The overall score for this Request for Proposals is 60 percent, making it moderately risky.
This request for proposals (“RFP”) is for the provision of prevention services at or near Beacon Community Center services (“Beacons”), which are located at 15 specified public schools throughout the City. Beacons are school-based programs that provide an array of wrap-around services to “youth from kindergarten through age 21 and adults aged 22 and older, including seniors.” Services may include educational, recreational, and health-promoting activities and supports. Essentially, the Beacon model is a community center housed in a school. It is intended to foster healthy development across a wide age range in high-poverty neighborhoods.
This RFP was issued in conjunction with the Department of Youth and Community Development (see Beacon Community Centers with ACS Prevention Programs – Part 1 of 2). Given the comprehensive nature and multiple aims of Beacons, we are pleased to see two City agencies collaborating to achieve related goals. Unfortunately, this collaboration has resulted in two distinct RFPs, which increases administrative burdens for applicants. Applicants that wish to provide prevention services as outlined by the Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”) must respond separately to this RFP and the DYCD RFP (EPIN 26017I0003). In addition, a separate response is required for each site (so if a provider wishes to run Beacons at two schools, it must submit at least two applications).
Like most government RFPs, this one is high on mandates and low on funding. The RFP contains stringent requirements regarding reporting, staff-to-client ratios, and training and certification (many of which are imposed by the State’s Office of Children and Family Services). The reporting requirements in particular far exceed the salary compensation for involved staff and are not in proportion with the scope of work. In a vacuum, administrative requirements are reasonable and understood to ensure provider accountability. The problem, however, is that there is no funding explicitly set aside to meet the cost of complying with these mandates. It is not enough that a provider may simply write these costs into the budget because the funding for indirect costs is inadequate (at least for organizations that are not applying for Beacons that are supported by federal Community Develop Block Grants, or CDBGs).
The RFP allows use of a negotiated federal indirect cost reimbursement rate only for CDBG-supported Beacons, whereas ACS is required to honor a provider’s federal rate when an award is supported by any federal funds. The RFP limits providers that do not have negotiated federal rates to an indirect cost rate of 10 percent, which simply is not enough given the mandated service level and the administrative and compliance requirements of this RFP. The RFP does not disclose federal funding streams in detail as required by federal regulations.
Furthermore, there are important issues that are not addressed in the RFP, such as payment (including mode, timeliness, and accrual of interest on late payment), future non-wage cost increases, and budget modification. These issues are typically addressed in the contract phase, but HSC strongly recommends that RFPs include information about them in the RFP or appendices. Such information would help providers make an informed risk assessment and act accordingly. ACS also relies heavily on providers’ review and understanding of the 193-page Preventive Services Quality Assurance Standards and Indicators Guide, providing no detail regarding the requirements imposed by this document.
This RFP was released on April 17, and initially responses were due by May 31, giving applicants six weeks to craft their proposals and gather the necessary documentation. Given that this procurement carries significant administrative burdens and requires a signed School Partnership Agreement and three Community Partnership Agreements, however, this was not a reasonable amount of time for most providers to compile a complete proposal. On May 22, however, an addendum was issued changing the deadline to June 9.
We note that the RFP does reference the State minimum wage increase and the annual wage adjustments adopted by the City. The budget template also includes a line for space. Overall, the RFP allows some flexibility in program design by offering a menu of services from which providers can choose. These features make sense and reduce the risk incurred by providers. Accordingly, we hope to see them in future RFPs. Taken in context, however, they do not negate the overarching problem of inadequate funding for the Beacon program. The funding available through this RFP—especially for salaries—is lower than the funding for current preventive programs, and the budget generally does not support program needs.
The HSC RFP Rater assesses the feasibility, opportunities, and risk in City and State human services procurements. Rater scores are based on the RFP and related documents available to the public via New York City’s HHS Accelerator or New York State’s Grants Gateway. The rater consists of 60 questions developed and tested by a team of procurement professionals. The questions are based on information that is necessary to help prospective proposers assess risk.
Each answer is weighted based on the degree of risk inherent in the subject of the question. Answers that imply low to moderate risk are allotted points on a lower scale range compared to higher risk questions. For compound questions, the answer to both parts must be “yes” or “not applicable” to be considered low risk. Scores are calculated by adding all the question scores together. The higher the score, the greater the risk. The scoring range is from 60 to 230, with zero percent risk equal to a score of 60 and the maximum risk score or 100% equal to 230 points. Users can view the answer to each question by clicking the down arrow next to each section to expand the section.
The HSC RFP Rater does not substitute for the due diligence necessary to inform individual organization decisions.