The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Program funds grants and rebates that protect human health and improve air quality by reducing harmful emissions from diesel engines. EPA typically releases two DERA competitive funding opportunities annually, as well as a state allocation program. During open grant opportunities, EPA must provide everyone with the same information at the same time to avoid giving anyone an unfair advantage. The DERA program responds to questions about Requests for Applications by posting a weekly Question-and-Answer document on the program website. More than a decade ago, when the program decided it needed additional support, EPA turned to ERG for assistance with Q&A during busy funding periods.
To meet this need, ERG established the DERA helpline, a team of approximately six ERG staff trained to follow a standard process and provide EPA-approved responses to applicant questions. During Q&A periods, helpline staff field questions from potential applicants about applicant, project, and vehicle/engine eligibility; the grant application process; and project administration. ERG is responsible for drafting responses, which then receive an initial Agency review and final Agency approval. To manage the overall helpline workflow, ERG customized a database allowing us to prepare Q&A for review, incorporate EPA edits, prepare the Q&A document for web posting, and provide status reports. To ensure that potential applicants see the responses, ERG sends a courtesy email after posting. For DERA Rebates, the helpline team serves as rebate awardee contacts, responding to awardees' questions and reviewing and filing rebate paperwork for awardees.