OMB officials outlined new changes to the Uniform Guidance Thursday aimed at reducing administrative burden for federal grant programs.

OMB officials outlined new changes to the Uniform Guidance Thursday aimed at reducing administrative burden for federal grant programs. Tarindu Jayatilaka / Getty Images

OMB overhauls federal grant guidance to simplify it for recipients

The Biden administration offered new updates to the Uniform Guidance that governs federal grant programs, aiming to slice red tape and simplify the language recipients use to apply for funding. 

The Office of Management and Budget detailed new changes to the guidance that helps govern federal grants programs Thursday in what officials described as a “completely overhauled version” that will simplify the process. 

Known as the Uniform Guidance, OMB’s federal framework for grants management debuted a decade ago as a way to help agencies streamline the administration of the then $600 billion in annual grant spending. 

Today, federal grant funding has topped $1.2 trillion annually, and OMB officials said revisions to the Uniform Guidance will further help make grant programs more accessible and easily navigable for states, localities, academic researchers and others.

“Now, terms like federal financial assistance and uniform grants guidance might sound mundane or, perhaps, a little bureaucratic, but it’s really the plumbing of our federal programs,” said Jason Miller, OMB Deputy Director for Management, at a Thursday event outlining the changes. “The plumbing of our federal financial assistance system matters.”

The changes outlined in the Uniform Grants Guidance aim to achieve goals like slicing compliance costs by reducing the number of agency prior approvals for specific program spending, revising Notices of Funding Opportunities requirements to make it easier for potential applicants to seek out grants and expanding grant accessibility by eliminating English language requirements on various grant documents. 

The guidance will also allow recipients to utilize grant funding to establish or bolster data infrastructure capabilities to “support quality evaluation, data gathering and analysis and community engagement,” according to an OMB blog post.

The guidance also builds upon a December 2023 executive order reforming federal funding efforts to support tribal sovereignty and self-determination by encouraging agencies to design waivers that help expand federal program accessibility, equity, flexibility and utility.

Agencies will also be required to improve their program descriptions to broaden the use of the Federal Program Inventory, a new online information service launched earlier this year

Miller said that he was particularly proud of OMB’s efforts to lower the burden on grants and federal assistance recipients by simplifying language and requirements. 

“Of course, we need strong and clear rules for how federal funds are spent, but those rules should add value, not create check-the-box burdens,” he said. “Red tape, even when well-intended, increases costs and reduces the amount federal funding recipients can spend on delivering outcomes. Lowering, burden, which is exactly what this new guidance will do, means that we will get more value from every dollar.”

OMB also provided an implementation memorandum to help agencies apply the revisions, which are slated to be in place by Oct. 1.