2022 Indoor Air Quality Mini-Grants: Building Systems to Improve Indoor Air Quality

THIS FUNDING OPPORTUNITY HAS CLOSED. WE’LL ANNOUNCE THE 2022 INDOOR AIR QUALITY GRANTEES SOON.

To help communities build capacity and advance evidence-based efforts to improve health in indoor home environments by reducing exposures to common indoor air contaminants including radon, mold and moisture, dust mites, environmental tobacco smoke (secondhand smoke), pests, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), combustion byproducts (e.g., CO and NO2), and other emerging indoor air quality (IAQ) issues, the National Center for Healthy Housing invites communities to apply for a bundled award of coaching and support over 18 months that includes on-call access to technical assistance from a network of national experts, opportunities to engage in peer learning, and a $15,000 grant.

Recognizing the potential for serious, widespread, and costly health risks from indoor environmental exposures (e.g., respiratory illnesses, heart conditions, cancers), many communities are taking action to improve indoor environments for comprehensive community health improvement. Others want to take their first steps but may be unsure of how and where to start. The health and economic burden of poor IAQ is considerable, especially for disproportionately impacted low-income communities and vulnerable populations, and there are persistent racial and economic disparities in both exposures and health outcomes. In places where disparities in IAQ exposures contribute significantly to disparities in health outcomes, the potential for improving a range of health outcomes—thereby reducing strain on healthcare, educational, and other systems—is great.

The purpose of the proposed work is to celebrate, map, and spread successful policies and systems; support new communities to take action; and encourage communities to move up the ladder of engagement, taking actions that achieve cross-sector partnerships and put sustainable, systems-level policies and programs in place. Communities that are primed for change may use this support to mobilize more effectively to improve indoor environments or expand and sustain existing efforts.

The underpinning for this effort is to advance health equity and racial justice while supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) environmental justice goals to ensure that all people enjoy “the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”

Eligibility Requirements

Who is eligible?

  • Local, regional, or state nonprofit and community-based organizations (includes public health institutes).
  • State, county, local, and tribal government agencies.

Organizations must be based in the United States. For-profit organizations are not eligibly to apply.

Applicants will be asked to self-identify their proposal as being in the development or implementation phase, but this will not impact scoring or final selection.

  • Development phase: Communities should identify their proposal as being in the development phase if they need assistance in identifying or prioritizing promising strategies, convening stakeholders to spark collaboration and dialogue, and/or they are in the early stages of the proposed work (e.g., corresponding to a low to moderate level on the ladder of engagement).
  • Implementation phase: Communities should identify their proposal as being in the implementation phase if they have defined priorities (e.g., policy or practice) and objectives and/or they have some infrastructure in place to build on to achieve the proposed work (e.g., corresponding to a moderate or higher level on the ladder of engagement).

How many communities will be selected?
We anticipate that a minimum of three communities will be selected. This competitive solicitation is being led by the National Center for Healthy Housing, but funding is made possible through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What is the project period, and what are some of the key dates?

April 12, 2022 Applications due.
Mid-May 2022 Applicants will be notified of their status in mid-May.
May – June 2022 New grantees assigned to core coaching team and complete intake coaching calls.
June 2022 Kickoff webinar for new grantees.
September – October 2022 Virtual grantee technical assistance gathering.
June 2022 – November 2023 Monthly coaching calls with core team and other coaching activities as needed.
September – October 2023 Virtual grantee final convening.
November 2023 Final reports due to NCHH.

What are the benefits of being selected?
Communities that are selected will receive support to advance their local indoor air quality efforts. These benefits include but may not be limited to the following:

  • Coaching and support: 18 months of coaching and support from the National Center for Healthy Housing and other national experts who will be invited based on the needs of the selected communities.
  • Peer learning: Opportunities to interact and learn from other communities tackling similar issues with shared goals to improve health through  improved indoor environments.
  • Grant award: A $15,000 grant to support activities.

