Court Innovations Grant Program FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Basic Information

  1. What is the purpose of the Court Innovations Grant Program (Grant Program)?
    The Grant Program funds the establishment, operation, administration, and staffing of trial and appellate court programs and practices that promote innovation, modernization, and efficiency.
  2. How much in grant funds is available for the Grant Program? 
    The Budget Act of 2016 allocated a total of $25 million to the Grant Program.  These funds are allocated to programs and practices within the following courts:
    • Up to $12 million will be spent on collaborative courts.
    • Up to $8 million will be spent on self-help, family, and juvenile courts.
    • Up to $5 million will be spent on other efficiencies across all types of courts.

Grant Requirements

  1. What are some of the minimal requirements under the Budget Act of 2016?
    The Budget Act of 2016 provides the following requirements regarding the Grant Program:
    • The funded programs and practices must be sustainable after the grant award period.
    • The funded programs and practices must be adoptable and replicable by other courts.
    • The funded programs must include measurable results, outcomes, or benefits that have demonstrated impact on the court and the public it serves.
  2. What is the time period associated with the Grant Program?
    All funds awarded under the Grant Program must be encumbered and expended by June 30, 2020.
  3. May grant funds be used for existing programs and practices?
    Grant funds will not be provided for existing programs or practices unless there are new elements to the program that are verified to go beyond the existing program or practice. As such, existing programs will not be eligible to receive funding from the Grant Program unless you can demonstrate how the program or practice proposal is different from the current program.
  4. In terms of sustainability, do you anticipate follow-up funds after 2020 for the funded projects?  Or, is the expectation that courts would sustain it on their own?
    It is not anticipated that grant funds will be available after the grant period ends in 2020, and it is the goal of this grant program to ensure that courts can sustain grant projects on their own, without additional grant funds from the Judicial Council or Legislature. The grant funds should be viewed as seed funds for projects that may be sustained by the branch through resulting cost savings or efficiencies.
  5. What happens when at the end of the fiscal year, a court has not spent all its funds for the prior fiscal year?
    The grant funds are not subject to the fund balance cap reductions. Therefore, courts may retain grant funds in a separate grant trust account. As provided though in section 8.2.4 of the RFA, all expenses must be paid—not just encumbered—by June 30, 2020.  If courts do not spend grant funds by June 30, 2020, they will revert to the State’s General Fund.  As provided in section 4.3 of the RFA, annual disbursements will be made at the beginning of fiscal years when the court and the Judicial Council have completed the following: (1) all outstanding reconciliation items from the prior fiscal year quarterly and annual reports are resolved; (2) if unused funds remain, the court has explained why any planned expenses did not occur; (3) if unused funds remain, the court has submitted a revised spending plan that documents the movement of planned expenses from one fiscal year to the next, as long as the total award is not exceeded, or the court acknowledges in writing they will not use the funds, which can be returned to the grant fund; and (4) unused funds documentation will be reviewed by the Judicial Council, and a decision will be made whether unused funds can roll over to a subsequent year or will be returned to the grant fund. As also provided in section 5.2 of the RFA, a court will need to submit a Quarterly Request to Revise Budget Detail Worksheet if a court will not spend all its grant funds within a specific fiscal year for which it was approved.

Allowable Expenditures

  1. Is computer software and implementation or programming of that software an allowable expense if expenses are completed in the grant time period?
    Yes, computer software and implementation or programming of that software is an allowable expense as long as it is expended for the proposed grant project during the grant period.
  2. Can we charge personnel services costs for persons outside of the court’s employ?  Example: Lawyers employed by necessary stakeholders and/or employees from a different lead agency collaborating on the project.
    Salary and benefits are allowed as an eligible grant expenditure and the RFA does not limit this grant expenditure to court employees only. Additionally, the court may contract with consultants/contractors that will be directly related to the objectives and activities of the proposed program and this may include personnel costs. All anticipated costs must be listed on the Budget Detail Worksheets and the court must maintain documentation to justify the personnel services costs proposed in the grant application.
  3. Would an eligible expense be funding for a position that is currently funded by grants funds that will terminate, and in which the position would otherwise be eliminated?
    Court Innovations Grant Program funds are not to be used to replace or take the place of existing court funding, or any existing expense, including staff costs incurred for performing existing duties. Exceptions to the expenditure requirements may be considered on a case-by-case basis if an exemption request is received in writing, in advance, to the Judicial Council program manager.
  4. Are indirect costs for partner organizations eligible costs under the Court Innovations Grant Program?
    Indirect cost at the approved ICRP percentage is considered an allowed expense for courts. The grant funds may not be used to pay indirect costs for any consultants, contractors, or non-court organizations.
  5. Are pro-tempore judicial officers’ salaries and benefits allowable costs under this grant program?
    Yes, courts may pay the judicial officers’ salaries and benefits from the grant funds. If they are providing work in addition to their work on the grant project, their time working on the grant project must be properly accounted for, e.g., on timesheets.
  6. Are all facility costs not allowed?
    Facility costs are generally not considered an eligible expense for this grant program. However, as provided in section 4.5 of the Request for Proposals, courts can submit a request for an exemption to the prohibition on facility expenditures. The Judicial Council may grant exemptions depending on the information provided in a court’s request for an exemption.
  7. So eligible expenses are Salary and Benefits, but ineligible expenses would be replacing existing funding. If Admin personnel were tracking, reporting, monitoring the grant, we couldn’t use funds for their salary? Because essentially we are already getting funding for court staff. Same question regarding an individual in IT who would be programming for the project, assuming this would be ineligible as well?
    These costs may be eligible. To clarify, a court may use grant funds to pay for the salary and benefits of those employees who work on the grant project. This can include both those who directly work on the grant and those administrative staff who support the grant through monitoring, reporting, and other grant-related activities. The court must list the names and titles of these employees in their cost proposal (Attachment C). Further, we strongly recommend that the court sufficiently explain in the budget justification narrative how each employee’s work will be both grant-specific and clearly distinguishable from his or her current job responsibilities. Grant funds cannot be used to pay for existing programs or practices. The Judicial Branch Budget Committee, when evaluating your court’s proposal, may consider whether court employees will be performing work that goes beyond existing programs or practices.

