March 19, 2020
Silver Spring, MD – The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has asked the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office for official opinions on the period of availability of security grant funds to the states under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). States should have definitive guidance to rely on and ensure they are in the best position possible to comply with federal grant audit requirements and procedures.
In response to the EAC’s request, the Office of Management and Budget issued a legal opinion confirming the five-year limitation period does not apply to security grant funds to the states under HAVA. Pursuant to this opinion the funds will remain available until expended, consistent with historic HAVA appropriations language. The EAC is still waiting for an official opinion from the Government Accountability Office and will notify the states when that is received.
The EAC wants to allow states as much flexibility as possible so they can enhance and strengthen their systems, follow policies and procedures, and to meet short- and long-term needs to improve and secure election administration. We asked for these official opinions to confirm whether the five-year limitation applies just to EAC or also to its grantees, recognizing that working closely with our state partners is critical to making federal elections accessible and secure.
In 2018, a change in appropriations language made the period of availability ambiguous, and the EAC implemented the grants with a five-year limit on the availability of the funds. However, HAVA contains explicit provisions stating the funds are available to the states “without fiscal year limitation.”
Past EAC appropriations language typically recognized the unlimited availability of HAVA funds and included language in annual appropriations that allowed EAC funds to “remain available until expended.” The Consolidated Appropriations Acts of 2018 and 2020 did not include that language which would indicate general appropriations processes would apply; the federal agency had one year to obligate the funds and five years to expend them. In the absence of other legal authority finding that the funds are limited to five years, the EAC will consider both the 2018 and 2020 HAVA security funds to have no time limit for expenditure by the states.
The EAC will keep states informed of updates as they become available.
# # #
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as administers the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit www.eac.gov.