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Questions about PCEF grants

Common questions and answers about the September 2020 RFP. Updated weekly.

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Common questions

  1. Can my organization apply for more than one grant?  

Yes, there are no limits on the number of grants that an organization can apply for or be a part of. However, different grant applications must be for distinctly different projects or programs.  

  1. Is leverage required in order to get a PCEF grant?  

No, leverage (contributions to the project from another source, also called match) is not a requirement for PCEF funding. The application includes a question about leveraged resources in order to consider how to maximize the impact of limited dollars. There are points awarded for leverage for small and large grants but no additional points possible for planning grants.  

  1. Some of the questions or criteria don’t seem to apply to my project. Will that affect my score? 

For planning grants, all criteria will be scored for all applications. For small and large grants, the questions and scoring vary depending on project type. Please refer to the Scoring Tables for the type of grant you are interested in to determine which scoring criteria will be used to evaluate your application. Scores are based on the questions that apply to your project type; questions that don’t apply to your project type will not affect your score. Scoring tables are available in the application packet in Apply for a PCEF grant.

  1. My organization is not strong on some of the measures. Can we still get funded? 

We understand that each project is unique and recognize that some projects might not be strong on every measure. If the proposed project advances climate action in ways that benefit PCEF priority populations and meet eligibility criteria, they are likely to be considered for funding.   

The review process is designed to accommodate projects of different sizes and types as well as organizations of varying levels of experience and capacity. In addition, while the application process aims to ensure accountability of public dollars, it also recognizes the need to foster the innovation, experimentation, and learning required to support new programs and organizations that are new to this work. We understand that certain types of projects may score differently and are taking that into account by reviewing categories of projects together to help ensure we compare “apples to apples” (e.g., consider the score for a regenerative agriculture project in relation to the scores for other regenerative agriculture projects, rather than comparing to clean energy projects).

  1. How does PCEF support worker safety and equity?  

Worker well-being is of central importance to PCEF. One way that we center workforce equity is by considering whether proposed projects will employ a diverse workforce that includes people of color, women, people with disabilities, or people who are chronically underemployed. We also require that each grantee sign a Workforce and contractor equity agreement that includes requirements around compensation and creating a workplace environment that is safe and welcoming to diverse populations that have historically been left out of the climate economy.

Questions from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6

  1. Can we work directly in the online portal form? or do you recommend working on a separate document and then upload?

The online portal is designed to receive information only, we recommend that you work in a separate document to develop your application material.

  1. Where can we find the weighting/points allocated to each application question?  

In the document called “application evaluation guidance for reviewers”. This document is in the packet you download from our website and is different for each grant type (planning, small or large).  

  1. Attachment A is the same for both small and large, correct? 

Correct, Attachment A is same for small and large grants.  

  1. Must all projects and partners be located within city limits?

Physical improvement must be located within City of Portland. Beneficiaries of a project need to be residents in City of Portland. Primary nonprofit applicant must be registered within state of Oregon.

  1. How do leveraged funds that are not certain fall into budgeting; i.e. limited pool incentives, etc.?

The budget template asks whether funds are secure or planned for. Applicants are not required to have secured funds to be able to count them as leverage, but we want folks to have reasonable expectation they’ll secure it by the time the project gets going.

  1. If limited incentives are unavailable in the development timeline, we may need to account for more in our PCEF fund request. So, can a grant request, for example, say "$100k to $125k depending on the availability of incentives?"

We will commit funds before leverage is secure but all funding must be in place before any PCEF funds will be disbursed. We cannot evaluate a range in the request or leverage categories for the purposes of scoring and funding allocation purposes. Please use conservative estimates and request a higher PCEF funding level. If incentives come through at a higher level unused funds will be returned to the PCEF program.

  1. Will there be quality control (QC) for the physical improvements built in to checking the work? Or do applicants need to speak to that?

For certain type of projects there are verification requirements. Clean energy, for example, has specific verification requirements depending on the type of project. Applicants should look at clean energy requirements and build required verification into their project plan and budget.

  1. There is a header in the budget worksheet that says "This sheet is designed for applicants who are applying WITH a fiscal sponsor." Is there a version if there is not a fiscal sponsor?

That is a mistake. We will fix and update online.

  1. Is this application only for the one year, or include the option to apply for a multi-year grant?

We expect planning grants be completed within a year, but with a reasonable justification, the timeline can be extended. Small grants are expected to be completed within three years. Large grants are expected to be completed within five years.

  1. Insurance costs - if the 501(c)3 is not utilizing any PCEF funds (100% pass through to subcontractors), does the 501(c)3 require insurance, or just the subs?

There will likely be insurance requirements of the 501c3 even if 100% of funds are being passed through to subcontractors. The sample grant agreement provides scenarios for different insurance requirements for different kinds of activities. There is also general liability insurance coverage that applies to almost all grants and is unlikely to be waived. If there’s a requirement that is associated with a PCEF project that is a cost that’s additional to you, that can be part of your budget.

  1. Looking at the online portal - it shows the list of attachments required - but it doesn't show Attachment A.  Are those questions within the application? Or do you want that as a separate attachment?

Attachment A lists information requirements that need to be part of the project description and scope narrative, which you fill out in the online portal; it does not need to be uploaded.

  1. For workforce development project, do the participants need to have an address in the City of Portland?

Participants need to be residents of the City of Portland, having an address in the City of Portland. We recognize that there will be a program that includes participants from the metro area generally. PCEF can pay for the portion of costs that benefit City of Portland residents in that program.

  1. Does the application portal support uploading additional support documents (MOUs, letters of support, etc.) that are not specific answers to questions in the application?

Yes, you can upload documents that support your application in the portal.

  1. If the improvement we are seeking funds for on a newly constructed project, are the construction costs of the building leverage?

If the building has not been constructed, non-PCEF funds for energy conservation or renewable energy measures above and beyond energy code requirements could be considered leverage or match. However, if the building already exists, even if recently constructed, prior expenditures cannot be counted as leverage.

