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What Are Sub-Awards and How Do They Relate to SAM?


Sub-awards, in the context of federal grants and contracts, refer to the distribution of funds from a prime recipient (usually a federal agency or a large organization) to a subrecipient (often a smaller organization or entity) for the purpose of carrying out a specific portion of a larger project or program. Sub-awards are a common mechanism used when the prime recipient cannot or does not wish to perform all aspects of the work required to achieve the project’s objectives.

Here’s how sub-awards relate to the System for Award Management (SAM):

  1. Identification of Subrecipients:
    • In the SAM database, both prime recipients (federal agencies or organizations that receive federal funding) and potential subrecipients (entities that may receive funding through sub-awards) may have active registrations. This allows federal agencies to identify potential subrecipients during the grant or contract award process.
  2. Subrecipient Eligibility:
    • Before making sub-awards, prime recipients are responsible for assessing the eligibility and capabilities of potential subrecipients. This includes ensuring that subrecipients are registered in SAM, have the required certifications (if applicable), and meet other eligibility criteria.
  3. Registration in SAM:
    • Subrecipients who intend to receive federal funding through sub-awards are typically required to register in SAM. This registration ensures that they are compliant with various federal regulations, including those related to entity integrity and financial responsibility.
  4. Compliance and Reporting:
    • Subrecipients are often subject to compliance and reporting requirements established by the prime recipient and federal regulations. This includes providing financial and programmatic reports, complying with terms and conditions, and meeting performance milestones.
  5. Financial Accountability:
  6. Communication and Documentation:
    • SAM registration facilitates communication between prime recipients and subrecipients. It also helps with the documentation of sub-award agreements, including the terms, conditions, and scope of work.
  7. Transparency:
  8. Monitoring and Oversight:
    • Federal agencies use SAM data to monitor and oversee subrecipients throughout the life of a grant or contract. This includes reviewing subrecipient performance, financial management, and compliance with federal regulations.

It’s important for both prime recipients and subrecipients to understand their respective roles and responsibilities in the sub-award process. Prime recipients are responsible for selecting subrecipients, ensuring compliance, and managing the overall grant or contract. Subrecipients must meet the terms and conditions of their sub-awards, provide required reports, and adhere to federal regulations.

In summary, SAM plays a critical role in the sub-award process by providing a comprehensive database for verifying the eligibility and compliance of subrecipients, promoting transparency, and facilitating effective communication and oversight throughout the federal grant and contract lifecycle.


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  • Phone: 1-866-717-5267 (toll-free)
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