Request for Concept Notes Number: SFOP0008478
Assistance Listing (CFDA) number: 19.522 – Overseas Refugee Assistance Programs for Strategic Global Priorities
Announcement issuance date: Thursday, December 16, 2021
Submission deadline: Friday, January 28, 2022 at 11:59:59 p.m. EST (23:59:59). Concept notes submitted after this deadline will not be considered.
Funding limits: Budgets covering the entirety of the proposed project period must not exceed $1 million per year for standalone proposals, or $1.5 million for a consortium proposal (from three or more organizations).
Anticipated timeframe for notification of selection for full proposal development: PRM anticipates, but cannot guarantee, that within days from the submission deadline selected concept notes will be notified of selection for full proposal development.
Anticipated timeframe for award of selected full proposals: Pending the availability of funds, PRM anticipates, but cannot guarantee, that awards will be made less than months from the proposal submission deadline.
ADVISORY: All applicants must submit concept notes through the website Grants.gov. PRM strongly recommends submitting your concept note early to allow time to address any technical difficulties that may arise on the Grants.gov website.
If you are new to PRM funding, the Grants.gov registration process can be complicated. We urge you to refer to PRM’s General NGO Guidelines “Application Process” section for information and resources to help ensure that the application process runs smoothly. PRM also strongly encourages organizations that have received funding from PRM in the past to read this section as a refresher.
PRM recommends concept notes be submitted in Adobe PDF, as Microsoft Word documents may sometimes produce different page lengths based on software versions and configurations. Exceeding page length limits will result in disqualification. All concept notes, and required documents, must be in English.
Organizations can request copies of PRM-recommended templates and NGO guidelines, by emailing PRM’s NGO Coordinator with only the phrase PRM NGO Templates (exactly as written in bold) in the subject line, to PRMNGOCoordinator@state.gov. Organizations will receive an email reply containing the templates.
Full Text of Notice of Funding Opportunity
Summary: This solicitation is the first step in a two-part process. After reviewing concept notes, PRM will invite (no later than 30 days after submission) selected organizations to expand their submissions into full single-year (15-page) or multi-year (20-page) proposals with objectives, indicators, and detailed budgets for each year of the program. Selected organizations will have 30 calendar days after they are notified of their selection to complete their full proposals. Organizations may apply as partners or consortia. For purposes of this notice, PRM considers a consortium to be a group of no fewer than three NGOs that comprise an agreement, combination, or group formed to undertake, or proposing to undertake, an activity beyond the resources of any one member.
This announcement references PRM’s General NGO Guidelines, which contain additional information on PRM’s priorities and NGO funding strategy with which selected organizations must comply. Please use both the General NGO Guidelines and this announcement to ensure that your concept note submission is in full compliance with PRM requirements and that the proposed activities are in line with PRM’s priorities. Concept note submissions that do not reflect the requirements outlined in these guidelines will not be considered.
- Concept note activities should primarily support the identification, assessment and referral to the United States, of particularly vulnerable refugees. This should include refugees of any nationality and stateless individuals who have protection needs and who may otherwise have difficulty accessing the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) or other third-country resettlement. Though projects may focus on any region or nationality(ies), PRM will prioritize those that seek to refer greater numbers of 1) LGBTQI+ refugees (particularly from Afghanistan) 2) at-risk individuals in Central America, and/or 3) Uyghurs, Hong Kong refugees, Burmese dissidents, Haitians and other key refugee populations as specified in the FY 2022 Report to Congress.
- Program area: Proposals must support one or more of the following program areas:
- Resettlement: Organizations may submit a maximum of two concept notes per organization only. Any additional submissions received will be disqualified. (Note: Submissions by organizations as part of a consortium do not count toward an individual organization’s submission limit.)
