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Applications FAQ

1. Can we get a copy of an application submitted in a prior year by another applicant?   Applications often contain information which is proprietary or sensitive. Our policy is not to send copies of applications out to those who request them. However, you are also free to ask any of our cooperators directly for a copy of their application. Be sure to examine our mock application as well for tips on preparing your application. You are free to use it as a template for preparing your own application.
2. What forms should we start working on?   It is probably not best to start with the forms. First, make sure that you have a viable project idea by contacting Brad Hess . Once you get started on writing up your project, you can turn your attention to the forms. Think of your application as "a business plan with forms attached."  
3. Where do we get the forms?   See our Application Package.
4. What should we do to get started on our application?  

See our step-by-step process.

5. What do we say when we contact ITA officials?   Tell them that you are applying for federal financial assistance for competitiveness strengthening market development projects through ITA's MDCP. Tell them you understand that ITA officials who work in partnership with MDCP award winners normally receive funds to help MDCP winners to achieve their goals. Meet with them face-to-face if possible and ask for their advice. (See FAQs 7 and 31 below.)
6. Prior to the competition period, what can ITA officials do in reference to our proposed application?   Plenty. Here's a list of some of the most important:
  • Brainstorming project ideas
  • Suggest industries or markets to target
  • Suggest partners in the market to work with
  • Comment on the strengths and weaknesses of project ideas
7. Are there any restrictions to the comments ITA officials can provide?   Yes. When the competition period starts, after the FFO is published, ITA officials cannot comment on the merits of your proposal. They can still refer you to resources and respond to technical and informational questions, but they cannot indicate whether your proposed application is "on the right track."  See FAQ 31 for additional explanation.
8. What kinds of things can the ITA team do to enhance our project if we win an MDCP award?   Here's a list of some of the enhancements that ITA has offered to MDCP award winners. For the most part, these are funded by "administrative funds" that the ITA team leader receives each fiscal year.
  • Travel expenses for ITA officials who assist you during visits to target markets.
  • Assistance in recruiting U.S. companies to participate in project activities.
  • Contracted research reports.
  • Travel expenses for foreign employees of the foreign-based Commercial Service staff to come to the United States to brief U.S. companies prior to traveling to the target market.

Note that these enhancements are just that, enhancements. They should not be included in your application budget. For the most part, these are activities that you cannot or should not fund with monies included in your project budget.  

9. Our project does not have an industry focus. Should I still contact ITA's Industry & Analysis (I&A)?   Yes. If your proposed MDCP application project does not really focus on any specific industry or cluster of industries, contact Brad Hess.  
10. Do we have to put up any money as match?   Yes. For every dollar you receive, you must put up two dollars in matching funds. For example, if you receive $100,000, you would have to put up at least $200,000 in match.  
11. Must the match be in cash?   You must put up cash match that at least equals the federal financial assistance. The balance can be in kind or cash. For example, if you receive $100,000, you must put up at least $100,000 in cash and another $100,000, which may be in cash or in kind.  
12. What is "in kind"?   In-kind contributions may be made by either the applicant or another entity. In-kind contributions by other entities are more common than by applicants because only applicants can make claim cash contributions. The following are examples of in-kind contributions by entities other than the MDCP applicant:
  • Value of salaries and benefits prorated for time spent working on the MDCP project.
  • Airline tickets donated by a U.S. carrier. (You cannot include in your budget airfare on non-U.S. carriers except in certain narrowly defined situations.)
  • Value of fees for services.

The value you claim for in-kind services must not exceed fair market value.  

13. What is "fair market value"?   Fair market value, when used in the context of in-kind contributions, means the price of the claimed amount that the contributing entity would normally pay. For example, if an applicant's partner organization contributed international trade consulting worth $150 per hour, it would need to provide evidence that the provider of the consulting services actually is paid $150 per hour for services rendered to clients who pay that price to the contributing entity in the open market.  
14. Personnel costs claimed as in-kind match must be valued at a reasonable market rate for the type of services performed.   If an organziation other than the cooperator is contributing the services of an employee at no cost, these services are valued at the employee's regular rate of pay including fringe benefits provided they are in the same line of work for which the employee normally is paid. If these services are in a different line of work, a rate normally paid for that kind of work shall be used. For example, if a trade consultant is staffing the registration table of a technical seminar, their time would be valued at the rate of a registration clerk. If they provide necessary trade consulting services, their time would be valued at their regular trade consultant pay.
15. How do we find out if our organization is eligible?   View our eligibility information.
16. How will we know when the FFO notice is published?   We should know the publication date a couple of days before the notice is published. We'll email everyone who has given us a valid email as soon as we get a publication date. Until that time, any information about when the notice might be published will be posted on our home page, trade.gov/mdcp.
17. What countries are allowed as target markets?   If we focus on particular markets, we will so state in our priorities announcement of federal funding opportunities (FFO). Until the FFO is published, your best guide is the most recent FFO.  
18. Can we promote agricultural products?   No. The MDCP is designed for non-agricultural goods and services. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has its own programs to promote the export of agricultural goods. See http://www.fas.usda.gov/.
19. How do you define "agricultural"?   The statutory definition is "agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, and dairy products, livestock and the products thereof, the products of poultry and bee raising, the edible products of forestry, and any and all products raised or produced on farms and processed manufactured products thereof..."

There is often a lot of "gray area" in defining what is an agricultural good. Soybeans are definitely agricultural; however, soy sauce would likely be classified as consumer goods under the purview of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Farm equipment to produce soybeans would be classed as non-agricultural as well. If you have any questions, contact the relevant ITA/I&A industry specialist.  

