One of my favorite Government acronyms is “FCDL”, which in Erate language stands for Funding Commitment Decision Letter. This is what we have worked so hard for over the past six to eight months! If you made it this far in our blog series and in the Erate process, Congratulations!! It is kind of like being in high school all over again and seeing the team roster with your name on it after the final cuts have been made.
The exquisite FCDL is the award letter that lets you know that your Form 471 funding request has been approved. During the PIA review process, some Erate ineligible items such as content filtering for firewalls might have been identified and removed from the overall funding request. Review your FCDL carefully, in fact, it cannot be said enough times, review all Erate information and forms carefully!
File Form 486
If your head has stopped spinning from the previous steps, you are ready for at least the next step, which is to file the Form 486, which is a simple form, (we promise!), that lets Erate know that you are in fact going to order the Internet, equipment and maintenance services requested on the Form 471. Since the Erate window opens months before the next school year, a lot can change between the planning phase and the needs of the students when the new school year starts. If the categories of service that you will utilize have not changed, then file the easy, peasy Form 486. Also, it is important to note that the school is also certifying their CIPA compliance on the Form 486. So make sure that your compliance documentation is in order before submitting this form.
The rest of the Erate process includes ordering your new equipment and upgrading your bandwidth (if requested). Keep every single receipt and document associated with the new implementations. You will need them for the reimbursement process and potential PQA, which is another audit. This is a potential post-award audit that looks at your reimbursement requests to make sure everything is aligned with the original request and purchased appropriately.
How To Get Reimbursed
There are two methods of Erate reimbursement available for ongoing monthly services and one-time purchases. They also have clever acronyms:
- SPI stands for Service Provider Invoicing
- BEAR stands for Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement
Note: Erate is a reimbursement grant meaning the goods and services have to be purchased or used first prior to obtaining funding.
Choosing Your Reimbursement Method
So which method is best? The short explanation is if you select the SPI method the service provider credits the bill with your Erate reimbursement. The BEAR is for schools to directly request reimbursement from Erate after they have paid the entire bill. The main advantage of each of these methods are:
- SPI: Your overall or monthly cost of services is lower because the service provider is discounting the bill so that you do not have to pay the full amount of the invoice (s).
- BEAR: With the BEAR method, the school has to pay in full for the services and/or equipment before requesting reimbursement. Once the reimbursement request is approved funds are deposited directly into the school bank account. These funds are unrestricted and can be used for any school need.
The SPI and BEAR forms are filed online and require information from the FCDL.
Follow The Rules
It is important to keep every form, receipt, and document related to Erate. The rule is to keep all Erate related information for ten years! That means you will need to buy more cloud storage, backup devices, and perhaps some storage bins since Erate still sends way too much paper mail.
In conclusion, the Erate process might sound like a scary nightmare to you, but it is worth it to obtain much-needed technology for schools. Ultimately students’ learning experiences are enhanced through the Erate program and that is exactly why we continue to cut through all of the red tape, acronyms, and endless forms; to help children!
Please reach out for more information or any of your Erate related questions. We are here to help!
More Articles In This Series:
How To Conduct An Erate Needs Assessment
Program Integrity Assurance Review (PIA)