- COVID-19: PRM recognizes the difficult circumstances under which organizations are currently operating as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and will take them into consideration in proposal reviews. To the extent possible, organizations should address how COVID-19 and resulting risks, restrictions and limitations will factor into their planned project and attempt to ensure that proposed indicators and activities can be implemented under the challenging circumstances created by the COVID-19 response.
a. Proposed approaches should be designed to be feasible and operational, with the goal that proposed approaches could be implemented to provide substantial referrals for the USRAP. Concept notes should propose operations that are generally complementary to and expand the operations and reach of the USRAP and the efforts of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and demonstrate how the organization would coordinate with UNHCR on such referrals to avoid duplicate submissions. Proposals should demonstrate that the NGOs implementing the project have the requisite field presence to ensure knowledge of the local protection context and populations of concern to be referred, a working knowledge of the global protection and resettlement system, and a management structure to ensure program integrity. If there are gaps in these areas, the proposals should address how the implementers would address them, including through training and partnerships. Concept notes should detail how organizations will build from an existing structure or organization, rather than create a new organization or structure from scratch.
b. Concept notes should clearly specify the refugee population(s) to be targeted for referrals, the relevant skills and expertise the NGO(s) has with the specified population and local context, and the methods by which the NGO(s) will identify, assess, and prepare and submit referrals for refugees in need of resettlement. Concept notes may include training, consultations or other measures needed to ensure the NGO is well positioned to deliver on the project goals. All activities must be accounted for in the concept note’s proposed budget.
c. Organizations may submit a maximum of two (2) concept notes. Any additional submissions received will be disqualified. (Note: Submissions by organizations as part of a consortium do not count toward an individual organization’s submission limit.) PRM will only accept the first two submissions received.
Concept notes must address the following question:
- Resettlement of Vulnerable and/or Targeted Individuals: How could a non-governmental or inter-governmental organization provide assessments and referrals to the U.S. for resettlement for individuals of any nationality or who are stateless? And who have particular protection needs and may be under threat, including in their countries of asylum? What are the best ways to identify and engage with particularly vulnerable individuals, in a way that maintains their confidence, privacy, and security? Where and how could an organization operate effectively and efficiently, in neighboring country environments that may also be hostile to the community in question? What partnerships, at both a local and potentially international level, would be required to implement a referral program? Organizations are free to propose countries or regions where particularly vulnerable refugee, displaced or other threatened populations reside, and how they are best served by referral to the U.S. for resettlement. resettlement.
Duration of Activity: Program plans for three years will be considered.
Funding limits: Budgets covering the entirety of the proposed project period must not exceed $1 million per year.
Anticipated Number of Selections for Full Proposal Development: PRM anticipates, but cannot guarantee, to make approximately three to five selections to be developed into full proposals through this announcement.
Anticipated Amount to be Awarded Total: Total amounts awarded will be based on a thorough review of each concept note received and amount of funding available in FY 2022.
Federal Award Information
Proposed program start dates: April 1, 2021
Duration of Activity: Applicants may submit multi-year proposals with activities and budgets that do not exceed three years from the proposed start date. Budgets submitted in year one can be revised/updated each year. Continued funding after the initial 12-month period of performance requires the submission of a noncompeting single-year or multi-year proposal and will be contingent upon available funding, strong performance, and continuing need. In funding a program one year, PRM makes no representations that it will continue to fund the program in successive years and encourages applicants to seek a wide array of donors to ensure long-term funding possibilities. Please see Multi-Year Funding section below for additional information.
Funding Limits: See specific guidelines above.
Anticipated Number of Awards: See guidelines above.
Anticipated Amount to be Awarded Total: See guidelines above.
- Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with IRS, other than institutions of higher education;
- Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) status with IRS, other than institutions of higher education; and
- International Organizations. International multilateral organizations, such as United Nations agencies, should not submit concept notes through Grants.gov in response to this Notice of Funding Opportunity. International multilateral organizations that are seeking funding for programs relevant to this announcement should contact the PRM Program Officer (as listed below) on or before the closing date of this announcement.
Cost Sharing or Matching: Cost sharing, matching, or cost participation is not a requirement of an application in response to this funding announcement.
Concept notes and later proposals will be considered that describe the sources and amounts of additional funding that may be utilized to complement PRM funding, and meet the following criteria;
- Are not paid by the Federal Government under another Federal award;
- Are verifiable from the non-Federal entity’s records;
- Are not included as contributions for any other Federal award; and
- Are necessary and reasonable for accomplishment of project or program objectives.
Please include this information in the Budget Summary of the concept note submission, separate from the proposed budget.
(Note: Though favorably looked upon, inclusion will not result in a competitive ranking increase when evaluated.)