20. Can we apply online?    Everyone should apply online at grants.gov. Forms 424, 424A, 424B, and 511 can be completed online at grants.gov. However, all the rest of your MDCP application should be completed offline and saved as pdf. Once you have done that, you will be ready to complete your online submission at grants.gov. See our information on How to Apply.
21. Can indirect costs be claimed as match?   Yes. You claim indirect costs by calculating an indirect cost ratio. See the mock application for an example of this calculation and where to claim it in your budget.  
22. How much money can we get?   You may receive up to $300,000 in federal financial assistance. The amount you request is for the life of the project, not to exceed three years.  
23. Does ITA ever charge for services it provides?   ITA's Commercial Service (CS) is required to recover costs for many of the services it provides. To determine whether fees are involved for your planned activities, check with the CS Senior Commercial Officer for each foreign country included in your project or your local Export Assistance Center.  
What are "cash" expenditures?
  To be counted as "cash" the amount must be money that your organization, the eligible applicant, spends of its own funds for real expenses directly related to project activity. Examples include:
  • Travel expenses for a trade mission.
  • Salary and benefits prorated for time of your organization's employees spent on project activity.
  • Fees you pay such as trade show booth rental, printing of project brochures, etc.

This is by no means a complete list. Contact the MDCP Director with any questions.

25. When are the award recipients announced ?  

Can be as early as June. Check the most recent FFO.

26. Can we partner with another organization ?   As noted above in FAQs 4-8 and 23, MDCP awards are structured as cooperative agreements. Winning an MDCP award establishes a partnership between you and ITA. ITA will work with you to achieve project success. Partnerships with other organizations are okay, but only one of the partners can be designated as the award recipient. Only the award recipient can claim cash match for cash outlays of its own funds.
27. Can we split an award with another organization ?   We do not allow for co-applicants or splitting awards.
28. How much description is needed for the performance measure recording and reporting system ?   We need to see enough description to assure us that you can actually collect the information. You will probably want to submit more description than was included in the mock application. One of the reporting performance requirements is that you have companies planning to participate in your project activities sign a success agreement wherein they can indicate their willingness to provide performance data such as value of exports.
29. If we win an award, how soon can we begin working on project activity ?   This year, 2012, we hope to announce award winners in June or early July. Therefore, July 1 would be the earliest practical start date.
30. We're having trouble modifying the non-personnel and the personnel budget spreadsheets included on the blank budget spreadheet file.   These two spreadsheets are not forms per se. They are examples of one way to format your budget. By necessity, at some point a mock application will have to contain portions which are useful only as examples and not as templates. You will note that in our application package budget spreadsheets, we did not intend to provide a blank spreadsheet for non-personnel or personnel. You might do better to create your own non-personnel and personnel spreadsheets from scratch rather than try to modify those included on the mock application.
31. What are examples of appropriate activity during the competition period?   During the competition period, ITA officials may communicate with MDCP applicants. There is much that ITA officials can share even during the competition period. Here are some examples:

1. Information about ITA products and services.

2. Referrals to sources of information relevant to an applicant's interests.

3. Providing specifics about requested services, planned activities, etc. For example, applicant American Widget Association (AWA) may need to know about the cost and timing for Gold Key Service (GKS) packages for several of its members during a particular time of the coming year. It needs to know about this in order to come up with the detailed project budget it formulates for its MDCP application. By all means, this is the sort of information, even accompanied by related suggestions about using GKS or other CS services, that would be appropriate for anyone planning to use them.

It is normal for MDCP applicants, like anyone else in the U.S. business community served by ITA, to have questions about details and to expect answers from. ITA can provide those answers. However, during the compeition period, ITA officials should not brainstorm project ideas with an applicant or serve as a sounding board for such ideas.

The examples listed above are illustrative. They are not inclusive or restrictive. It is okay for ITA officials to talk to MDCP applicants during the competition period. But, it's not okay for ITA officials to comment on the merits of an application or on application ideas.

32. Can I submit a hardcopy application?   See our Step-by-step instructions.
33. Why submit electronically?   Applications are made available for review by ITA professionals posted at numerous locations throughout the world. In order to expedite the application evaluation process, we post the applications electronically on a secure intranet. Here ITA professionals can review applications of interest and provide comments that can be considered by ITA's selection panel.

The more applications we receive via grants.gov, the fewer we have to scan, and the quicker we can make the applications available to ITA reviewers.

34. Do you prefer online submission via grants.gov?   Yes. This is by far the preferred way to transmit your application. See the detailed application package for more information.
35. When are applications due?   Applications are generally due six weeks after the date we publish our notice of federal funding opportunity notice (FFO). See "MDCP News" on our homepage.for the latest information.
36. Define small- or medium-size enterprise.   An "SME" is a business that has less than 500 employees. MDCP is designed to benefit SMEs primarily. However, it is okay for non-SMEs to participate in and/or to benefit from MDCP project activity as well.
37. Can funds from another federal program be used as match for an MDCP project? .  

No. Neither the federal nor the nonfederal share of a particular grant or other cooperative agreement program may be used by an MDCP award recipient as match for its MDCP project unless specifically authorized by law. (Funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) are the only exception that we are aware of.) This prohibition encompasses not only the federal award funds for another project but also any matching funds that are pledged for another project. (See 15 U.S.C. § 14.23(a)(2).)

Normally, exceptions to the rule are in the form of express statutory authority. If there is an exception that would allow other federal assistance funds are used as nonfederal matching funds for another award, the use would have to be consistent with the grant under which the funds were originally awarded as well as the award/project they are intended to implement. It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide express statutory authority authorizing any exception.

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