  1. Are public education /climate action projects eligible?

Yes

  1. What are examples of documents you’d like to see that show who we’re serving?

The program does not have a preference for specific types of documents. Each applicant can upload organizational documents they feel demonstrates that they are serving specific population(s).

  1. Where is PCEF getting census track data that indicates 50% below 200% poverty.

Note that geography is no longer relevant to scoring, but this could be useful for assets meant to benefit people in a specific geography. The 2014 to 2018 American Community Survey (5 year average) income by census track is mapped here.

  1. What is the eligibility for a newly constructed private residential care facility? What is the Committee's appetite for funding such projects.

Staff cannot speak to what the PCEF Committee will or will not be likely to support, but you can find some insight into their values by looking at the guiding principles or by reading over meeting minutes. Additionally, there is evaluation guidance available in our application materials that spells out how projects will be scored by reviewers. We can speak to project eligibility, however.

Recognizing that there is nuance in every project, the feedback below is based on the eligibility and scoring criteria:

  • The project applicant must be a nonprofit organization in order to be eligible to receive PCEF funds. While we expect many applicants to work with for-profit entities to implement their projects, it is important that the primary nonprofit applicant is not used as a passthrough and has a substantive role in project.
  • If a project is eligible, its likelihood of funding will be based on its scoring, Committee portfolio balancing, and final Committee recommendation.
  • We have different groups of priority populations based on the project type. Review application material and definitions to understand those population groups.You can review the evaluation guidance (i.e., the scoring rubric) for each grant type (planning, small, or large) in the resources folder of the respective application packet to get a sense for how a project might score.
  • New construction costs eligible for PCEF funding must be costs associated with measures that are above and beyond code requirements. For some measures, this will be the incremental cost associated with a measure that is above code requirements (i.e., the cost of going from R-30 insulation to R-60 insulation). For others, like solar PV, it is the full cost of the measure that is eligible for PCEF funding since solar is not required by Oregon code.

Questions from Sept. 22 to Sept. 29

  1. There is a requirement to pay 180 percent of minimum wage which translates to $25.20/hr beginning in July 2021. Does this apply for interns, pre-apprentices, and apprentices?

The requirement applies to anyone being paid with PCEF funds and working on a project, not necessarily those being trained. Apprentices are doing work on the project so it would apply to them. If it is a pre-apprentice, they are getting training but not doing work so the requirement would not apply. 

  1. If we are requesting a multi-year grant, is the entire multi-year grant coming out of year one allocation ($8.6 million) or do the out years coming out of subsequent year allocations? 

Awards for this round come out of this year’s allocation.  

  1. I imagine that many organizations are deciding whether to apply now or next year. If we apply this fall and are not funded, will our application be automatically entered into the application pool for the next round of funding, or will we need to reapply? Do you have a recommendation in terms of whether to apply now or next year?

Applications that are not funded this round will not be automatically resubmitted. Staff cannot make a  recommendation about applying this year or next. Note that we are committed to providing feedback; so if you apply and are not funded you will get feedback and that might put you in a better position to be successful in the future. With less funds available this year, we expect there will be strong proposals that may not get funded, but might be successful in a future year. If you don’t feel ready for a small or large grant – consider applying for a planning grant.  

  1. My first is how far afield can the projects take place...only within Portland city limits, Multnomah County or?

Projects with physical improvements – e.g., install infrastructure/solar, need to be within the boundaries of the city of Portland. If you are doing a training program then the people being trained need to reside in Portland. If that is an issue over time, that may be brought to Committee for future recommendations to change code.  

  1. Will there be any networking opportunities?  I'm interested in connecting with groups that serve low-income seniors or people with disabilities, specifically in the area of housing or energy conservation.

We will not host networking opportunities during the RFP this year. This is something we are exploring for the future and thinking about how we create the spaces equitably and include folks that might not be able to show up.  

  1. Will all awards be based on reimbursement or will Planning grants be direct awards?

For all grant types – planning, small, large – grantees can be paid through reimbursement only or partial advance. It is unlikely, unless the project were very small and fast, that there would be full advance; but there could be quarterly advances or some other schedule that works for grantee and city.  

  1. Can you apply for more than one grant; are you able to be listed as a partner in another application or multiple applications as a partner? 

Yes.  

  1. I see overhead is 20% max. Does that mean a $100,000 grant max is $20,000? Or is calculated as 20% of eligible expenses which would be $16,667?

This is detailed in budget template and error messages will appear if figures aren’t in compliance. There is a 20 percent overhead cap for personnel and the “other” line item and a10% cap on contracted work, equipment, supplies and materials, and travel line items. 

  1. Could you speak a little bit about the acquisition use of funds? 

All project costs must be used to address climate change, advance racial and social justice, and fit within one of the funding categories (clean energy, workforce and contractor development, green infrastructure and regenerative agriculture).  

  1. Because grants will not be awarded until Feb. 2021, what is considered year 1 bookends?

A year from when your contract is signed with city is the duration/bookend.  

  1. Is there a way to express support for another organization's proposal?

In addition to required documents, you can submit additional documents that you feel make your application stronger. Support from community or organization could be included.  

  1. Can you speak to fiscal sponsors.  Do they need to be a related non-profit that must be heavily involved or is this a tax workaround?

We would never offer/suggest a tax workaround. We have documents regarding fiscal sponsorship that we have developed and are available under the additional resources section of the RFP guide. The organization that acts as fiscal sponsor is responsible, legally, for the grant reporting and grant agreement with the City. Fiscal sponsorships should happen between organizations whose missions align – this relates to the maintenance of the fiscal sponsors tax status. How involved they are will depend on what is right for them and is included in their agreement; not something we review/score beyond making sure that agreements and capacity are in place.  

  1. Can you say more about how renters will benefit from the energy efficiency home improvements? Does the landlord have to apply to programs, or will renters be able to work with the suppliers? In Centennial area large numbers of residents are renters.

This is going to be a function of the proposal applicant wants to pull together. Applicants can apply for a multi-family retrofit but whether it benefits the landlord is a function of how the project is set up; scoring will be higher for benefits that go to renters over landlords. Private businesses cannot directly apply, must be a nonprofit. However, nonprofits can create programs that landlords or renters or both could participate in. That is up to the nonprofit that designs the program.  

