Without knowledge of a federal grant's true cost – direct PLUS indirect costs – an agency cannot sustain grant-funded projects. Learn how HdL can support your city with indirect cost recovery.


grantHow do local governments account for the time a payroll clerk spends managing grant-funded projects? Or track the costs associated with IT’s efforts to manage new police body cameras procured with federal grants? Is the general fund subsidizing grant-funded programs? City and county finance departments lack the resources and time to diligently track and calculate the answers. Without knowledge of the true cost – direct PLUS indirect (often hidden) costs – of a grant, an agency cannot sustain it. 


Case in Point… 

Equipping law enforcement with body cams became the new norm several years ago. They facilitate transparency, accountability, and protection for police officers and civilians, thus proving to be a highly valuable asset. One particular City’s* police force applied for a police body camera grant from the federal government and did not do an assessment of what it was going to cost to implement before applying. Regardless, the application was reviewed and approved by the Department of Justice, and the City was awarded the funds.

PD Body CamerasThe body camera equipment was purchased and the program was implemented, but the agency quickly realized it was creating a burden on their general fund. Indirect costs were incurred across multiple departments – the City Clerk was burdened with a significant increase in open records requests for body cam footage, IT dealt with the unexpected extra storage costs and efforts to maintain the camera footage, and the City Attorney saw an increase in litigation associated with the increased transparency of the program. These are just a few examples contributing to a general fund subsidy of over $2.6 million annually. This was over 5 times more than the City actually received for the grant. 

Had the City known the indirect costs involved, they could have 1) passed on the grant, 2) put it on the ballot for public vote, or 3) possibly raised sales tax to cover some or all of the increased general fund cost. Going forward, they have the awareness to prevent such subsidies and remain sustainable with gained insight into the true cost of their grant programs.

Indirect Costs Revealed… 

HdL’s recent collaboration with eCivis, the most widely used Saas-based grants management solution in government, has enabled us to problem solve for the hidden costs associated with federal grants. Together, we walk agencies through a Cost Allocation Plan (CAP), an Indirect Cost Rate Proposal, and a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA). 

In plain English, we provide insight about applying for and accepting grants, handle the data collection and analysis thus alleviating pressure on staff, and calculate all of the subsidized staff functions and time spent managing grant funded programs. We help agencies better understand the true cost so they can be properly reimbursed.

The How…  

We start the process by collecting an agency’s financial statements and CAP. For agencies without a CAP in place, we create one. Additional information about the extent of work that central support departments, such as IT, finance, building maintenance and others provide is gathered at this point as well. 

We funnel all data through eCivis’ proprietary software to generate an indirect cost rate that is then used for rate negotiations, an often-overlooked step in indirect cost recovery. We then review the agency’s grant portfolio, with a two-year look-back, through the lens of the newly negotiated indirect cost rate. This allows us to identify drawdown claims, requests to transfer money from the grant fund to the agency, ensuring maximum reimbursement for a program. The agency receives reimbursements into the general fund un-restricted, leaving no ‘money on the table.’

Through this process, we provide not only short-term returns, but also empower municipal finance professionals to evaluate the true cost before accepting future grants. To learn how HdL can support your city with indirect cost recovery, reach out to HdL Project Manager, Kimberly Konczak at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

*The City requested to remain anonymous. 



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Webinar: Unleash Your Grant Portfolio & Save Your General Fund

Thursday, April 20th at 11 AM PDT

Agencies spend on average 30%-40% of total program cost in indirect (soft) costs to support federally funded grant programs. And more often than not, these costs end up subsidized by the already stretched and/or overburdened General Fund.

The good news? Grant awards allow for reimbursement of these indirect costs, so it’s time to stop leaving money on the table. That’s where HdL can help - by recovering these uncaptured costs and returning them to your agency.

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