Initial Payment and Commencement of Work

  1. May the court commence work before the Intra-Branch Agreement start date currently planned for June 1, 2017? If so, may the court use innovation grant funds to reimburse for project costs incurred for goods or services received this fiscal year but prior to the IBA start date?
    A court is not eligible to receive reimbursement for costs incurred prior to the finalization of the Intra-Branch Agreement between the council and the court. Please note, however, that the current timeline may be subject to change if processes occur more quickly than anticipated. In this situation, the timelines could be modified at the direction of the Judicial Branch Budget Committee and could result in the potential earlier finalization of IBAs and projects that may be able to commence prior to June 1, 2017.
  2. Regarding the payment schedule, what kind of startup documentation will be required for the court to be eligible for the first annual and subsequent disbursements?
    The RFA requires that the courts complete the Cost Proposal utilizing the Budget Summary Worksheet template (Attachment B) and Budget Detail Worksheet template (Attachment C). There is no requirement that backup document be submitted. Documentation utilized to provide the estimated costs should be maintained by the court and made available if requested. 
  3. When do courts receive grant funds?  Do they receive funds as reimbursements, after expenditures have taken place?
    Courts will receive grant funds at the beginning of each fiscal year, before courts spend the funds and the disbursement will be based on the information provided in the Budget Summary Sheet and Budget Detail Sheets.
  4. Is the first annual grant funding provided in twelve equal monthly installments? (New Question as of September 29, 2016)
    No.  Courts will receive their annual grant funds in one lump sum at the beginning of each fiscal year for which they are applying.

Administration of Grant Program

  1. Who will administer the Grant Program?
    The Judicial Council of California has delegated its oversight and administration of the Grant Program to the Judicial Branch Budget Committee
  2. Will the Judicial Council be available to answer questions regarding the Grant Program?
    Yes, the Judicial Council staff are available to answer questions regarding the Grant Program. Please call us at 916-643-4612.
  3. Will the Judicial Council use Grant Program funds for its expenditures related to the Grant Program?
    As provided in the Budget Act of 2016, the Judicial Council may use up to 5 percent of the $25 million for the administration of the Grant Program and to support the expansion of successful programs in other courts. Currently, the Judicial Council anticipates using approximately 2.5 percent for its administration of the Grant Program.

Judicial Council Involvement

  1. How much access will courts have to the Judicial Council’s expertise in developing the program once the court is approved for funding?
    Innovations Grant administration staff will be available to assist grant awardees throughout the life of the grant. This will include working with courts to complete the Intra-Branch Agreement and identifying what outcome measurements will need to be reported.  Additionally, grant administration staff will be actively involved in monitoring the grant programs and reviewing quarterly progress reports, collecting and reporting on program data, and acting as a resource for grant awardees.

Reporting to Judicial Council

  1. What will the quarterly reporting entail? Will the quarterly reporting requirements change from quarter to quarter or will there be a standard report?
    The Quarterly Progress Report gives an example of the standard report format required for each quarterly report submitted by the court.  Additionally, courts will be required to report quarterly on specific outcome measures.
  2. In addition to the quarterly progress reports and financial status reports required, what other data collection is envisioned as a reporting requirement?  Will the outcome measurements that courts propose in their applications be included with the data collection requirements for the grants?
    The only other reporting envisioned for this grant program would be data collection on specific outcome measures. Given the broad variety of programs that are envisioned and the varied outcome measures proposed, what will be specifically be required to report will be determined working with the grant awardees and identified within a court’s Intra-Branch agreement.
  3. If we are collaborating with other courts, which court(s) are responsible for the reporting requirements?
    The lead court identified in the application is responsible for the reporting requirements, including gathering the information needed within the reports.
© 2017 Judicial Council of California