  1. Will PCEF do partial funding? If our project is $500K that involves 3-4 different projects, is there a chance PCEF will only "like" and fund one part and award less than the total project? And, if PCEF does a partial funding, can we apply again next year?

For this round, we are not doing partial funding. We are evaluating full applications as they come. You can unbundle and submit applications as discrete applications, unless all the parts only make sense if they go together.  

  1. Overhead for travel, materials, and contract costs must not exceed 10%. Overhead on all other costs including personnel, must not exceed 20%. Does that mean overhead could be 30%?

The combination of fiscal sponsor fee and overhead costs cannot exceed 25%.  

  1. For staff who earn normally less than $25.20, can they be paid that amount for PCEF work, and their regular wage for non-PCEF work.

This is a legal that we are not qualified to answer. We will check with our attorney and clarify whether we can provide additional guidance; this is a matter for organizations to consider with their own legal counsel.  

  1. What about a list of potential partners or folks that are interested kept on the website?Is it possible to share the participants lists for these informational webinars, in order to facilitate that organic networking that was recently referenced?

We don’t anticipate a platform for networking during this application period. That may change in the future. We need to think about supporting the mission of the program and being accessible to all. We cannot share names of participants in webinar since that expectation was not make clear in advance.  

  1. Do you expect to do one or two rounds of grants next year? Do you have a sense of the grant timelines for next year?

Expect next RFP release in summer of 2021; some conversations but no decision about the number of solicitations next year.  

  1. In addition to serving the priority populations identified, do Green Workforce Development and Contractor Support projects need to be focused on clean energy jobs and/or green construction?

We recognize that a lot of work on solar, energy efficiency, bioswales, etc. doesn’t necessarily look different from being trained for other types of trades work. We will ask about the curriculum; needs to be a connection between the training and green career/clean energy sector.  

  1. For an affordable housing development project, are there eligible costs outside of solar & energy storage? (such as energy efficient Maximum Energy Professionals systems and resident programs that create awareness on sustainable living)

Yes. Category is clean energy and is inclusive of conservation and behavior change efforts including education.  

  1. During committee meetings, there has been sentiment of project priority for physical (shovel ready?) projects, but also an understanding that 1st year might require assessment. Is there a clear priority in selection?

The one clear message is $1.5 million allocated to planning grants to be clear that we want well developed projects and want folks not totally ready yet to access funds to help them get ready. No preference for shovel ready projects. 

  1. Scoring table provides limited guidance on GHG reduction/sequestration scoring and seems to suggest a qualitative rather than quantitative evaluation. Can you confirm how scoring will work for this scoring criteria?

In the packet there is a document on Greenhouse Gas Impact that includes an outline of how GHG will be considered for the different types of projects. The City’s Climate Action Program Coordinator Kyle Diesner will conduct the quantitative analysis. It will be “blind” in that he will not see who/what project. Grantees can reach out to him directly or to other PCEF staff for additional info.  

  1. If a proposal has an assessment/exploratory aspect AND a physical installation aspect, can that be one "hybrid" application, or would it require two applications?

There is an expectation that planning grants will not have any implementation. However, small and large grants could you include some planning but how well you would be scored will depend a lot on if you can provide enough information to calculate/assess benefits. Might want to unbundle them. That said we expect there will be applications where every detail has not been nailed down – e.g., weatherizing 100 homes but the individual homes have not been identified yet, in this case we will make some basic assumptions even though we won’t know the specifics of each home.  

  1. Will we be informed on how many GHGs our project will avoid if selected or not?

If your project passes eligibility and technical screening, then you will be informed about how many GHG emissions your project was estimated to avoid/reduce.  

  1. What is the scoring process? Wondering if it is a panel of scorers, etc?

Eligibility screening, technical review for projects with physical improvements, scoring panel review (including opportunity for applicant response to initial score and to offer clarification), PCEF Committee recommendations to council.  

  1. Do you need to upload a fiscal sponsor contract or agreement when you apply for a grant? What if you don't have one signed yet?

You do not need to have a signed contract with a fiscal sponsor in order to apply. However, you will need to have a signed agreement in place before a grant agreement can be finalized.  

Questions from Oct. 7 to 14

  1. When choosing the types of grants, should we think about the total needed or the amount of the request?

Just the amount of the PCEF funding request

  1. Is it one application per project, how are projects defined, can it include phases?

There is not a set definition of a “project”. The program will consider each application a project even if it is comprised of several bundled projects. Projects can include phases, you do not need to have all the details of defined ahead of time. That said, the application needs to include enough information for the review panel and Committee members to assess the climate and social justice potential.

  1. Clarification on people of color and low-income priority; does it mean that priority will be given to low-income people of color?

Priority populations is people of color AND/OR low income. No additional points for combining them. For workforce development and contractor support projects the list of priority populations is more expansive.

  1. If a building needs a new roof before installing solar, is it acceptable to wrap that cost into the grant application?

If this is a life, health, safety component of the project then, yes, it is an eligible expense up to 30 percent of the total construction budget.

  1. Is there opportunity for convening and sharing resources amongst people who get the grants, so there is a full menu of opportunities for beneficiaries?

Currently there is not a plan to do so for this round of funding, but we will be developing co-learning and networking opportunities in the future.

  1. Who reads/scores the grants and who has ultimate decision-making power for who gets funded?

Staff performs eligibility review, technical review by staff and contractors, and then passed on to scoring panel. Scoring panels will ideally have five people (2 staff, 2 committee, 1 additional person) all panels will have at least one subject matter expert, be majority BIPOC, and have gender balance. Scores will be sent to full PCEF Grants Committee, who makes a recommendation and sends on to City Council for approval.

  1. Please clarify Sam’s statement that the total amount for Planning Grants will be “at least $1.5 million”. If there are many qualifying Planning Grants, will more funding be allocated?

