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Monday, April 15, 2013

Grants Work in a Congressional Office

Merete F. Gerli
Information Research Specialist

Members of Congress receive frequent requests from grant seekers needing funds for projects in districts and states. The congressional office should first determine its priorities regarding the appropriate assistance to give constituents, from providing information on grants programs to active advocacy of projects. Congressional grants staff can best help grant seekers by first themselves gaining some understanding of the grants process.

Each office handles grants requests in its own way, depending upon the Member’s legislative agenda and overall organization and workload. There may be a full-time grants specialist or several staff members under the supervision of a grants coordinator working solely in the area of grants and projects. In some offices, all grants requests are handled in the district or state office; in others, they are answered by the Washington, DC, staff.

To assist grant seekers applying for federal funds, congressional offices can develop working relationships with grants officers in federal and state departments and agencies. Because more than 80% of federal funds go to state and local governments that, in turn, manage federal grants and sub-award to applicants in their state, congressional staff need to identify their own state administering offices.

To educate constituents, a congressional office may provide selected grant seekers information on funding programs or may sometimes sponsor workshops on federal and private assistance. Because most funding resources are on the Internet, Member home pages can also link to grants sources such as the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) and so that constituents themselves can search for grants programs and funding opportunities. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) web page, Grants and Federal Domestic Assistance, by Merete F. Gerli (see sample at, can be added to a Member’s home page upon request and is updated automatically on House and Senate servers. Another CRS web page, Grants and Federal Assistance, by Merete F. Gerli, at, covers key CRS products.

Congressional staff can use CRS reports to learn about grants work and to provide information on government and private funding. In addition to the current report, these include CRS Report RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With Grant Requests Before Federal Agencies, by Jack Maskell; CRS Report RL34012, Resources for Grantseekers, by Merete F. Gerli; and CRS Report RL32159, How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal, by Merete F. Gerli. CRS also offers reports on block grants and the appropriations process; federal assistance for homeland security and terrorism preparedness; and federal programs on specific subjects and for specific groups, such as state and local governments, police and fire departments, libraries and museums, nonprofit organizations, small business, and other topics. An internal grants manual outlining office policies and procedures, including perhaps templates for letters of support, might be developed to help grants staff. With reductions in federal programs, and with most government grants requiring matching funds, grants staff should also become familiar with other funding, such as private or corporate foundations, as alternatives or supplements to federal grants.

Date of Report: April 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RL34035
Price: $29.95

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