Questions from STEP Webinar
March 11, 2011
1. Question: Will a State's applications only be accepted in its entirety, or could specific aspects of a promotion plan be accepted while other specific proposed activities are not?
Answer: All aspects of the applicant’s project plan must be found acceptable by the Associate Administrator. Unacceptable aspects of an otherwise successful proposal will not be allowed as part of the project activities.
2. Question: It was stated that this is a promotion program, not a technical training program. That said, an application to offer ExporTech training would not be viewed favorably?
Answer: The program announcement strongly encourages collaboration. A client in need of ExporTech training should be referred to an SBA resource partner, or another federal or local training resource.
3. Question: In Nevada, we are not allowed to hold funds outside the state system. We can establish a trust account within the State Controller's Office. Is this acceptable?
Answer: The state is responsible for tracking expenditures pertaining to the grant project for future auditing purposes. The State should follow the proper accounting procedures in doing so.
4. Question: Is CDBG eligible match?
Answer: Yes. Community Development Block Grant funds may be used as cash match.
5. Question: Is there a primary contact that we can use for technical assistance in filing the grant electronically?
Answer: Contact information for technical support is provided on the Grant.gov web site.
6. Question: How to qualify rural & disadvantaged businesses?
Answer: The definition of socially and economically disadvantaged businesses is provided in the program announcement, Section IX. A formal definition of rural businesses is not provided. The applicant may define this target group within the proposal.
7. Question: Is there a contact person in each state that would be the primary contact/resource for the grant director?
Answer: A district international trade officer (DITO), located at the nearest SBA district office, will serve as the local SBA contact. Also, the SBA grant program manager, located at SBA, Office of International Trade in Washington DC, will maintain ongoing communication with the project director.
8. Question: What documentation will be expected to meet performance criteria for increased sales?
Answer: The state applicant must develop the method for showing how the project affects state exports. The state will be required to submit project performance reports. Also, SBA plans to have an electronic reporting system. More information will be provided after the Notice of Award is issued to successful applicants.
9. Question: Did I understand that we should register online now and then later actually submit the actual content of the grant?
Answer: Yes. Grants.gov has a registration process that may take some time. Its best to register now in order to save time later.
10. Question: I think the performance indicator portion was extremely important; however, we lost 90% of his comments. Could he please review that section?
Answer: Please see page 10 of the program announcement (Section IV.C.4., Performance Indicators.)
11. Question: Is there some idea as to what the average sized award might be? For example $100K, 200K etc?
Answer: The maximum grant amount stated in the Grants.gov synopsis is $3 million.
12. Question: Please give an example of a project that increases direct and/or indirect supply chain exporting.
Answer: A state STEP project that increases supply chain exporting has enabled more small businesses to provide products and services to another business as part of a larger export effort. The small business’ contribution is considered an export.
13. Question: Do you require separate tracking of the time of the staff person designated to this program?
Answer: The state should use its usual auditable guidelines for tracking time and attendance.
14. Regarding the bonus criteria, there was talk of other emerging markets being included besides China. Is this still an option?
Answer: Of course, we encourage other emerging markets for exports. However, the legislation allows special consideration for applications that provide promotion plans for increasing small business exports to China.
15. Question: Will there be any benefit in linking future applications in years 2 & 3 with a project funded in year 1?
Answer: The benefit of year one, is that the applicant will have a clearer picture of how to promote exports. There is not problem stating in future applications, that you plan to continue or carry out a new activity based on lessons learned. However, please keep in mind that the selection process is competitive and year’s application stands on its own merits.
16. Question: Can a proposal be partially denied or approved?
Answer: Activities deemed unacceptable by the Associate Administrator will not be funded.
17. Question: Can you have multiple projects that are unrelated to each other in the same proposal?
Answer: Yes, as long as the projects meets the requirements of the legislation and meets the approval of the Associate Administrator.
18. Question: In your presentation, you listed the 10 states with the highest numbers of small business exporters. Are they in order? CA-1, FL, etc...
Answer: The correct order from highest to lowest is: California, Florida, New York, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia.
19. Under Special Considerations, you value "new-to-market" export opportunities to the PRC. Would increasing the existing exports of a small company to PRC be counted toward this consideration?
Answer: Yes, as long as the proposal demonstrates how an incremental increase in exports to the PRC would be accounted for.
20. Question: When will you collect 2012 applications?
Answer: We expect the 2012 application period to be approximately the same time frame as this year’s 2011 application period.
21. Question: How is rural defined?
Answer: There is no formal federal definition for “rural.” When referencing “rural” business, the applicant must use the state’s definition of rural and explain the definition in the proposal.
22. Question: Under your industry classifications, do agricultural and food products qualify?
23. Question: How is "high export volume" determined? How is it defined?
Answer: “High export volume” states were determined using state export volume data drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau for the full calendar year 2010.1 Those states with an export volume above the 95th percentile are determined to be states with high export volume for the Federal fiscal year 2011. These states are: Texas, California, New York.
1U.S. Census Bureau News 2-11-2011, Exhibit 2, “Origin of Movement of U. S. Exports of Goods by State by NAICS-Based Product Code Groupings”
24. Question: Can we assume that the average grant for the lower export volume states would be in the range of $450,000?
Answer: The program announcement does not provide a specific amount that the state should propose for a STEP grant.
25. Coordinating this program will be heavily staff dependent. What percentage of staff salaries may be included in the budget?
Answer: Staffing varies based on the state’s project plan. The SBA grants management officer will conduct a cost and price analysis to ensure personnel and all other cost elements are reasonable, allowable and allocable based on the project plan and in accordance with Cost Principles for State and Local Governments (2CFR, Part 225).
26. Question: If we have an existing contract with a foreign representative (example: Taiwan), can we use this as part of the Cash Match component?