PRM will accept concept notes from any NGO working in the refugee protection, humanitarian and/or human rights sector, although, given budgetary constraints, priority will be given to concept notes from organizations that can demonstrate:
- a working relationship with UNHCR;
- a proven track record in providing proposed resettlement services or other critical support to the specified refugee population in the specified regional location;
- proof of registration to operate in countries covered within proposed area of operation, or evidence of ability to obtain registration;
- evidence of (or a plan for) coordination with international organizations (IOs) and other NGOs working in the same area or sector as well as – where possible – local authorities;
- an emphasis on the outcome or impact of program activities. Full objective and indicator tables will only be required if the applicant is invited to submit a full proposal; however, the concept note must generally demonstrate the ability to deliver impact;
- a plan to increase program output, as measured by refugee resettlement referrals, throughout the course of the project; and
- an understanding of and sensitivity to conflict dynamics in the program location.
Application and Submission Instructions
Address to Request Application Package: Application packages may be downloaded from the website www.Grants.gov.
Content and Form of Application: Organizations may submit a maximum of two (2) concept note(s) per organization only. Any subsequent submissions received will be disqualified. (Note: Submissions by organizations as part of a consortium do not count toward an individual organization’s submission limit.)
Concept notes must not exceed 4 pages in length (or 5 pages if a consortia submission) submitted in Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF, using Times New Roman, 12-point font, with one-inch margins on all sides. Concept notes that are longer than 4 pages (or 5 pages if a consortia submission) will be disqualified.
- PRM strongly recommends proposals be submitted in Adobe PDF, as Microsoft Word documents may sometimes produce different page lengths based on software versions and configurations.
- Exceeding page length limits will result in disqualification. (Do not include additional cover pages)
- All documents must be in English.
- Concept notes must include the following categories, in any arrangement.
- Brief problem statement, description of target population with anticipated beneficiary numbers, and vulnerability criteria used to identify beneficiaries
- Program description, location, and duration
- Proposed measurable outcomes and impact of the program
- Summary of the organization(s) and experience doing similar work
- Organizational point(s) of contact
Organizations may request copies of all PRM-recommended templates and NGO guidelines, by emailing PRM’s NGO Coordinator with only the phrase PRM NGO Templates (exactly as written in bold) in the subject line, to PRMNGOCoordinator@state.gov. Organizations will receive an automated email reply containing the templates.
- Budget summaries must be attached to the concept note and do not count against the 4-page limit (or 5 pages if a consortia submission). The budget summary is separate from SF-424, SF-F24A, and SF-424B documents, which are also required and similarly do not fall within the page limit. The SF-424 family of forms may be downloaded through grants.gov. Budget summaries should be submitted as an attachment under the budget narrative section in grants.gov. Budget summaries must include the following categories, and disaggregated by year:
- Personnel allowances
- Program equipment
- Other direct costs
- Indirect costs
- Total amount requested
Organizations can request a budget summary template by emailing PRM’s NGO Coordinator with only the phrase PRM NGO Templates (exactly as written in bold) in the subject line, to PRMNGOCoordinator@state.gov. Organizations will receive an automated email reply containing the templates.
- There should be no attachments, other than the summary budget and SF-424 documents, to the initial concept note submission.
- To be considered for PRM funding, organizations must submit a complete application package including:
- 4-page concept note (or 5-page concept note for consortia);
- One-page budget summary clearly indicating costs disaggregated by year for the program period. The budget summary does not count against page limits.
- Signed completed SF-424, SF-424 A, and SF-424 B. These documents do not count against the page limit. Note: Form SF-424B is now required only for those applicants who have not registered in SAM.gov or recertified their registration in SAM.gov since February 2, 2019, and completed the online representations and certifications.
- Consortia. Organizations may apply to this call as individual organizations or consortia; however, for consortia, one organization must be designated as the lead applicant at both the concept note and full proposal stage.
For purposes of consortia applying for PRM funding, PRM’s considers consortium to be a group of no less than three NGOs that comprise an agreement, combination, or group formed to undertake, or proposing to undertake, an assistance activity beyond the resources of any one member. PRM may request to review and approve of substantive provisions of proposed sub-awards. Applicants may form consortia in order to bring together organizations with varied expertise to propose a comprehensive program in one proposal. The consortium arrangement may allow for greater geographic coverage, inclusion of technical and sectoral strengths from multiple organizations, increased inclusion of local and national organizations, and/or the potential of much greater impact through collaboration.
