The GREAT Act: What You Need to Know

January 28, 2020by Team IRIS CARBON

“If the government is going to dole out $600 billion, then we must utilize the incredible technology we have at our disposal to streamline the federal grant reporting process and learn something from all that hardworking taxpayer money,”

-Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-NC

December 30, 2019, marked an important day for the Federal grant reporting system when Congress made a bipartisan move and passed the GREAT Act in the US Senate. The Grant Reporting and Agreements Transparency Act of 2019 or the GREAT Act as it is known will streamline and standardize the federal grant reporting in the US.

Why is the GREAT Act necessary?

This Act will change the way federal grant and assistance data is reported. In 2019, more than 35 federal agencies awarded nearly $750 billion to 40,000 grant recipients. But the reporting systems for these grant programs were a tedious, document-centric process in which recipients had to fill out an overwhelming array of forms across multiple agency reporting systems.

Since this was not sustainable as a process, Rep Virginia Foxx proposed the GREAT Act to enable the grant reporting process to move away from disconnected documents to open, organized data that will be created using a comprehensive and standardized taxonomy. The taxonomy that is being developed for this process will cover all grant information and data.

Who is affected by the GREAT Act?

This Act is specifically targeted toward recipients of the $600 billion federal grants sanctioned by the government. These recipients include school districts, fire departments, police stations, hospitals, food banks, homeless shelters, job training centers, and water treatment facilities, along with other non-profit and governmental services.

What is the GREAT Act expected to do?

The effects of this Act are two-fold; firstly, this Act will ensure more transparency for grantmaking agencies and the public. It will do so by improving oversight of federal funding, making sure there is greater transparency about how funds are used, and enabling enhanced capabilities to compare grantees with interoperable information.

Secondly, the Act will benefit grantees in their reporting process. They will be able to automate their reporting processes by enabling the adoption and application of new technology, their compliance costs will reduce and reporting will become more efficient. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

A timeline of implementation

This Act is expected to be phased in over the next five years. Here’s a look at the proposed timeline and activities:

December 30, 2022:    

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will set the human and machine-readable data standards for reporting federal awards.

December 30, 2023:    

Agency heads will implement new data standards established by the OMB for all information that will be collected. This will be the period of transition when grantees will have to adopt the new reporting format.

December 30, 2024:    

The OMB will launch a single public portal to enable the collection, display, and maintenance of information submitted by grant award recipients.

The GREAT Act is a significant step in the right direction. It embraces the idea of technology being adopted to standardize reporting. Of course, the end goal is to change the way data is reported, collected, and analyzed. Now that the first step has been implemented, we look forward to seeing which standardization format is selected to build the taxonomy for the GREAT Act.

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