Answer: Yes, if the contractor is working under a grant to the state for conducting a STEP project and is providing a service that promotes export opportunities for small businesses; and the State is paying cash for the contractual services.
27. Question: The payment of website foreign language translation fees. Is this to pay for companies directly or a service provider?
Answer: STEP project funds may be used by the state to pay a consultant or contractor to translate a small business’ website into a foreign language for the benefit of a small business seeking export opportunities in one or more countries.
28. Question: We have been identified as a high Export Volume State. We would like to make an official request to have that reviewed in light of information we have regarding our export data (inaccurate data by census that have yet to be resolved etc..) who can we send that appeal or explanation to?
Answer: Please see the updated STEP Program Announcement, to be published March 23, 2011 at www.SBA.gov, to view the revised “high export volume states” based upon new 2010 export data.
29. Question: Are these grants "all or nothing" or is there potential for grants to be tailored to available funding? That is, the grant request is for $3M, but SBA makes an award for $1M?
Answer: There is no guarantee the state will receive the amount requested. All budget request must be adequately justified. It is possible the proposed scope and budget may change to insure activities are reasonable, allowable and allocable.
30. Question: With regard to the staffing, will states be allowed to hire additional staff under the guidelines, although only for a 12 month period?
31. Question: Pre-Award costs? If we (the potential grantee) prepay for any events (i.e. boothspace at shows) that we wish to include in the STEP funding year can we receive reimbursement upon winning the grant? I understand that we are prepaying without the confirmation of winning the grant or not.
Answer: You may request pre-proposal cost to cover preliminary expenses that are necessary to comply with a scheduled activity in your STEP proposal. The costs will be allowable only to the extent that they would be allowable if incurred after the date of the award, and only with approval at the time of award. (See 2 CFR Part 225 (OMB Circular A-87), Attachment B.31).
32. Question: Do you count exchange students as exports, similar to the DOC?
33. Question: Do you want to see a 25% match for every line item in our budget narrative or do you want to see that the full budget does have a 25% match?
Answer: Show match amounts on relative line items. The total budget must show the full match amount as required.
34. Question: Would homosexual groups count in the “socially and economically disadvantaged”? I had a SBDC that wanted me to add something in regards to that group and I wanted to check first if that would be considered.
35. Question: We will be adding grants to companies into our proposal and will allow a list of activities to be reimbursed, similar to the list outlined in STEP. Would this cost to the program be listed under OTHER on the SF424? It does not seem to fall under Personnel/Fringe/Travel/Equipment/Supplies/Contractual/Consultants and definitely not Indirect costs. Please advise.
Answer: Yes. Costs for line items not shown on the budget form should be placed in “Other”.
36. Question: Could you also please advise us as to which category (Other/Personnel/Fringe/Travel/Equipment/Supplies/Contractual/Consultants /Indirect costs) the following line items will be assigned for the SF424: catalog entry fees at shows; graphics for booths and for printing brochures; sub exhibitor fees at shows?
Answer: Yes. Costs for line items not shown on the budget form should be placed in “other”.
37. Our agency has a preapproved “indirect ratio” that has been used for other federal grants with grants.gov. Should I just refer to it as having preapproval and registered with grants.gov in the budget narrative or do you need some other paperwork?
Answer: If the indirect ratio is still current, you may use the same.
38. Question: Page 21 of the Announcement it states that “the initial budget period will be from the date of the Notice of Award through a 12-month period.” However on page 16 it states that “the performance period is expected to begin before September 30, 2011 and must end by September 30, 2012.” So regardless of when we start, end of August- Sept 29, 2011, we can plan to go until September 30, 2011 even though that is more than a 12-month period? I have possible activities as early as Aug 2011 and at the end of Sept 2012 and I wanted to make sure I can include.
Answer: The project period will be for 12 months from the date of the Notice of Award. Because we know the first awards will be issued by 12/30/2011 which is the end of the federal fiscal year, we can say it will indeed end by 12/30/2012.
39. Question: The only item with page restrictions is the technical proposal at 20 pages double spaced correct? I am not to include: Chart of Project milestones, governors letter; resumes; organization chart; budget or anything else within that 20 page limit.
Answer: The milestone chart should be included in the 20 pages. All other items you named may go in the budget section.
40. Question: On page 12-13 of the Announcement “Grant checklist” a Cost Policy statement is asked for. Can you please explain what that is? I could not find a description of what you wanted for that.
Answer: The applicant may use the State’s cost policy statement if it exists. Otherwise the CPA certification is sufficient.
41. Question: Also on the checklist is a request for the State/Organization’s most recent Audit report. What is specifically needed here because other grants have confirmed that state’s typically cannot provide this item with meaningful detail and typically have waived this requirement. Please advise.
Answer: This is in regards to the single audit act provision under OMB Circular A-133. If the States cannot provide this information at this time, you may ignore the requirement.
42. Question: Finally, same checklist, a chart of project milestones is the title but in the description underneath that title it asks for a “chart of monthly projections for all activities to be performed under the grant project”. Do you want a timeline of activities with milestones and an accompanying spreadsheet of goals to be achieved for each event (i.e. number of participating companies)? Or do you want a timeline of goals? I was looking at achieving export sales by period not necessarily tied directly to each and every event. However, participant numbers could definitely be a direct goal per event. Please advise.
Answer: Feel free to prepare your project milestones chart as you’d like. There is no format
at this time for presenting information.
43. Question: SF-LLL disclosure of lobbying activities: When I looked at completing this required form, it does not allow us to specify that we will NOT be engaging in any lobbying… So, should we complete the form showing ‘none’ or blank spaces for lobbyist names, or should we not include the form in our package, as it doesn’t apply to our project?
Answer: Please use the form provided by SBA that you can sign.