This allocation was set by the PCEF Committee to signal that they want to fund planning grants and resource BIPOC communities in that way. If there are more than $1.5 million in planning grant requests, they can certainly fund more.

  1. Is there a conflict of interest if applying for PCEF funds to then partner with a city agency? For example, if we apply for PCEF to work with the city parks and rec. community gardens program to build a new garden and have payments to city agency in budget, is that allowed?

If a community driven project requires fees or payments to a city entity, those costs are eligible for grant funding. The funds are not intended to replace things that the city agency is already doing.

  1. What is the estimated amount of time needed to fill out this application?

It depends on how far along you are in your project planning and development. We cannot offer an estimate of time needed to complete but we do offer guidance for the word count; note that these are not minimums and maximums and being outside these parameters will not impact your score.

  1. Is it possible that if we apply for the large grant we might be approved for the small grant amount?

For this funding round, we are not reducing funding amounts. We will consider applications with the budgets and proposal submitted. The only caveat is in cases where there are small additional requirements imposed by the program; in these cases small amounts of funding might be added.

  1. We are growing a recycling program. Showing the environmental impact of recycling is challenging and dependent upon assumptions about future use. Will such a program be considered?

It sounds like this could be an innovation project. It comes down to the merits, and whether there are greenhouse gas reductions and the quantification.

  1. How much of the funds can be used as education, community outreach to increase urban agriculture?

There is no cap.

  1. Please clarify: Is there any expectation of matching funds that would be contributed by the family or household receiving the energy work being done on their home, if they are BIPOC, but above the poverty guidelines?

No

  1. We are working with a minority-owned organization with a nationally recognized expertise in low-income energy efficiency. They work in Oregon but have their headquarters in California. What are your thoughts on such a partnership?

The applicant has to be an Oregon nonprofit, and the work has to happen in Portland, but a partner organization can be located outside Oregon.

  1. Does PCEF have an estimate of the number of projects they are seeking to fund with the $8 million?

No

  1. Are 501c3 insurance costs -an “other” construction project cost, or an “overhead/admin” cost?

If the required insurance is an ADDITIONAL cost to your organization it can be considered an “other” cost. If your organization already carries insurance it should be covered by your overhead.

  1. Should we insert rows under each budget topic, like equipment, and break out the costs/descriptions? Or do this in a separate document?

No, please put a description of the expense in the description column. If you have additional material to support your budget request, you can include that in your application, but it is not necessary.  

  1. If I am using a fiscal sponsor, does the Personnel Budget apply to the sponsor or my company (doing most of the ‘work’)?

Your company. The fiscal sponsor will be paid through the fiscal sponsor fee

  1. We are building a greenhouse for our agriculture department. Will this qualify and if so, will the installation costs qualify as well?

PCEF is about climate change and advancing racial and social justice. If the purpose is to grow things that sequester carbon or the purpose is to train people to get into regenerative agriculture, then the cost of the greenhouse could be an eligible expense.

  1. Since funds will be distributed as reimbursement, will loan interest payments in order to pay subcontractors be covered as part of overhead 20% cap?

Partial advance payments are also an option for fund distribution, our preference would be that organizations do not have to take a loan to cover cashflow for the grant project. Payment options will be negotiated when grants are awarded. In some cases, interest on loans could be an eligible expense but it is more likely we would negotiate a payment option that avoided the need for a loan.

  1. If a proposal is working with partners, is the budget solely about the requesting agency, or do you need the same information for all partners?

Submit full budget, including costs incurred for all contractors and partners.

  1. If in a Planning Grant, funds will be used to reimburse partners for their time participating in the planning workshops, does that kind of expenditure need to include information about both known and as of yet unknown partners?

You do not need to have identified all of your project partners and contractors before applying for a grant. If you have known partners, we ask for that information to help us understand and score the project team. For the purposes of budgeting, the names of the partners are not needed. You’ll want to include an estimate of the stipend or hourly rate, multiplied by the number of participants.

  1. I see land acquisition and building improvements on the eligible uses of funds - is building acquisition an eligible use of funds as well?

It depends. For clean energy projects, PCEF will pay for energy improvements that are above code so it is unlikely that building acquisition would be an eligible expense. However, there might be circumstances in which building acquisition is allowed. For example, if the application is a workforce development and contractor support grant to establish a training center in Portland to train priority population workforce in a green economy job that may be considered an eligible expense.

  1. What about for land acquisition of a property that belongs to the City of Portland? Is that eligible?

The land would need to be 1) for sale, and 2) a core part of a project that addresses climate change and advances racial and social justice (e.g. space for community solar to benefit low-income households).

  1. Is building construction eligible?

Energy improvements that are above code are eligible uses of PCEF funds.

  1. Will there be any adjustment to award amounts in subsequent years?

We anticipate that the large grant cap will be higher in future years when more funding is available.

  1. If a project is funded, does PCEF aim to fund 100% of eligible expenses? I estimate my solar project will have $300k in eligible costs (Large Project), but if I should only expect 60% of costs to be funded then I may be better off going for a Small Project grant.

PCEF will not be down-scoping or reducing budgets.  Points are given for leverage in small and large grants, but leverage is not a requirement.

  1. Is land acquisition outside of Portland eligible?

No.

  1. I have a specific question of eligibility for a small grant at the Rockwood Center.  The Rockwood Center is located at 17805 SE Stark; however, we are technically in Gresham city limits.  Would that disqualify our non-profit from applying for a PCEF grant?

All physical improvements (e.g. energy efficiency retrofits, solar installations, tree planting etc.) must be within the City of Portland. Additionally, the people who benefit from a project must be residents of the City of Portland. The location of the non-profit applicant doesn't necessarily disqualify you from receiving PCEF funds as long as your project meets the requirements noted above.

  1. What level of design work needs to be done for these applications? Is a proposal for a solar project enough or will you want a complete system design, plan set, etc? Is being “solar ready” an advantage?

The project does not need to be fully designed, but there should be enough information in the application that we are able to estimate greenhouse gas impacts and energy generation. Being “solar ready” can be an advantage in that the total project cost might be reduced but the impact of this on scoring is minimal.

