Nevada is horrible at leveraging federal grant money. Can it get better?

Empty committee room at the Nevada State Legislature building. (Photo: Legislative Counsel Bureau)

Lawmakers Thursday announced intentions to create a new cabinet-level office focused on bringing more federal grant funding to Nevada.

During a roundtable with Nevada service providers, legislators joined Gov. Steve Sisolak and a group of Nevada nonprofits to discuss how the state can maximize Nevada’s federal grant funding. 

Federal grant money is frequently contingent on state funding — the more a state contributes to public programs and services that are eligible for federal grant funding, the more federal money is leveraged.

“Nevada has historically underperformed at taking advantage of federal grant dollars and resources,” Sisolak said during the roundtable. “Nevada ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to leveraging federal grant dollars.” 

“We also leave millions of dollars in Pell grants and income tax credits on the table and unused,” the governor said.

During his state of the state address this month Sisolak said he wants to increase Nevada’s share of grants by $100 million dollars over the next two years and by $500 million dollars annually by 2026.

The planned “Nevada Governor’s Office of Federal Resources” could be part of the solution, said Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas.

In the upcoming legislative session, Monroe-Moreno said she will introduce a bill to create the new office.

“I truly believe that fixing and expanding our grants management program in the state of Nevada is a key part of the infrastructure of our state,” Monroe-Moreno said.

Lawmakers made efforts to address Nevada’s federal grant underperformance during the 2019 Legislature, passing a bill to create a grant matching fund and allocating $1 million to the state’s grants office to prevent local governments, state agencies and nonprofits from passing on grant opportunities due to a lack of available matching funds.

Once applications started in January 2020, the pilot program generated quick interest, and in three months the program committed $970,178 of the $1 million allocation in matching funds, with the potential to bring $3,226,440 in federal grant funding to Nevada, according to the Nevada Grant Office.

“We were able to prove that, by putting a little money into a pilot program, it truly could work,” said Monroe-Moreno, adding that the bill she plans to introduce in the upcoming legislative session would make the grant matching pilot program permanent.

Each year Nevada misses out on millions in grant funding, said state Treasurer Zach Conine, including $639 million in funding for health programs, $78 million in education programs, $21 million in energy and environmental resource programs, $288 million dollars for income security and social services programs, $36 million in transportation, and $15 million in community development block grants and other government services.

“Can you imagine the impact an additional $105 million dollars of TANF funding, a federal program that helps families cover necessary living expenses. Imagine what that would do,” Conine said. “ More federal funds means more of the services Nevadans want and need.”

Conine said an infusion of federal grant funds could also lead to more jobs in construction for new affordable housing.

The Nevada Grant Office and the Nevada Advisory Council on Federal Assistance, which assist state and local agencies with grant applications, have consistently been underfunded and understaffed, said Conine, leading to less federal dollars for Nevada.

“We know there is nothing structurally that prevents Nevada from fixing this problem,” said Conine. “Forty-six states are doing a better job than we are and many have less need than we do.”

“The pandemic has reminded us just how important social services organizations are in Nevada,” Conine said.

Monroe-Moreno said she hasn’t analyzed how an increase in grant funding could specifically replace gaps caused by budget cuts.

But federal grant funding can help the state compensate for cuts to services and programs, “and that’s what I’m hoping to continue to do,” she said.

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.