What is the coaching and support, and are there related grantee expectations to note?
Coaching and support will be provided to grantees both remotely and in-person (as applicable) over the duration of the project period (June 2022-November 2023) to enable grantee access to on-demand and structured feedback, mentoring, and advice from national experts, many of whom are also IAQ professionals and leading scientists. Grantees will also have the opportunity to learn from peer communities and share their own successes and challenges. Grantee expectations and learning opportunities may include but are not limited to participation in the following activities:

  • A project “kick-off” webinar;
  • Monthly coaching calls with applicable national partners;
  • An on-site visit by applicable national partners;
  • Submission of mid- and final-project reporting documentation (including a short video “story” created with support from NCHH); and
  • Participation in other activities as needed (e.g., additional topic-specific, capacity building webinars [e.g., focused on legal levers, financing, training/workforce, data integration, data to drive/evaluate success, health equity, or cross-sector partnerships] or coaching calls with peer mentors).

The coaching and support will be customized to community needs, interests, and capacity. For example, coaches can help communities identify priority areas for (e.g., radon, indoor environmental asthma triggers, or comprehensive indoor air risk reduction) as well as the types of strategies a community is interested in pursuing (e.g., improved housing codes and/or local policies, data sharing initiatives, advocacy efforts, developing new or innovative financing, workforce development, partnership with the healthcare, energy, and other sectors). NCHH will work with communities to assess opportunities and develop paths to action. (Note: An example of outcomes from a previous grantee cohort in one of NCHH’s responsive, technical support initiatives can be seen here.)

Can a community submit more than one application?
A community may submit more than one application; however, a maximum of one application per community will be selected.

What types of activities can be supported?
Funding should be used to build capacity within a community and help communities achieve policy, practice, or systems change. NCHH coaches will reference a ladder of engagement framework to transform initial interest and sporadic action into sustained engagement and increased impact. The examples in Table 1 (below) illustrate this concept. Communities that start lower on the ladder of engagement may not achieve systems change during the project period but should still articulate a plan and commitment to laying the groundwork for systems change and/or putting new policies, services or programs in place. Coaches will assess each community’s baseline level of engagement and track activities and movement up the ladder of engagement.

Table 1. Ladder of Engagement Framework for Proposed Work
Level and Description  Example Activity**
Low: Learning level, one-time, or limited-impact actions. Convening of local tax assessor and department of public health to begin dialogue on systems to collect housing quality data; convening to discuss embedding radon risk-reduction requirements in state and local building codes; convening of healthcare payers, public health, and housing stakeholders; scholarship to visit peer learning community or attend conference.
Moderate: Commitment
to ongoing action, identification of next steps.
Formation of coalition to address indoor air concerns across sectors holding regular meetings; development of partnership agreements to share health and housing data between healthcare systems and housing providers.
High: Ongoing interventions and services and adoption of best practices, such as cross-sector partnerships. Integrated programming with housing and health services; utilization of healthy homes assessments to drive home renovation programs to improve IAQ; agreement with local managed care organization to provide home-based asthma services; CHW training program initiated,
Exceptional: Sustained systems change. Adoption of over 80% of the National Healthy Housing Standard (NHHS); creation of a home repair tax credit with health criteria; approved Medicaid state plan amendment increasing role of CHWs in delivering home-based asthma services; dedicated funding for home environmental interventions to support clinically directed care (e.g., establishment of public health funds from which home services can draw for environmental interventions).
** Note: The examples in Table 1 are a small sample of potential outcomes that illustrate each of these levels. They are not intended to present a comprehensive list of potential activities or represent the pinnacle of sustained systems change. Reviewers are not looking for applications containing only these specific outcomes.

Priority will be given to applicants who articulate plans to advance policy and system changes. Implementation phase applicants will likely be in the moderate or higher levels of the above ladder of engagement, whereas developing phase applicants will likely be at the low to moderate levels; NCHH anticipates funding applicants in both phases.

Communities may apply to use funding for an initiative that is already underway if they can demonstrate how the additional funding will substantially enhance the impact or reach of the work.

Funding may NOT be used to support attempts to influence legislation through direct or grassroots lobbying. For example, funds cannot be used for signage that endorses pending legislation or an elected official.

Funding should also not be used to support the direct costs of remediation. Also, funding is not intended to support standalone awareness or outreach and education activities. However, outreach/education activities that are linked to policy, practice, or systems change may be included as part of a proposal.