Submissions by organizations as part of a consortium do not count toward an organization’s individual submission limit. If the applicant is applying as a consortium, a description of how the consortia will be organized and how lines of authority and decision-making will be managed across all team members and between the lead applicant and associate awardees should be included in the concept note. The prime applicant would be responsible for overall implementation of the proposed program activities, preparation/presentation of annual work plans, M&E planning, and required reporting to PRM. The prime applicant should designate a single individual to be the liaison with PRM, although PRM would reserve the right to communicate with sub-grantees.
Organizations may request copies of all PRM-recommended templates and NGO guidelines, by emailing PRM’s NGO Coordinator with only the phrase PRM NGO Templates (exactly as written in bold) in the subject line, to PRMNGOCoordinator@state.gov. Organizations will receive an automated email reply containing the templates.
Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Number and System for Award Management (SAM).
Each applicant is required to:
- be registered in SAM at (www.sam.gov) before submitting its application;
- provide a valid DUNS number in its application; and
- continue to maintain an active SAM registration with current information at all times during which it has an active PRM award or an application or plan under consideration by PRM.
No federal award may be made to an applicant until the applicant has complied with all applicable DUNS and SAM requirements and, if an applicant has not fully complied with the requirements by the time the PRM award is ready to be made, PRM may determine that the applicant is not qualified to receive a PRM award and use that determination as a basis for making a PRM award to another applicant.
(Note: Starting on April 4, 2022, the DUNS Number will be replaced by a “new, non-proprietary identifier” requested in, and assigned by, the System for Award Management (SAM.gov). This new identifier is being called the Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). For more information on the process, visit https://www.gsa.gov/about-us/organization/federal-acquisition-service/office-of-systems-management/integrated-award-environment-iae/iae-systems-information-kit/unique-entity-identifier-update)
Concept notes must be submitted via Grants.gov. Grants.gov registration requires a DUNS/UEI number and active SAM.gov registration. If you are new to PRM funding, the Grants.gov registration process can be complicated. We urge you to refer to PRM’s General NGO Guidelines “Application Process” section for information and resources to help ensure that the application process runs smoothly. PRM also strongly encourages organizations that have received funding from PRM in the past to read this section as a refresher. Applicants may also refer to the “For Applicants” page on Grants.gov for complete details on requirements.
Do not wait until the deadline to submit your application on Grants.gov. Organizations not registered with Grants.gov should register well in advance of the deadline as it can take several weeks to finalize registration (sometimes longer for non-U.S.-based NGOs to receive required registration numbers). We also recommend that organizations, particularly first-time applicants, submit applications via Grants.gov no later than one week before the deadline to avoid last-minute technical difficulties that could result in an application not being considered. PRM has extremely limited ability to correct or facilitate rapid resolution to technical difficulties associated with grants.gov, SAM.gov or DUNS/UEI number and registration issues. PRM partners must maintain an active SAM registration with current and correct information at all times during which they have an active federal award or an application under consideration by PRM or any federal agency.
When registering with Grants.gov, organizations must designate points of contact and Authorized Organization Representatives (AORs). Organizations based outside the United States must also request and receive an NCAGE (https://eportal.nspa.nato.int/AC135Public/scage/CageList.aspx) code prior to registering with SAM.gov. Applicants experiencing technical difficulties with the SAM registration process should contact the Federal Service Desk (FSD) online or at 1–866-606-8220 (U.S.) and 1-334-206-7828 (International).
Applications must be submitted under the authority of the Authorized Organization Representative at the applicant organization. Having proposals submitted by agency headquarters helps to avoid possible technical problems.
If you encounter technical difficulties with Grants.gov please contact the Grants.gov Help Desk at email@example.com or by calling 1-800-518-4726.
Applicants who are unable to submit applications via Grants.gov due to Grants.gov technical difficulties and:
- who have reported the problem to the Grants.gov help desk;
- received a case number;
- have completed DUNS and SAM.gov registrations;
- had a service request opened to research the problem;
Applicants may contact the PRM NGO Coordinator before the submission deadline to determine whether an alternative method of submission is appropriate. PRM makes no guarantee to accept an application outside of the grants.gov system.
