Community Action Council of Howard County, Maryland Inc.
USDA Section 533 Grant Application for 2023 (Housing Preservation Grant)
This statement is to comply with the requirements detailed in the Federal Register regarding posting of this funding opportunity, as well as RD Instructions 1944-N dated 7/11/22. It is made available for public comment in accordance with the instructions in the grant application. Any inquiries or comments that the public would like to make may be submitted to The Community Action Council, 9820 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia MD 21046, or by phone at 410-313-6440 (Gary Christopher).
Statement of Activities Proposed
The Community Action Council of Howard County, Maryland (CAC) is pleased to submit this application for the USDA Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant. The request for assistance is to fund a program that is primarily a “homeowner assistance program”, with a secondary purpose of being a “rental assistance program”. USDA Housing preservation Grant funds will support CAC’s “Weatherization Readiness Program” or “WxR” which will be supported by multiple grant programs including the USDA, the US Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program, private foundation support, the Howard County Government, the State of Maryland, and possibly other sources.
CAC has a demonstrated history of managing a successful weatherization program across the State of Maryland. Among the non-profit weatherization network in Maryland (DOE WAP subgrantees), CAC is by far the most productive and successful organization of its type, providing 65%-80% of Maryland’s weatherization production annually.
The Weatherization Readiness Program will enable CAC to provide homes which do not meet the minimum standard required for the Weatherization Program, to receive the needed repairs to reach the standard. In order to provide Weatherization services, a minimum habitability standard is required before any energy efficiency work may take place – homes must be free of mold, water leaks, pest infestation, asbestos, dangerous wiring conditions and other similar conditions. A significant percentage of homes in need of Weatherization cannot undergo services until these conditions are corrected. This program will address prerequisite repairs to improve habitability, preserve existing housing, improve code compliance, health and safety, livability, and expand the number of homes eligible for Weatherization services.
CAC is currently acquiring funds for this new program. As CAC succeeds in securing funding, staff will be hired commensurate with the funding levels. Expected funding to be leveraged for this program is detailed here:
Between these various sources, in addition to the USDA funds, CAC’s Weatherization Readiness Program will be able to meet the full community need.
Summary of Program Operation Plans
Candidates for Weatherization Readiness / HPG funding will come from the following sources:
Per the USDA Section 533 HPG Program, all clients will be under the category designated as “very low income”. Applications will be accepted and documented following the same model CAC uses for weatherization and energy assistance – detailed proof of income and identity, and appropriate demographic information, will be collected.
CAC will utilize alternative funding sources to service clients whose income exceeds the “very low income” threshold.
If CAC receives more applications than can be served with the available WxR funds, clients will be taken on a first come, first served basis. If further prioritization of client service is needed, CAC will employ the system used by DOE WAP, which prioritizes clients based on need and energy burden, with special weight given to the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
When a potential candidate for the WxR Program is identified, CAC will send an estimator to the house to determine the client’s needs and to write a scope of work and an estimate. CAC’s objective is to turn this work scope and estimate into a work order issued to a contractor with a week to ten days. To do this, CAC will be employing Xactimate estimating software, the same product that is widely used in the fire restoration industry. The estimator will create a 3-D model of the house and produce an estimate using Xactimate’s detailed pricing data, which is updated monthly. This will result in a work scope that contains transparent take-offs and pricing that will be easily understood by contractors.
In the next Request for Proposals, which will be issued later this year, contractors will be asked to bid on participation in the WxR Program. As part of this program, they will accept pricing according to Xactimate. They will not bid on individual measure pricing but, instead will bid on the operating and profit percentage that will be added to those base prices (the Xactimate program will be set up to produce pricing WITHOUT O&P percentages). Contractors will be selected based on this O&P pricing as well as experience, expertise, references, and other factors.
CAC inspectors will work with the client and contractor to initiate and complete repairs, including in-process inspections and quality control inspections. Every project will be inspected by CAC personnel at least twice. All conditions, progress and final work will be photo documented.
Work funded by the USDA HPG program will be limited to $10,000 per project but may be leveraged/braided with other funding as appropriate.
It is anticipated that most projects will result in subsequent Weatherization services being performed. The average weatherization project is approximately $8,000-$10,000. The average percentage of a project to be funded by sources other than the USDA HPG program will be over 50%.
It is our intention to limit the program to homeowners, at least at first. If more clients are needed to spend available funds, eligibility may be extended to renters and multi-unit low-income properties.