What outcomes will successful applicants be expected to demonstrate?
Given the relatively short project period (roughly 18 months), communities will be expected to articulate a long-term goal and measure progress towards that goal, even if the end goal is not expected to be reached during the project period. Examples of outcomes might include:

  • Stronger partnerships (e.g., as measured by new agreements, collaborative initiatives);
  • New, higher-quality, or more accessible data that can help target remediation, increase community engagement, or drive policy and systems change;
  • Increased involvement or leadership by affected residents;
  • Increase in policymaker, practitioner, and/or advocates who have evidence-based information for decision making or mindset shifts among these groups;
  • New or additional funding or financing in place with a particular focus on under-resourced communities;
  • Removed barriers to eligibility for services and streamlining of access to funding across programs;
  • New or improved policies, services, or programs in place or in progress with a particular focus on under-resourced communities; and/or
  • Increase in equitable access to services or programs.

How will communities be selected?
This is a competitive grant award. Applicants will be evaluated based on need, clarity of plan, readiness, potential impact, community partnerships, commitment to equity and justice, and potential for sustained change. Applications must demonstrate the following:

  • Demonstrated need as evidenced by available data, including lived experience and qualitative data.
  • Clear outcomes for the work and a thoughtful plan for achieving them.
  • Potential for policy and systems change.
  • A demonstrated commitment to advancing health equity and justice.
  • A strong, effective plan for meaningfully involving multisector stakeholders, including community members and community-based organizations, private-sector interests, policymakers, and other relevant agencies and groups.

We will seek to produce a geographically balanced cohort. Proposals will be reviewed primarily using the criteria listed above.

Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of staff from the National Center for Healthy Housing, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a national partner organization, and a former NCHH mini-grant recipient using the criteria articulated above.

What information do I need to apply?
NCHH accepts grant applications ONLY through online submission; it does NOT accept the application in PDF format. Applicants can preview all of the application questions via a PDF copy of the full mini-grant application.

NCHH recommends preparation of the application responses in advance, as the online application must be completed and submitted entirely in one session. We recommend using the PDF copy of the full application (available here) to work offline with your team to predetermine answer selections and/or draft responses for questions as appropriate. Developing full-text responses in a Word document for the open response sections of the application will allow you to draft, edit, and save your responses as needed, as well as check character counts, before pasting your final responses into the application on the SurveyMonkey platform. NCHH also recommends printing a copy of the completed application before submitting it.

When are applications due?
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis but are due no later than 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

When will the grants be announced?
We anticipate that successful applicants will be notified in mid-May.

Where can I get more information?
Contact Laura Fudala (lfudala@nchh.org) or Anna Plankey (aplankey@nchh.org) or visit https://nchh.org/build-the-movement/grants-and-scholarships/2022-building-systems-to-improve-iaq-mini-grants/ for more information. Answers to other submitted questions will also be posted below. All questions must be received by Friday, April 1, 2022.

Join the funding announcement listserv to be notified of new developments (e.g., newly posted FAQs) for this grant opportunity.

Frequently Asked Questions 

When will the grant awards be announced?
The award announcements are scheduled for mid-May 2022.

Can I just send you my application as a PDF?
No, the grant submission is online only. We cannot accept your application in PDF format. You can fill out the application here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2022NCHHIAQ. There’s a button at the bottom of that SurveyMonkey page to begin your application.

I’m having trouble filling in the survey boxes. What should I do?
For issues with SurveyMonkey, review the help page for taking surveys. Most issues seem to be related to a network or firewall that may be blocking some SurveyMonkey domains. You can add SurveyMonkey domains and subdomains to your whitelist so that they aren’t blocked.

Question 20 asks to describe how we would use the $15,000. We have reviewed the types of activities the funding can support. In our response, are you asking us to summarize the cost of the proposed activities and not to submit a detailed line-item budget?
Yes. Please summarize the cost of the activity(ies) and how you will use the grant. Please touch on budget categories such as labor, indirect costs, and other direct costs for materials, space rental, trainings/trainers, software, or other items as appropriate to your proposed activities. The budget does not need to be itemized but should be detailed enough to demonstrate that the costs are reasonable and justified.

Can any of the grant funds be used toward staff salaries for an event or activity?
Yes, funding can be allocated for staff salaries to support eligible grant activities.

How will the applications be reviewed and scored? Will the reviewers read and score the entire application, or will the reviewers only score certain questions and not look at other questions? Furthermore, should we refer to information in an answer to another question or repeat information when needed for each question?
Applications will be reviewed and scored in their entirety. This means that each individual reviewer will read and score the full submission of every application that they evaluate. Further, each application will be reviewed by multiple individuals. Feel free to refer to another question in one of your answers if you wish to avoid redundancy.