It is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure the appropriate registrations are in place and active. Failure to have the appropriate organizational registrations in place is not considered a technical difficulty and is not justification for an alternate means of submission.
Submission Dates and Times
Announcement issuance date: Thursday, December 16, 2021
Proposal submission deadline: Friday, January 28, 2022 at 11:59:59 p.m. (23:59:59) EST. Concept Notes submitted after this deadline will not be considered.
This solicitation is the first step in a two-part process. After reviewing concept notes, PRM will invite selected organizations to expand their submissions into full-length proposals with detailed budgets. Selected organizations will have 30 calendar days after they are notified of their selection to complete their full proposals.
Intergovernmental Review – Not Applicable.
Funding Restrictions. Federal awards will not allow reimbursement of Federal Award costs without prior authorization by PRM.
Other Submission Requirements
The following provisions will be included whenever assistance is awarded:
The Recipient shall recognize the United States Government’s funding for activities specified under this award at the project site with a graphic of the U.S. flag accompanied by one of the following two phrases based on the level of funding for the award:
- Fully funded by the award: “Gift of the United States Government”
- Partially funded by the award: “Funding provided by the United States Government”
PRM highly encourages recognition of U.S. government funding on social media and website platforms to be included in proposals branding and marking strategy. Recipients should tag PRM’s Twitter account @StatePRM and/or Facebook account @State.PRM (rather than using hashtags). Additionally, the applicable U.S. Embassy should be tagged as well.
Updates of actions taken to fulfill this requirement must be included in quarterly program reports to PRM.
All programs, projects, assistance, activities, and public communications to foreign audiences, partially or fully funded by the Department, should be marked appropriately overseas with the standard U.S. flag in a size and prominence equal to (or greater than) any other logo or identity. The requirement does not apply to the Recipient’s own corporate communications or in the United States.
The Recipient should ensure that all publicity and promotional materials underscore the sponsorship by or partnership with the U.S. government or the U.S. embassy. The Recipient may continue to use existing logos or project materials; however, a standard rectangular U.S. flag must be used in conjunction with such logos.
NOTE: Do not use the Department of State seal without the express written approval from PRM.
Sub non-Federal entities (sub-awardees) and subsequent tier sub-award agreements are subject to the marking requirements and the non-Federal entity shall include a provision in the sub non-Federal entity agreement indicating that the standard, rectangular U.S. flag is a requirement. Exemptions from this requirement may be allowable but must be agreed to in writing by the Grants Officer. (Note: An exemption refers to the complete or partial cessation of branding, not use of alternative branding). Requests should be initiated with the Grants Officer and Grants Officer Representative. Waivers issued are applied only to the exemptions requested through the Recipient’s proposal for funding and any subsequent negotiated revisions.
In the event the non-Federal entity does not comply with the marking requirements as established in the approved assistance agreement, the Grants Officer Representative and the Grants Officer must initiate corrective action with the non-Federal entity.
Application Review Information
Criteria. Eligible submissions will be those that comply with the criteria and requirements included in this announcement. In addition, the review panel will evaluate the concept notes based on the following criteria, in addition to a ranking of High/Medium/Low priority:
- Quality of program idea (10 points)
- Appropriate identification of beneficiary population, including vulnerable populations (10 points)
- Program feasibility/ability to achieve objectives (10 points)
- Organization’s experience and capacity (10 points)
- Cost effectiveness (10 points)
PRM will conduct a formal competitive review of all concept notes submitted in response to this funding announcement. A review panel of at least three people will evaluate submissions based on the above-referenced programmatic criteria and PRM priorities in the context of available funding.
After reviewing the concept notes, selected organizations will be invited to submit full proposals. PRM will provide formal notifications to NGOs of final decisions within 90 days after the closing date of this announcement. Selected organizations will have 30 calendar days from notification to submit full proposals, with detailed budgets, and attachments as applicable (refer to PRM’s General NGO Guidelines for general proposal formatting and submission guidance for single-year/multi-year programs).
Federal Award Administration Information
- Federal Award Administration. A successful applicant can expect to receive a separate notice from PRM stating that an application has been selected before PRM makes the federal award. That notice is not an authorization to begin performance. Only the notice of award signed by the grants officer is the authorizing document. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified following completion of the selection and award process.
