Education seeks e-Grants feedback

The Education Department is asking for comments and suggestions to help it improve its efforts to administer grants over the Internet.

In a Federal Register notice published this week, Education outlined its Electronic Grants Initiatives (e-Grants) program, highlighting steps it has taken to make applying for grants and carrying out other grant-related activities available over the World Wide Web. The department will use the comments it receives to improve its efforts.

"Our goal over time is to encourage applicants and grantees to make e-commerce their preferred method of doing business," the notice states.

"We basically want to have a complete electronic grants process," said Rebecca Harding-Spitzgo, project manager for Education's Grant Administration and Payment System (GAPS). Traditional paper-based grant administration also will remain available, she said.

The notice also is designed to increase the awareness of Education's electronic grants efforts, said Cathy DeLuca, team leader for the e-Grants effort. "We wanted to make it known broadly what the department is doing," she said.

In fiscal 2000, Education conducted a pilot project of its e-Application enhancement to GAPS involving Internet-based custom software for submitting applications in eight grant competitions, according to the department. A follow-up survey found that 90 percent of the pilot's participants found the system easy to use.

This year 34 Education grant programs are testing e-Application, DeLuca said. One formula-based grant is expected to generate up to 1,500 applications over the Web, she said.

The department also added to GAPS an enhancement called e-Reports, which enables grant holders to submit annual performance reports over the Internet.

For this fiscal year, Education plans to:

Complete the development of e-Reader, also to be added to GAPS, which would enable grant application reviewers at disparate locations to evaluate and score applications on a Web-based form. Make the option of submitting applications over the Internet available on up to 50 percent of new grant competitions. Increase the number of hours electronic grants applications can be submitted. Further integrate its electronic grants efforts with the Federal Commons, a central portal for applicants seeking information about federal grant programs.

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