Is there an advantage to identifying our proposal in one specific “phase” over the other? How does an applicant know which of the two application “phases” they should identify?
There is no advantage to self-identifying in one phase over the other. This opportunity was designed to (1) encourage applicants from all levels of engagement in their community’s indoor air quality work and (2) provide a level basis by which to evaluate what may be widely different levels of existing and/or potential capacity. NCHH anticipates funding successful applicants from both phases.

Applicants should consider applying in the “development phase” if they need assistance in identifying or prioritizing promising strategies and/or are in the early stages of the proposed work (e.g., corresponding to a “low” to “moderate” level on the ladder of engagement). Alternately, applicants who have defined priorities and objectives and/or they have some infrastructure in place to build on to achieve the proposed work (e.g., corresponding to a “moderate” level or higher on the ladder of engagement) would likely consider applying in the “implementation phase.

Are applicants expected to commit to progress through the entire “Ladder of Engagement Framework” during the grant period?
No, applicants are not expected to demonstrate progress to the “exceptional” level of sustained systems change during the grant period, but they are expected to demonstrate that funding will be used to build capacity within a community and help communities move up on the ladder of engagement in their indoor air quality work with a strong emphasis on policy/systems change. Communities that start lower on the ladder of engagement may not achieve systems change during the project period but should still articulate a plan and commitment to laying the groundwork for systems change and/or putting new policies, services, or programs in place.

Can we submit letters of support from other partners?
We do not encourage applicants to include additional letters of support; however, you may indicate that they’re available upon request in your application if you would like the review committee to know that they exist.

The RFP does not outline what the population parameters are. Can you clarify?
Question 7 provides applicants with the opportunity to capture their potential impact as related to the population size they serve. The intention of this opportunity is focused on groups who show involvement in policy and systems change and are grounded in the communities they serve.

Our organization is not eligible for this specific opportunity, but we are very interested in this type of support. Are you aware of any other opportunities that we should know about?
At this time, NCHH does not have any other open grant opportunities related specifically to indoor air quality efforts; however, many of our partners periodically offer grant and/or technical assistance awards that could be of interest to you. We would strongly suggest that you visit the websites of some of our key partners, such as the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to learn more about possible initiatives. We also suggest that you visit https://nchh.org/build-the-movement/listservs/ to join two listservs (Leadnet and Healthyhomesnet) sponsored by NCHH that frequently have postings related to potential funding and support opportunities offered by both NCHH and many of our partners.

Must we have 501(c)(3) status to apply for a mini-grant?
No. Government, education, public housing, nonprofit, and tribal organizations may apply as long as they are based in the United States. If it’s not possible to have a fiscal agent with 501(c)(3) status (e.g., an organization with 501[c][3] status that can pass the funds through to the organization without 501[c][3] status), other organizations that aren’t for-profit are also welcome to apply but will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. We will not grant funds to individuals or for-profit organizations.

Is the $15,000 grant structured as an award or will disbursement involve a cost reimbursement process?
The $15,000 grant will be structured as an award and will not involve a cost reimbursement process. As currently proposed, the awards will be granted in three installments: an initial $7,500 upon contract execution; $5,000 after nine months of technical assistance (e.g., February-March 2023); and $2,500 upon receipt of final reporting requirements (e.g., November 2023) after 18 months of technical assistance.

While a detailed line-item budget is not necessary per Question 20, we are asked to present a general description/estimate of how the $15,000 grant funding will be used. Will it be possible to submit budget amendments or modification requests for approval during the project period as the work progresses?
Yes. Although we expect that applicants will submit a budget that reflects, as accurately as possible, the support needed to advance the activities presented in their application, we also recognize that situations may arise where a reasonable modification to the proposed budget may be necessary at some time during the project period. Discussions of such modifications with awarded grantees will be held on a case-by-case basis as applicable.

Does the financing strategy we’re proposing have to address lead in paint, or can it address other sources of lead exposure (e.g. drinking water, soil, consumer products)?
The proposed financing strategy can address any or all sources of lead exposure. It can also address any other environmental housing hazard(s) in addition to lead. We leave the discretion to the applicant to address the priority of their community.

Could these grant funds be used to cover the cost of testing water for lead and/or other hazards?
While not a specifically prohibited activity, as outlined in the application, priority will be given to applicants who articulate plans to advance policy and system change; justification should be included on how proposed activities meet those ends.