CAC maintains adequate levels of experienced staff to handle a Weatherization Readiness Program of up to approximately $1,000,000 of initial funding. If CAC can raise more than that amount, CAC would hire additional inspectors and/or administrative staff. CAC has four technical staff already available to work on WxR. The Weatherization Director has 35 years of single-family construction experience, 12 years in Weatherization, is a licensed home inspector, and is experienced in using Xactimate and administering all manner of grant programs. All four technical staff are BPI credentialed energy auditors, holding the advanced level certification of Energy Auditor and Quality Control Inspector. All staff have extensive experience in the construction industry, both in weatherization and in general home remodeling. In addition, CAC’s Weatherization Department has four admin staff experienced in case management and administration. CAC also has fully staffed accounting, human resources, communications, and IT departments to aid in program implementation.
If awarded funds, CAC will use the RD standards for existing buildings in the implementation of this program.
The grant funds will be expended on a uniform basis over two years. The initial three months of the grant period are expected to include reduced activity to account for program initiation.
Estimated Number of People to be Assisted
CAC anticipates that 50 homes housing 150 people will be serviced using USDA funds during the grant period. All households will qualify as “very low income” under USDA standards. Homeowners will be given preference. If any renters or multi-unit rental properties will be served, then the landlord must sign an agreement to preserve the dwellings status as a home for income-limited tenants for five years, in accordance with the grant requirements. The percentage of clients who are members of recognized minority groups is expected to be approximately 50%.
Geographic Areas to be Served
CAC will serve rural areas in Maryland as defined by the USDA map and in accordance with grant requirements. Currently CAC services all areas of the state except for Allegheny, Garrett, St, Mary’s, Calvert and Charles Counties. CAC does not plan on serving those areas in the future.
Indirect Cost Plan
CAC administers multiple programs that use federal, state, county, and private funds. As a result, indirect costs are apportioned among those programs. It is CAC’s policy to charge 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs as indirect costs to each of those programs. CAC does this in accordance with federal regulations and follow the rules as laid out in the OMB circular regarding indirect costs.
CAC uses accrual-based accounting and maintains its records and presents its financial statements in accordance with GAAP. CAC is subject to the single audit requirement and is examined by external auditors each year.
This grant request is $60,000 over two years. A summary of our proposed budget is as follows:
|Year 1||Year 2|
|Grant Revenue||$ 30,000||$ 30,000|
|Subcontractor Costs for Home Repairs||($ 20,000)||($ 20,000)|
|Non-Administrative Personnel Costs (Direct Expenses for Program Operations)||($ 7,000)||($ 7,000)|
|Miscellaneous Non-Administrative Direct Program Expenses (travel, etc.)||($ 272)||($ 272)|
|Indirect Costs (Administrative) – (10% of MTDC)||($ 2,728)||($ 2,728)|
|Total Expenses||($ 30,000)||($ 30,000)|
CAC’s preference is to draw funds quarterly, in a lump sum, and in advance for all program activities. This will allow us to pay our subcontractors on a timely basis without undue burden on CAC’s cash position.
Method to Evaluate Effectiveness of the Program
To monitor the effectiveness of CAC’s performance under this grant, CAC proposes the following metrics:
Environmental Impacts Under Section 1944.672
It is anticipated that all work to be funded by this grant will qualify under the “Categorical Exclusion Without an Environmental Report” as described.
CAC anticipates that it will be rare for any project under this grant to include measures that will affect the exterior of an historic building. If a project arises that will have such an impact, CAC will contact the local USDA RD office to establish a means by which the project will be reviewed to ensure no harm is done to the appearance of these historic buildings. It should be noted that the great majority of referrals are likely to be part of the DOE WAP program, and the administering grantee (Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development) has a process in place to review all houses referred under this program.
Other Financial Resources To Be Used in WxR Program
CAC’s Weatherization program has the following resources available (or expected to be available):
Weatherization related funding:
Home Repair funding (excluding this grant proposal):
Use of Program Income
There will be no program income resulting from this grant. All revenues will be spent on grant related activities as indicated in the budget above.
Disposition of Security Instruments
CAC will not hold any security instruments because of the activities related to execution of this grant.
Outreach Efforts Outlined in 7 CFR 1944.671(b)
As detailed above, CAC has a pre-existing outreach plan in affect to comply with the above regulation. No funds will be charged to this grant for outreach purposes. It is anticipated that the demographic breakdown of HPG clients will be representative of the breakdown of the population of the state as a whole. CAC will maintain records as detailed in the regulation.