  1. How will the cash flow for these grants work? Is there funding up front or will it be dispersed after the project is complete, requiring financing to get through the project?

Grant funds can be disbursed on a reimbursement or partial advance basis. Please see the sample grant agreement in the application packet for more detail.

  1. If other aspects such as community benefit are equal, will applications requesting less than 100% funding (they will have a contribution for a portion) have an advantage over projects with no funds of their own to contribute?

For small and large grants there are points available for leverage contributions. Please see the application evaluation guidance for reviewers document for additional detail. Note that the application evaluation guidance document for reviewers is different for small grants and large grants. Also note that no points are available for leverage contributions for planning grants.

  1. Are school districts eligible to apply for the PCEF grant program?

School districts cannot directly apply as they do not meet the criteria below. However, non-profits affiliated with school districts are eligible and schools are one of the intended beneficiaries named in the ballot initiative.

  1. When the RFP mentions multiple sites, does that mean something like multiple single-family residences, for example? Can you provide a definition of multiple sites?

“Multiple sites” refers to improvements or installations on discrete units across parcels/properties. This would apply to the weatherization of many single-family homes but would not apply to a "campus" project that includes a few buildings on one property (one owner upgrading two multifamily units on their property).

  1. For projects that plan to do work on multiple sites (of any size), which column of scoring/weighting will apply?

Projects that include work on multiple sites (regardless of total construction budget) complete the column labeled “Physical improvements, Const Single site Less than $500K” UNLESS one or more of the sites has a construction budget of $500k or greater (in which case they complete the column labeled “Physical improvements, Const Single Site OVER $500K”). Projects that do NOT have a single site construction budget of $500k or greater are scored on their strategy to recruit and utilize diverse local contractors and subcontractors (criteria #19, 6% of total score). The strategy speaks to the goal for diverse contracting and includes an assumption that diverse contractors are more likely to have a diverse workforce. Workforce is addressed more thoroughly at the time of the grant agreement including recruitment strategies and utilization commitments. Applicants may also be able to receive one additional point for “additional social benefit” (#18) for a multiple sites project that provides detailed information pertaining to workforce.  

Additional background related to questions #34 and #35

  • The differences you are observing regarding scoring of workforce diversity based on dollar threshold ($500k) and location (single vs multiple site) reflect extensive feedback and discussion regarding how best to advance workforce equity commitments in the unique context of PCEF.  PCEF proposal review differs from that of large public ownership projects given that a) it is nonprofit organizations applying for a grant rather than contractors bidding on a project, b) it is possible/likely that many proposals will not be for work that is akin to work performed on large public owner projects and, c) we do not currently have a solid sense of supply or demand for workers in this space (though plan to address that).
     
  • Initial RFP drafts that included scoring of workforce commitments across all project sizes and types met with significant resistance from a number of the nonprofit organizations and businesses that PCEF is designed to serve. One of the main concerns was that nonprofits often will not know who the contractor is at the time of application and, thus, will not be able to provide information about contractor and workforce diversity. The solution to this concern was to define a threshold beyond which it is reasonable that an applicant identify their contractor and provide workforce and contractor information. The threshold for expecting an applicant to identify the contractor and workforce information was viewed as different for large projects on a single site than small projects scattered across multiple sites. The sense was that it is reasonable that an applicant would identify a contractor for large projects on a single site with a budget of $500k or more, but that for small projects scattered across multiple sites the nonprofit's approach may be to utilize multiple contractors and at the time of application may not have the businesses and workforce identified. Thus, the solution for PCEF's year one RFP is to a) score projects at a single site differently depending upon whether the construction budget is above or below $500, and to score projects that span multiple sites similarly to single site projects (i.e., do not expect that nonprofit has identified contractor and workers at the time of the grant application) and b) evaluate whether/how this approach should be modified in the future.
     
  • A related concern was raised regarding potential inaccuracy of "commitments" made in grant applications (and the implications of that). For example, imagine that five or ten nonprofits contact a specific contractor and ask "I'm applying for a PCEF grant - if I get it will you work with me and what labor pool will you bring?"; the contractor says "sure, call me if you get the grant" and provides utilization figures; all or most of the grants are awarded and the contractor says "oops, I didn't realize that of these would get funded - I'm not available and/or can't get all the workers I said I would." In this scenario, applicants have been incentivized to provide high numbers that may not be realistic and may win or lose a grant based on erroneous information. The solution here was to draw on the work that has been done regarding best practice in recruitment, retention, and advancement and score applicants based on their strategy to achieve strong numbers (rather than claims of numbers they may or may not be able to achieve).
     
  • The application scoring process considers how a project will advance inclusive contracting and workforce in a way that is workable across the range of sizes and types of PCEF grants. Beyond scoring, we have a keen eye on performance and accountability. Grantees will meet with their project manager to refine strategies and benchmarks for the project at the start of the grant; this becomes part of the grant agreement and is tracked across the life of the project. The reporting process provides an opportunity for mid-course correction and also yields valuable information for assessing future applications (e.g., met goals or not) and for assessing the status and needs of the ecosystem (e.g., are there areas where the numbers are consistently low and we need to do more to build that particular pool).
     
  • Our initial approach to proposal scoring will likely be refined over time as we gain a better understanding of what works across various project sizes and types and as we gain better data about availability of businesses and workers relevant to PCEF projects. We will be making refinements based on careful listening to key stakeholders including nonprofit organizations, minority businesses, leaders in workforce and labor, and others.

Questions from Oct. 15 to 20

  1. Would a pilot project fit better as a planning grant or a small project grant?

It depends upon what type of pilot. Planning grants cannot fund implementation; so, if you are building something, that will not be a planning grant.  Note that you can always do a little planning as part of a small or large grant but that wouldn’t be its focus.

  1. If a project has multiple types of activities, e.g. efficiency and green infrastructure, how do I let you know what we think it is and how do you break out the percentages?

There is a checkbox for category of project, and you can check all that apply. We are tracking rough allocations to different funding buckets over a three-year period, not holding fast to a funding target in each funding cycle. It is not crucial that we have exact percentages, especially at the application stage.

