New Orleans’ Ryan White Distribution Process Will See Changes, City Officials Report
The Mayor's Office of Health Policy in New Orleans on Tuesday told the City Council that it has made efforts to expedite the distribution of Ryan White Program funding for 2009, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. City Council member Arnie Fielkow called on officials to begin the 2009 distribution process earlier in the year to avoid a delay similar to what was seen in 2008, when the distribution of Ryan White grants was delayed by six months. Fran Lawless, director of the Office of Health Policy, told the council's Housing and Human Needs Committee that she believes it is "doable" to come up with grant awards for select local service providers by March 15 -- two weeks after HHS will have announced the allocation of Ryan White funding. After the meeting, Lawless said that although she expects contracts to be written by March 15, there are too many intervening factors in the process to expect final executed contracts by that date.
Lawless also told the council committee that under a new policy, the health department will check the progress of contracts daily as they move through the city's grant approval process, the Times-Picayune reports. In terms of the reason behind the delay in distribution last year, Lawless said that the wait in part was because six city departments have to sign off on each contract with a selected provider before they can be approved by the mayor. She also said the delay was because of larger providers failing to submit their invoices on time.
According to Lawless, the office is unable to set up contracts with providers -- and providers cannot set a budget for the contract -- until the full amount of Ryan White funding is announced March 1. She added that the New Orleans City Charter bans her office from executing any contract prior to this announcement. However, City Council member Stacy Head said she does not agree with Lawless' interpretation, adding that the city can enter into provisional contracts with service providers in advance of the federal announcement and tie the exact value of each contract to the future available grant. Lawless acknowledged that final grant amount is not difficult to insert into provisional contracts, according to the Times-Picayune (Hammer, Times-Picayune, 1/14).