- Administrative and National Policy Requirements. PRM awards are made consistent with the following provisions in the following order of precedence: (a) applicable laws and statutes of the United States, including any specific legislative provisions mandated in the statutory authority for the award; (b) Code of Federal Regulations (CFR); (c) Department of State Standard Terms and Conditions of the award; (d) the award’s specific requirements; and (e) other documents and attachments to the award.
Reporting. Successful applicants will be required to submit:
- Program Reports: PRM requires program reports describing and analyzing the results of activities undertaken during the validity period of the agreement. A program report is required within thirty (30) days following the end of each three-month period of performance during the validity period of the agreement. The final program report is due one hundred and twenty (120) days following the end of the agreement. The submission dates for program reports will be written into the cooperative agreement. Partners receiving multi-year awards should follow this same reporting schedule and should still submit a final program report at the end of each year that summarizes the NGO’s performance during the previous year.
- The Bureau suggests that NGOs receiving PRM funding use the PRM recommended quarterly program report template (also used for final reports). The suggested PRM NGO reporting template is designed to ease the reporting requirements while ensuring that all required elements are addressed. The Quarterly Program Report Template can be requested by emailing PRM’s NGO Coordinator with only the phrase PRM NGO Templates (exactly as written in bold) in the subject line, to PRMNGOCoordinator@state.gov. Organizations will receive an automated email reply containing the templates.Financial Reports: Financial reports are required within thirty (30) days following the end of each calendar year quarter during the validity period of the agreement (January 30th, April 30th, July 30th, October 30th). The final financial report covering the entire period of the agreement is required within one hundred and twenty (120) days after the expiration date of the agreement. For agreements containing indirect costs, final financial reports are due within sixty (60) days of the finalization of the applicable negotiated indirect cost rate agreement (NICRA).
Reports reflecting expenditures for the recipient’s overseas and United States offices should be completed in accordance with the Federal Financial Report (FFR SF-425) and submitted electronically in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Payment Management System (HHS/PMS) and in accordance with other award specific requirements. Detailed information pertaining to the Federal Financial Report including due dates, instruction manuals and access forms, is provided on the HHS/PMS website.
- Audit Reports: When a recipient-contracted audit is not required because the Federal award amount is less than the $750,000 threshold, the Department may determine that an audit must be performed and the audit report must be submitted to the responsible grants office(r) for review, dissemination, and resolution as appropriate. The cost of audits required under this policy may be charged either as an allowable direct cost to the award, or included in the organizations established indirect costs in the award’s detailed budget.
- Integrity and Compliance Reports: All applicants selected for funding to refer cases for resettlement to the USRAP will be required to submit an annual Integrity and Compliance report.
Applicants with technical questions related to this announcement should contact the PRM staff listed below prior to submission. Please note that responses to technical questions from PRM do not indicate a commitment to fund the program discussed.
PRM Point of Contact: Cameron McGlothlin, firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: External websites linked above may not be supported or accessible by all web browsers. If you are unable to link to a referenced website, please try using a different browser or update to a more recent one. If you continue to experience difficulties to reach external resources, please contact the PRMNGOCoordinator.
