Southeast Alabama Community Action Partnership, Inc. Agrees to Pay $30,000 and Implement Compliance Improvements to Resolve Claims It Failed to Return Community Service Grant Funds to the United States
PHILADELPHIA and MONTGOMERY – Acting United States Attorneys Jennifer Arbittier Williams and Sandra Stewart jointly announced that Southeast Alabama Community Action Partnership, Inc. (“SEACAP”) has agreed to pay $30,000 and to implement enhanced compliance measures to resolve claims arising from SEACAP’s administration of community service grants funded through AmeriCorps (formerly the Corporation for National and Community Service).
For years, SEACAP has administered multiple grants in AmeriCorps’ Senior Corps program. These grants included the Foster Grandparent Program, which places senior citizens in school and community settings to serve youth with exceptional needs. Like other federal grant recipients, SEACAP is subject to various administrative requirements, including an annual audit by an outside accountant.
The settlement resolves claims that SEACAP improperly retained federal funds even after being told by its outside accountant that it needed to return those funds to the United States. After SEACAP received a Civil Investigative Demand for information relating to its grant administration, it actively cooperated with the United States’ investigation, including by producing detailed financial and administrative documentation. The United States reached an ability-to-pay agreement with SEACAP to repay what it could without using any other federal funds it has received for its operations, and to significantly enhance its compliance efforts.
“Every federal grantee, including community service organizations, is required to honestly and openly account for federal funds. This obligation is at the heart of the relationship between the United States and organizations that receive federal grant money,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Federal grantees are obliged to return funds to the United States if the funds have not been spent properly or fully drawn down. Strict compliance with grant requirements ensures that federal funds reach those who need them most.”
“Each day, the Southeast Alabama Community Action Partnership supports impoverished Alabamans, helping families to find food, obtain school supplies, and meet unexpected utility and other costs. The federal government relies on its non-profit partners to help ensure that federal grant funds are being used to assist their communities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stewart. “Today’s settlement is a reminder that everyone receiving federal grant funds must adhere to grant compliance conditions and return funds to the government to help others when those conditions require them to do so.”
“SEACAP learned from its accountants that the organization owed money to CNCS (now known as AmeriCorps), but neither returned the money nor informed CNCS of the debt. Wrongfully retaining those funds prevented another organization from using them to meet the needs of its community,” said Deborah J, Jeffrey, Inspector General of AmeriCorps. “We intend SEACAP’s new integrity measures to strengthen the organization and ensure that this never happens again, and we appreciate the work of our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Middle District of Alabama for holding SEACAP accountable and ensuring the integrity of this AmeriCorps program.”
Acting United States Attorneys Williams and Stewart also praised SEACAP’s agreement to enhance its compliance program: “We commend Southeast Alabama Community Action Partnership, Inc. for taking the serious steps necessary to make sure this issue never recurs. We hope the compliance measures it has undertaken will be a model for other grantees looking to meet their responsibilities to the United States.”
This investigation was conducted jointly by the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Middle District of Alabama with the AmeriCorps Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Paul W. Kaufman and Bryan C. Hughes of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Stephen Wadsworth of the Middle District of Alabama handled the investigation and settlement. This case was initiated as a part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Strike Force focus on grant fraud.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.