA GO system recognizes the information! With this timeline, it’s absolutely critical to get your registration active well before the application period opens. Even if your department is registered at SAM.gov, keep in mind that it must be renewed at least once every 12 months – otherwise, it will expire.
Registering the entity might seem boring to some and overwhelming to others, but you simply won’t get a FEMA fire grant or EMS grant without it. Unfortunately, we’ve seen dozens of departments over the years that missed out on emergency services grants because they didn’t complete this relatively straightforward step. If you have any questions about registering your department at SAM.gov, or to discuss your next grant project, please reach out to us.