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In U.S GAO NewsSeptember 9, 2021Why GAO Did This Study With the emergence and rapid global spread of COVID-19, smartphone apps have been developed to supplement manual contact tracing, which is a public health measure used to slow the spread of infectious disease. GAO was asked to conduct a technology assessment of exposure notification apps. This report discusses (1) the benefits of exposure notification apps; (2) the current level of deployment in the U.S.; (3) challenges affecting their use; and (4) policy options that may help address these challenges for future use. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed agency documentation, met with officials from several federal agencies, and conducted a review of technical and policy literature. GAO also interviewed representatives from companies involved in the development of exposure notification apps, public health organizations, federally funded research and development centers, and academic researchers. In addition, GAO analyzed information from a selection of states. GAO is identifying policy options in this report. GAO received technical comments on a draft of this report from five federal agencies and five organizations included in the review, which it incorporated as appropriate. What GAO Found Exposure notification applications (apps)—which determine the proximity of users and notify people who have been in close contact with another user who was likely infectious—are expected to enhance the speed and reach of contact tracing and help slow the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. As of June 2021, almost half (26/56) of U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia had deployed an app for COVID-19, all using a system developed jointly by Google and Apple (see figure). In the absence of a national app, states independently launched apps, resulting in a staggered rollout over 10 months beginning in August 2020. Map of deployment of exposure notification apps by U.S. states and territories, as of June 2021 Reported app development costs for selected states varied, ranging from no cost (provided by a nonprofit organization) to $700,000. Marketing costs for selected states ranged from $380,000 to $3.2 million. Reported app download levels in the selected states ranged from 200,000 to more than 2 million, as of June 2021. GAO identified several challenges limiting app use and the ability of states and others to determine whether the apps were effective: Accuracy of measurements Technical limitations to measuring distance and exposure can result in inaccurate exposure notifications. Privacy and security concerns The public may lack confidence that its privacy is being protected, in part, due to a lack of independent privacy and security assessments and a lack of federal legal protections. Adoption States have faced challenges attracting public interest in downloading and using an exposure notification app. Verification code delays States faced challenges in promptly providing people who tested positive for COVID-19 with a verification code necessary to notify other close contacts of potential exposure using the app. Evidence of effectiveness Limited data are available to evaluate the effectiveness of the apps. Source: GAO. | GAO-21-104622 GAO developed the following four policy options that could help address challenges related to exposure notification apps. The policy options identify possible actions by policymakers, which may include Congress, other elected officials, federal agencies, state and local governments, and industry. See below for details of the policy options and relevant opportunities and considerations. Policy Options to Help Address Challenges of Exposure Notification Apps for Future Use Opportunities Considerations Research and Development (report page 41) Policymakers could promote research and development to address technological limitations. Research on technological limitations could help increase accuracy, encouraging users to download and use the apps. Research on technologies and architectures other than those used by U.S. states could lead to improvements. Partnerships with technology companies could spur innovation and help with integrating improvements. The research needed may be costly. Improvements may not be cost-effective, since existing apps may already be sufficiently accurate. Research may result in apps that are not functional for the next pandemic, since the current apps were developed for COVID-19. Privacy and Security Standards and Practices (report page 42) Policymakers could promote uniform privacy and security standards and practices for exposure notification apps. Uniform standards and best practices could help address real and perceived risks to the public’s data, potentially increasing adoption. Standards developed by a broad coalition of stakeholders could increase the likelihood of stakeholder agreement and buy-in. Policymakers would need to balance the need for privacy and security with the costs of implementing standards and practices. Implementation of privacy requirements may need to be flexible, since jurisdictions could use different approaches. Standards and practices could be challenging to oversee and enforce. Best Practices (report page 43) Policymakers could promote best practices for approaches to increasing adoption and to measure the effectiveness of exposure notification apps. Best practices could help authorities better promote app adoption. Best practices could help state public health authorities by providing information on procedures and potential approaches for distributing verification codes in a timely manner. Best practices could help public health authorities establish a more rigorous way to measure the extent of app use and any resulting improvements in notifying exposed people. Best practices could require consensus from many public- and private-sector stakeholders, which can be time- and resource-intensive. Current best practices may have limited relevance to a future pandemic. In some cases, stakeholders may lack sufficient information or the experience to develop best practices. National Strategy (report page 44) Policymakers could collaborate to enhance the pandemic national strategy and promote a coordinated approach to the development and deployment of exposure notification apps. Enhanced national coordination that builds on the underlying infrastructure and lessons learned from COVID-19 could prompt faster deployment of apps in the future. A future national marketing campaign with cohesive and coherent messaging could result in wider adoption. Policymakers could recommend a national app that public health authorities could decide to use based on their individual needs. A national app could add more functions by integrating exposure notification capabilities with test scheduling and vaccine delivery coordination. A coordinated national approach would likely have associated costs and require sustained funding during the pandemic. Coordination of groups with divergent perspectives and interests may pose challenges to defining outcomes, measuring performance, and establishing a leadership approach. It is unclear whether potential users would be more or less likely to trust a national exposure notification app than one developed by a state government. Source: GAO. | GAO-21-104622 For more information, contact Karen L. Howard at (202) 512-6888 or email@example.com or Vijay A. D’Souza, at (202) 512-6240, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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