  1. Is funding to perform an economic feasibility study part of the scope in a planning grant?

Yes.

  1. How big is the PCEF staff? How many different people might we be dealing with?

If you are awarded a grant, you will be assigned to a specific PCEF project manager who will be your point of contact. We currently have six staff and are hiring more.

  1. Regarding the 30 percent cap on non-energy related investments (e.g., roof for solar). How do we make that calculation?

Our technical reviewer will have an eye on this. If you are putting up sheet rock, vapor barrier, and insulation – all of that would be part of the energy project. But if you were also adding 10 feet to extend the wall for an addition, the wall would not apply since the work wasn’t driven by the energy efficiency work. Similarly, if roof is going from extremely inefficient to efficient as part of the weatherization effort,  that would likely count as eligible under the 30% cap on non-energy expenses. If the project were simple solar installation, then roof work would likely have to be covered in the 30 percent. There is no simple answer that fits all scenarios. The reality is that these are hard lines to draw.  General approach should be focused on reducing carbon.

  1. How does the 30 percent of construction budget cap work for a much larger affordable housing project?

The cap applies to total construction budget from PCEF funds only, not the total project construction budget.

  1. Reimbursements, from past City experience, that can take a long time – especially as filtering through us. Would be easier, especially for payment to subs, to go straight to contractors.

Disbursement schedules get addressed at the time of the grant award. We will check with our legal team on this question.

  1. Is a grant proposal for a workforce market study relevant to PCEF-related industries eligible?

This would likely be an eligible project within the planning grant category of funding. Note, PCEF legislation calls for the creation of a Workforce and Contractor Equity Plan with measurable and ambitious goals.  It has been our intention to issue a request for bids to conduct a market study that would inform the development of said plan, and our timeframe for doing so was this coming year.

  1. Would a grant to help small minority-owned landscaping firms switch out their gas-powered equipment to electric-powered equipment qualify for possible PCEF funding?

Yes, the project would likely qualify for funding as it addresses climate change (converting from gas to electric) and advances racial and social justice (reduces costs and improves worker conditions for minority-owned firms). The project likely would fall under the innovation category of funding, so take a look at the innovation section of Attachment A to get a sense for some of the information we may need as part of the project scope.

  1. If we are included as part of a project team (and selected) for this round of funding are we still eligible to propose as a member of a team or lead agency for the larger grant funds next year?

Yes, an organization may: apply for more than one grant in a year, receive a grant in one year and apply again the next year, partner on more than one grant in a given year, and/or partner on a grant in one year and apply in the future solo or with a partner.

  1. Energy retrofits can range from $18-25,000 -- is there a possibility to have homes that we would try to do a second year’s worth of funding where we might go back to the same home and see if we could put solar? It’s hard to justify $40-50k to justify one home at one time; rather we should do energy upgrades and weatherization first and then come back and do energy generation. Would that be an acceptable down the road plan to layer the work on the same building?

 Yes, as long as the work is additional, it's fine.

  1. For string inverters, you can pay an additional amount to buy a 20 to 25-year extended warranty. This is encouraged in some organizations to pay for this to reduce costs in the future. Is this same route we’re going?

Yes, purchasing additional warranties and contracts are eligible and encouraged.

  1. What type of host contribution % is suggested? Example: RDF and Blue Sky grants require 15% host contribution and max 85% contribution between ETO/Grant funds.

We don’t have a minimum for host or matching requirements. This was an important part of deliberations as we didn’t want to require match and have a barrier. Though there is no requirement, there are a certain amount of points for leverage only on small and large grants. 3-4% of the score is associated with leverage so it is encouraged but not required.

  1. In the questions guidance document, under section 3.3 the project team – it invites or asks us to submit bios on the key personnel who are submitting the grant but also key personnel who are partners. On partner organizations like a planning grant, do you want the executive director, board? From whom should we be gathering bios so if it fits what reviewers want to see.

For planning grants, we know that part of the planning part of it is just beginning to figure out who needs to be there. For this question, we want to know that you've assembled some expertise in there to be able to do the planning.

  1. Can you also tell me whether the timing of the grant program will be the same next year (Nov deadline for Feb awards) and will there be a planning grant option?

The PCEF Committee has not yet set a date for the next RFP. We anticipate sometime summer 2021. We also anticipate that planning grants will continue to be an option.

  1. Are window replacements and HVAC upgrades eligible uses of funding for the Clean Energy Fund grant? If they are, would we be able to potentially bundle upgrades at two or three buildings in one grant application, or would they need to be separate grant applications?

The answers to your questions are both yes. Improving the efficiency of a building through measures including window and HVAC efficiency measures are eligible activities. You may submit one application with multiple bunded projects within, it will be evaluated as one large project with multiple components.

  1. Would a clean/electrified transportation project be eligible? Under the clean energy category

It can be considered under innovation funding bucket.

  1. If we have a partner but it's NOT a fiscal sponsor, should we weave information about that partner into the narrative.  I didn't see any specific questions about partnerships. Also, how many partnerships can you have? Is there a maximum amount of partnerships?

There is an opportunity in narrative to talk about key people involved in your project and so that can be as long or short as you need it to be. Even if you have multiple partners you want to be able to speak to a couple of the key people in that organization and their skills to be able to add to the project team narrative part. There is not any maximum number of partners. There is a difference between fiscal sponsorship and partnerships. 

  1. Can my organization be a partner on multiple grants?

Yes

  1. Is there anything in the portal that we wouldn’t find elsewhere ahead of time?

No. Everything on the online submission portal will be in the application packet you download.

  1. Can a grant be applied for to provide individual grants towards a product that is sustainable, environmentally conscious, and supports BIPOC workforce?

There’s an opportunity within the innovation grant structure to help support things that have both greenhouse gas reduction and social and racial equity goals but that do not fit neatly into another category. Workforce development and contractor support might be another possibility. The applicant would need to be an eligible non-profit in both cases.

