White House issues clarified guidance for local governments to support data and evidence investments

May 13, 2024 | Blog

By Amy Edwards Holmes

Last month, the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updated its Uniform Grants Guidance to explain that federal grants can be used to support data and evaluation. This change will have a major impact, allowing cities to use federal grant money on a wide range of data-related activities specified in the revision, including “expenditures needed to gather, store, track, manage, analyze, disaggregate, secure, share, publish, or otherwise use data.”

In a release accompanying the revision, OMB says, “Data is an important priority for the U.S. Government because it allows recipients of Federal financial assistance to use funding to improve the management of their programs and understand the extent to which their programs are reaching the affected populations and achieving the intended goals.”

We couldn’t agree more.

At GovEx, we envision a world in which cities – and public sector workers at large – are equipped to use data to solve problems, prevent future challenges, and provide better services to more people. This revision allows cities to tap into federal funding for the development of a foundation for data management, and embed data infrastructure and capacity in all areas of government, from policy creation and performance management to workforce and community engagement.

The OMB’s revision reflects the general consensus among public sector leaders that data is the critical resource for governing in the 21st century. As cities increasingly explore the possibilities of Generative AI, the interest in funding responsible, thoughtful ways to use data will likely increase.

In addition to highlighting data-related revisions to the guidelines, OMB emphasized that grants can be used for evaluation, noting, “Evaluation is an important priority and a key agency function within the federal government, which allows agencies and recipients of federal financial assistance to better understand the extent to which intended goals are being achieved, beyond performance reporting and grant monitoring.”

The revisions also include a section on “Community Engagement and Public Participation,” encouraging recipients of federal funds to “engage, when practicable, during the design phase, members of the community that will benefit from or be impacted by a program. Federal agencies should develop programs in consultation with communities benefiting from or impacted by the program.”

Taken together, these revisions represent a significant step forward in federal support for transparent, community-informed development of data practices across the country. GovEx looks forward to partnering with cities as they identify new ways to tap these funds to improve data practices and policies for the benefit of their residents. 

To learn more, join our partners at Results for America this Wednesday, May 15, from 2 – 3 p.m. eastern time, for a virtual event focused on reviewing how the new guidance is simplifying the grant process. To register, click here

Amy Edwards Holmes is Executive Director of GovEx. She was previously a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of the Treasury where she led government-wide data and modernization reforms to make the federal government more transparent and effective.