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Put your Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to work in 3 steps

November 10, 2020 | Emily Lambert

Two procurement and grants management professionals collaborating on finding and maximizing their CRF dollars

Grants management and procurement work hand-in-hand, especially in times of disruption, like the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, compliance is the cornerstone of grants management, and procurement can ensure that rules are followed from pre-award to closeout. And coordinating acquiring and spending of funds using digital tools can make a big impact in your organization.

That’s why we recently teamed up with grants management leader eCivis in our latest webinar “3 ways to maximize your COVID-19 funding through digital transformation.” Our expert panelists discussed the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), which helps to cover expenses related to COVID-19, like medical and public health goods and services. For many, acquiring and spending CRF compliantly and with maximum impact, all before the December 30 deadline, can be daunting—but it doesn’t have to be. Our hosts discussed 3 steps to maximizing CRF dollars, and they were even joined by Nolan Sosa from the City of San Angelo to give an inside peek at how his agency used CRF to buy procurement software to maintain social distancing and remote work collaboration. Here are some highlights from that conversation.

Step 1: Finding the funding

It’s no secret that tracking down the right grant opportunities is time-consuming and overwhelming. Simply reading the fine print in a notice of opportunity can take hours. Digital tools can help standardize and track everything. Customizable search engines, for instance, consolidate the most important information so you can know if the opportunity is relevant before you read all the fine print.

In the webinar, Nolan shared his experience with finding COVID-19 funding and determining if he had a case to use it to digitize their procurement processes.

“What no one tells you about a pandemic is that infrastructure projects and health and public safety priorities do not stop when the world goes into lockdown,” said Nolan. The procurement process had to continue, but now with the added challenge of accepting and evaluating projects remotely in a way that complied with all applicable statutes and laws. Not to mention, vendors were frustrated because their bids were not arriving on time due to mail delays. 

“eProcurement was no longer a want for us; it became a need very quickly,” said Nolan.

With very little budget to work with, Nolan began looking into grant options like CRF. He was able to build a business case predicated on two factors:

1. Social distancing – Online bid submission could eliminate the need for in-person proposal submissions, courier deliveries, and physical bid openings.

2. Remote workforce – With Nolan’s team working from home, eProcurement could help with collaboration, communication, and complete coverage of the process online.

With his business case built, Nolan was able to get buy-in and approval from the City Attorney, CFO, and City Manager.

Step 2: Applying the funding to missions

Every public agency has a mission—and the way you choose to use your funding at this time can either work towards it or against it.

For instance, in an effort to reduce costs in the current economic climate, some agencies may choose to cut some of their software costs. But eliminating cloud-based systems can introduce redundancies and a lot of human error, ultimately affecting your mission’s impact long-term. 

By digitizing procurement, Nolan’s team was able to realize efficiencies that enabled his agency to meet constituents’ needs faster. For instance, they’ve been able to increase the level of service for internal clients with Bonfire’s intake module, streamline the drafting process with templates, and focus less on vendor document management and more on vendor engagement with a portal where suppliers can upload their own documents and proposals. 

Step 3: Multiplying funding to maximize outcomes

With so many agencies still facing budget cuts, staff reductions, and being forced to do more with less, being able to make your funding go further to maximize outcomes for your mission is more critical than ever. Digitizing your grants and procurement processes can help.

“When you take time away from paper shuffling and administrative duties, and allocate it towards long-term sustainable sourcing solutions, you’re serving your organization and you’re serving the public in a more effective manner. And if you’re able to do it through state and federal dollars, then that’s just an added bonus,” said Nolan.

To listen to the full conversation with our expert panelists on how to find and effectively spend COVID-19 funding, watch the full webinar for free. Although for some agencies, like public housing and transportation, the deadline has been extended, the deadline for states to spend CRF is still December 30—which is approaching fast. Book a demo with us to learn more about maximizing your CRF or other COVID-19 funding with procurement software. 

About the author

Bonfire Blog Author Emily Lambert

Emily Lambert | Bonfire Interactive

As the Content Marketing Strategist at Bonfire, Emily writes thought leadership for procurement teams in the public sector. Best practices content for procurement professionals doesn’t have to be a chore to get through—which is why Emily strives to strike the balance of writing educational yet engaging content that inspires sourcing experts and equips them to make the best purchasing decisions.