  1. Prevailing wage kicks in at over $350K on a single site, right?

The prevailing wage threshold is $350k or more of PCEF funds for a construction budget for a project on a single site.  For this round of funding.

  1. Are milestones the timeline of implementation of the scope of work?

Yes, the milestones and activities template is the place in the application where you include your schedule.

  1. Do small projects (under $200K) have the prevailing wage and ~180% of minimum wage requirement?

All projects are subject to the requirement that all persons working on a PCEF funded project be paid 180% of minimum wage. Prevailing wage is a certain element related to certain trades in the construction industry. 180% minimum wage is programmatic to PCEF.

  1. Is there an exhaustive list of what is eligible for green infrastructure grant?

There is some guidance in the application materials but there is no yes/no checklist of what is eligible. Broadly, you should think about whether there’s a greenhouse gas reduction associated with the expense.

Questions from Oct. 29  to Nov. 4

  1. If an organization is in the process of changing their tax-exempt status, e.g. from 501(c)(4) to a 501(c)(3), does the status have to be official by the November 16 application deadline or just prior to award if otherwise successful? 

As long as you have a currently active registered non-profit with the Oregon Secretary of State, your organization is eligible to apply. That can be either a 501(c)3, 501(c)4, or any other 501(c) nonprofit designation. 

  1. Is there any limit on the percent of the total PCEF project budget that can be a construction cost? 

No, it is possible that a PCEF project might be 100 percent construction costs. There is a cap that limits the amount of that construction budget that can be spent on non-energy related building improvements. This cap is 30 percent and only applies to clean energy projects and only applies to the portion of the total construction budget that is PCEF-funded. 

  1. Will PCEF require energy modeling for weatherization eligible items?       

Detailed energy modelling is not required for weatherization project applications. However, as part of answering questions in the Project Scope, applicants do need to provide estimates of energy savings related to the project. Sector-specific information is requested in Attachment A. That includes basic information about estimated first-year energy savings, what fuel source will be offset, and percentage of energy reduction. Answers to these questions can be based off of industry averages and best practices, they do not need to be modeled or site specific. 

  1. Would Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) go in innovation or clean energy?  

Yes, use of Cross Laminated Timber to reduce GHG would go in Innovation. 

  1. Would wage requirement apply if project is just the purchase of materials and not installation/work?  

PCEF wage requirements apply to work associated with the PCEF funded project. If funds are only being used for the purchase of material but not installation/construction, then the wage requirement would not apply. 

  1. Can material to educate about Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in affordable housing be part of the project?     

Yes, funds could be used to produce and disseminate educational information about the use of CLT in affordable housing. 

  1. Can an organization apply for two distinct projects in one application? 

If the work is being done by the same organizations, you could bundle projects into one application. If two projects are combined in one application, the application will be evaluated as a whole. We won’t fund a part of a project, but the whole. It might be worth submitting two distinct applications if you have two different scopes or thinking about how they would be considered as a package versus individually. 

  1. For an occupied rehab weatherization project, would temporary tenant relocation expenses be an eligible use of grant funds? 

Yes, this could be an eligible expense. We would want to see a rationale for that expense and a justification of need. 

  1. Would a project to train future climate leaders, i.e. an educational project, qualify? 

Yes, conservation education sorts of projects like this can qualify. 

Questions from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11

  1. Could PCEF fund efforts be leading to the successful creation and passing of a GHG reduction policy in affordable house development?

PCEF will not be funding projects focused on advancing policy in this funding cycle. PCEF projects must have a reasonable degree of likelihood of reducing GHG emissions and/or developing more a diverse workforce and contractor pool in the clean energy and climate action sector. Consideration of funding policy efforts in the future will require a larger conversation with the PCEF Committee and public.

  1. Does contractor and workforce training need to be climate change-specific or is overall training eligible?

Trainings and assistance to support contractor development should focus on building capacity to participate in the climate action economy. This includes businesses who work on clean energy, green infrastructure, and regenerative agriculture as well as businesses that support that work (e.g., supply goods or services ranging from materials and equipment to outreach, facilitation, and marketing). The key is to describe how the programming will support businesses being successful in the green/climate economy.

  1. Many weatherization trades do not require a prevailing wage. There is affiliated work that does (such as plumbing or electrical) that will be done as part of a deep energy retrofit, we would ensure those wages are paid. So, on the question "Will prevailing wages (including benefits/fringe) be required for workers on this project in trades for which a prevailing wage is defined?” Is it appropriate to answer yes given that prevailing wage is not defined for most of the work, but for any of the subcomponents that are, those wages would be required?       

For the purposes of that question on prevailing wage; yes, you can answer affirmatively if you are paying prevailing wages for those roles that are defined. For the other roles in the project (including trades where prevailing wage is not defined), the 180 percent of minimum wage standard will apply.

  1. Are you able to direct me to the section of the application where priority neighborhoods are addressed or was this preference eliminated in the final version of the application?      

There is no specific prioritization of points allocated for serving specific geographic areas or neighborhoods of Portland. You are correct that this was a point of discussion early on, and the PCEF Committee decided not to create a points preference. However, for tracking our efforts of ensuring balance of people served, there is a question (3.6 in small and large grants application questions) which asks: “If the proposed project includes installation of equipment or infrastructure, is the majority or all of the project located east of 82nd Avenue?”

  1. Regarding wage requirements, is the table below from the Wage Requirements PDF stating that if total budget for weatherization, solar installation, new construction etc. exceeds $350k that prevailing wages must be paid to workers, but if the total budget for the aforementioned is below $350K, wage requirement is 180 percent of state minimum wage?

Yes, the $350k budget threshold is specific to construction-related activities funded by PCEF, and applies when that threshold of construction activities is happening at a single site. Additional guidance is in the large grants guidance document question 6.4 (Page 21)

“Projects with a construction budget of $350,000 or more of PCEF funds are required to pay prevailing wage for workers in trades for which a prevailing wage is defined. Projects with a construction budget of less than $350,000 of PCEF funds can earn points if they choose to pay prevailing wages to workers.”

