Grant listings hit Internet

Grants.gov

A central portal providing information on government grant opportunities launched today, and the first application has already been sent online, officials said.

Grants.gov, one of the 24 e-government initiatives, replaces paper applications for grants and allows organizations and individuals to search and apply for federal grants online. Eleven agencies took part in the initiative, led by the Health and Human Services Department.

"This is a giant step forward," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said today at a briefing. "Grants.gov will fulfill President Bush's charge to make the federal government more accessible."

The vision and goals for the project were set in February 2002, said Charles Havekost, Grants.gov program manager. "There were a lot of folks that thought this day would never come," he said. "This gets us to the point that was called for in the president's management agenda. This is important, and we all deserve to be proud of this."

Havekost credited the combination of funds and personnel between partner agencies for much of the initiative's success. "Without that crossagency perspective and expertise, it would have been very difficult if not impossible to achieve this task," he said.

More than 800 grant opportunities are now available on the Web site. The first application was sent this morning. The federal government awards more than $360 billion each year to states, counties, cities, educational institutions and organizations.

Grants.gov is intended to save time and energy for organizations combing various Web sites and catalogues, said Karen Evans, administrator for E-Government and Information Technology at the Office of Management and Budget.

"Grants.gov is doing a lot more," she said. "It's making transactions easier, cheaper, quicker and more comprehensible." It's also outlining the principles laid out in the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, she said.

The greatest obstacles for county officials searching for federal grant opportunities is a lack of awareness of opportunities and a lack of staff with grant-writing skills, said Larry Naake, executive director of the National Association of Counties. NACO surveyed county officials and also found that 91 percent said they would use a portal like Grants.gov.

"The need is obvious," Naake said at the briefing today. "The solution fits the need."

One of the most important features of the site, Naake said, was the ability to download forms and work on them offline before submitting them to Grants.gov. Some rural counties don't have constant Internet access and need to be able to circulate forms throughout the organization.

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