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Stimulus Applications Could Overwhelm Grants.gov

By Sarah Cohen
The first federal casualty of the stimulus bill was identified by the Office of Management and Budget this week when OMB director Peter Orszag told agency heads to plan for a possible meltdown of the government's main grantmaking portal.

A review of its capacity revealed a "significant risk of failure," Orzag warned. A memo sent to agencies said that Grants.gov, a site where nonprofits and local governments can search federal programs and apply for more than 1,000 competitive grants from 22 agencies, is already straining under the weight of recent growth. With an expected 60 percent increase in volume because of last month's $787 billion stimulus bill, the system could just break, Orszag said.

Programs getting large boosts in grant spending under the bill include broadband Internet access, medical research and education construction. The risk was identified as part of OMB's review of major systems needed to get the stimulus money out quickly.

The expected major surge in applications will likely take a while to emerge, as agencies begin writing their instructions to applicants and settle on conditions and priorities for the grants. So far, only grant monies sent to state and local governments using formulas have been allocated.

But already the system is slowing down, frustrating would-be grantees trying to meet application deadlines and instead getting error messages. "Grants.gov continues to experience system slowness due to the high volume of users," the site's program management office told readers of the Grants.gov blog Tuesday.

"Think we all need to go to our congressmen and senators and do more than 'shake some trees,'" wrote one anonymous commenter in response. "The system can not support the activity. It's as basic as that.... Not until we all scream and shout will be get action. If I am told one more time to 'call the help desk,' I think I'll go crazy!"

In preparation for the surge, the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the portal, recently added more storage space for the system and is working on other modernization efforts, Orszag said in a written statement. But Orszag nonetheless ordered all of the agencies to make alternative plans in case Grants.gov can't handle the load by next week.

Posted at 1:55 PM ET on Mar 11, 2009  | Category:  New Media
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Is this a comment on our society? i.e. that there is such a humongous "need" for "free money" to make things work in this country? The requests for grants, i.e. "free money", are overwhelming the system..and I am not saying that there aren't all these really truly honest-to-goodness "needs"--there certainly are...but do we have to rely upon the federal government to meet all these "needs"--where is the "community" aspect of our society? How can we not be embarrassed by such a gigantic level of totally UNMET NEEDS? we don't look to each
other, or to family, or to any close-knit groups (except some churches and some ethnic groups who "take care of their own"), but instead we look to the government, and specifically to the federal government, all the while ragging on the giant government organisms we have created--all to do what we apparently refuse to do for ourselves!! it is no wonder we are disintegrating on so many levels..how long can a "house of cards" stand in the windstorm or the rainstorm or the sandstorm or an earthquake or rising waters...or any other "storms" that have been coming for a long time, while we all looked another direction or even closed our eyes (collectively and individually)? Although I am not a devotee of Suze Ormond, I will agree with one thing she said not long ago about the problems in our country right now--"we are all responsible"...

Posted by: rickpost | March 18, 2009 4:05 PM

If anyone else does not understand the words "I don't hate America" please let me know.

Posted by: JakeD | March 12, 2009 11:00 AM

Wow. JakeD admits he hates America just as much as he hated Nazi Germany.

Posted by: nodebris | March 12, 2009 12:40 AM

I don't "hate" America, anymore than I hated Germany for killing Jews at Auschwitz.

Posted by: JakeD | March 11, 2009 9:28 PM

JakeD - yes, my lab literally uses scientific data from stem cells, in finding cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Autism, PTSD, and other diseases.

Why do you hate America so that you want us to outsource the stem cell research to Canada and the EU and make it cost more and take longer?

Hint: America decided, and you Talibangelists LOST.

Posted by: WillSeattle | March 11, 2009 6:43 PM

Rush Limbaugh is one of the stupidest men I have ever listened to. He is a product of hateful, partisan hackery. So are all of the 24 cable TV networks, because biased, lazy journalism costs less, fills more time, and sells better. The death of balanced journalism and investigative reporting is very unfortunate, especially in such times as these.

Posted by: mikeswagger | March 11, 2009 6:27 PM

Its all Obama's fault. We should be listening to Rush. I like Rush. He is my dreamboat.

Posted by: hayden1 | March 11, 2009 6:16 PM

When the stimulus fails to actually stimulate the economy, Obama can blame his ISP.

Posted by: blert | March 11, 2009 5:17 PM

Something is definitely ajar in this administration. let's call it hubris. plain and simple. the whole idea of these "stimulus" plans (that incidentally are now being used as leverage against our friends in europe to thwart any perception that it may be our own failed policies) is to create more "demand." But isn't that EXACTLY how we got ourselves into this mess. Creating demand for things no one really needs. I mean, who needs 3 big-screen tv's in their house. All bought on credit. Or buying a new car every 2 or 3 years where the biggest choice was what model or paint color to choose from. Never mind that all this demand was simultaeously raping the planet as well as the people of those developing nations trying to keep pace with all of this demand. it feels to me like obama is painting himself into a corner he can never find his way out of. without the help of the very people he is alienating. and that spells trouble. perhaps like we have not seen in anyone's life time.

Posted by: gumstick2003 | March 11, 2009 5:16 PM

I see education construction is one of the categories receiving the most funding. That ties in nicely w/Pres. Obama's plan to divert more public monies away from our public education system and into the opaque system of "Charter Schools" - whose accountability, fiscal efficiency, and equity in access are all difficult to track.

Looks like a boondoggle to developers though.

Posted by: venusvictrix | March 11, 2009 3:39 PM

WillSeattle:

I hope you are not involved in destroying human embryos.

Posted by: JakeD | March 11, 2009 3:26 PM

We in the medical genetics community wondered why it was so slow ...

Good point, JakeD.

Posted by: WillSeattle | March 11, 2009 3:15 PM

Leasy = least

Posted by: JakeD | March 11, 2009 2:29 PM

I hope we are at leasy buying all that storage space and upgrades from American companies.

Posted by: JakeD | March 11, 2009 2:18 PM

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