  1. What is the definition of light retrofit and at what point does it bump to deep retrofit?

Our guidance on the distinction between the two is to consider the following:

1. Light retrofit involves measures that have a quick payback, have lower cost, and together are aiming to reduce energy use of the building approximately 10%.

2. Deep retrofit involves a whole-home (or whole building for commercial) approach to that is anticipated to reduce energy use by +20%

We do not have a prescriptive list of measures or equipment that fit into each bucket, but hope that this guidance is helpful as a reference point as you develop application.

  1. Can the planning funds be used for supplies and materials that will be used for community engagement activities during the planning process?

Yes

  1. Our organization is currently under formation and we are unsure on how to best answer the board and staff makeup question, since we do not have an official board or paid staff yet. Would it be possible to answer on behalf of the fiscal sponsor?

You should consider the demographics of yourself and the volunteers that would be involved in implementing the planning project, were you to be funded. The intent of these questions is to understand more about the applicant, not the fiscal sponsor.

  1. Does question 3.1 "Planning project opportunity or problem statement, including elements below" refer to the planning process the grant is asked for, or the final project that will result from the planning process?       

Please refer to the application questions guidance document. Your response should explain what your organization wants to work on, why, how you know about and understand the issue, and how your effort will advance PCEF’s goals of implementing climate action and advancing racial and social justice. It does not have to be about a final project, as part of the planning process may elevate new ideas.

  1. We note you encourage narrative in the grant applications that tells of staff members' lived experiences with chronic underemployment, having a low income, etc. We're finding that staff are more willing to narrate these (often stigmatized) experiences if they can be anonymous, with their names not attached to their narratives. Aside from the bios of the project team, may we share people's narratives without using their names?      

Yes, you can definitely share the demographic and lived experience information anonymously, or using whatever sort of survey or outreach tool that you choose. We do not need individual names/positions in the grant application. Additionally, if you do not want to provide specific numbers in the demographic section, you also have the option of providing a narrative of the connection between the people that your organization serves, and how the organization reflects those populations.

  1. For a planning project, should the budget submitted to PCEF reflect the entire cost of a project, including other funding sources, or only the portion of costs allocated to a PCEF grant?   

You should fill out in the project budget and personnel tables with the costs specific to your PCEF grant request.

  1. Is it possible to co-apply for a PCEF planning grant with more than one organization or should we only list one of our two organizations as the applicant? Additionally, the organization that would be the lead on the grant is not the organization that would be the fiscal sponsor. Does that impact who we should list as the applicant? 

The application process does not allow for co-application. You do need to designate a primary applicant, and then answer the questions about the organization with that lens in mind. Information about the fiscal sponsor is required more for administrative purposes (as if successful, they will be the ones signing the grant agreement and managing the funds), but you do not need to answer organizational questions about them beyond what is required in the application. For other partners, there is space in the narrative sections to describe your partnerships, if they have associated costs they should be reflected in the “contracted work” line of the budget table.

  1. Given that the budget template only allows to input the project budget to be funded by PCEF, how would you recommend we provide information on the overall project budget, this is the project expenses not to be funded by PCEF? The leverage table does not accommodate a breakdown of costs covered by other funding sources.

If there are additional resources or personnel that are part of the project and funded by other sources, they should be listed in the “Leverage Table”, and in that table you should be able to add additional rows if needed for further description. Also, you are welcome to attach additional documents if you feel you need them to better describe project budgets (but that is not required).

  1. Would air filtration systems for low income housing be an eligible use for grant funds?  Would a request like that be competitive?  The filtration would not save energy, but it would improve air quality for low income residents.

You would need to make a connection to how the deployment of this technology helps mitigate, or adapt to, climate change. As standalone measures, improved air filtration may provide climate impact mitigation but would not provide any GHG reduction. There are also some air filtration opportunities integrated into other energy saving devices, like ductless heat pumps and high efficiency furnaces. We of course are not endorsing any particular approach, but wanted to provide an example. We cannot comment on the potential competitiveness of specific application ideas.

  1. If there are several scope items in a grant request for a capital project, should they be grouped together in one grant application? Or should they be separated into separate applications? If there are four distinct scope areas combined into one grant request, and one of the scope areas turns out to not be competitive, would the entire grant request be denied?           

We will not be awarding partial funding for projects. If there are multiple independent projects with their own scopes, an applicant can put in multiple grant requests or one grant with one project that involves multiple sites and/or components.

  1. When developing the budget for our energy efficiency improvement, do we put in the total amount needed for the project or the amount over and above what the baseline/code would be. For example, if we’re looking at increasing energy efficiency by putting in better HVAC systems, do we put in the total cost for the new systems OR the delta between the baseline system and the new system.  

For projects addressing new construction, applicants should address costs related to going above and beyond current energy code. For energy retrofits to existing buildings, projects can look at the total project costs associated with the equipment/ installation. Please note that there is a 30 percent cap in non-energy related construction costs.

  1. If awarded, which date will the grant be distributed? The application asks for a timeline for the project. I don't know how to answer that if I don't know when the funding will be available.

We anticipate making grant award notifications in February 2021. There will be some time in development of Grant Agreements with successful organizations, with funds likely available to be disbursed in Q2 2021. For the purposes of planning, you can use that as the start date, though the individual start dates will vary based on completion of grant agreements. Timelines can be adjusted accordingly.

  1. In Attachment A, Regenerative Agriculture, it asks how many years will the site be secured for regenerative agriculture purposes. If the site is city property, I assume the answer is as long as the city owns the site? Not exactly sure what this is asking.

For the Regenerative Agriculture projects, we understand that some projects are likely to have leased land while others may be on owned land, so this is intended to capture the duration of those leases. In Attachment A we ask for documentation in instances where the project life estimate is greater than five years.

  1. Does the $200k small grant limit need to be inclusive of admin costs?      

Yes, $200k is inclusive of admin costs.

  1. Should project partner personnel costs be included in the personnel line and the 20 percent admin cost applied to them?

The personnel line in the project budget table and personnel detail table are for staff of the prime applicant only. Personnel costs for your partners (subcontracts) should be listed in the contracts line item of the project budget table.