The Travis County Health and Human Services & Veterans Service Department (TCHHS/VS) invests in community-based social service programs in order to meet the critical needs of local residents. This FAQ provides an overview of the Department’s transition to a system of competitive, five-year planning and funding cycles for all social service investments.

How and why is the Department’s investment strategy changing?

The Department is in the process of transitioning from an annual non-competitive contract renewal system to a system of phased, competitive, five-year planning and funding cycles for all social service investments. This transition creates a deliberate process for the Department to align and allocate limited resources to best meet community needs.

The former investment system, comprised primarily of ongoing funding with additional ad-hoc one-time funding requests, posed some challenges and limitations in regards to: providing clear access and maintaining transparency for existing or potential contractors; achieving efficiencies for contractors and County departments; and effective prioritization based on strategic priorities and changing community needs.

The new investment strategy will allow the Department to:

  • Conduct cyclical assessment, planning, and evaluation for each Issue Area Investment Portfolio in our program matrix;
  • Ensure that our purchased services remain responsive to community conditions and community needs;
  • Enhance our stewardship of public dollars through the cyclical application of quality standards for fiscal, administrative, programmatic, and performance compliance; and
  • Provide more open access, consistent processes, and increased transparency for contractors.

Click here for a graphic overview of the transition from the former investment system to the new investment system.

When is this transition happening?

Rather than compete all funds simultaneously across all issue areas and populations, risking destabilization and fragmentation of services in the community, the Department will implement staggered competition cycles, with two to three issue area competition cycles conducted per year in most years, in an ongoing fashion. Staggering these issue area competition cycles allows for thoughtful allocation of limited County resources.

Following the competition year, each issue area will progress through a five-year contracting and planning cycle, during which time Department staff will maintain oversight of performance and compliance of individual investments, evaluate the global performance of the Issue Area Investment Portfolio, assess needs and gaps within the portfolio, assess and track relevant community conditions, and plan for the following competition cycle.

When is MY issue area competing?

The following competition schedule has been assigned to the Department’s existing issue areas:

Issue AreaCompetition Calendar Year and Contract Fiscal Year Start ***
Early Childhood* Compete in 2014 for FY15 contract start
Workforce Development
Youth Development
Holistic Family Services**
Compete in 2015 for FY16 contract start
Housing Continuum
Safety Intervention Services
Compete in 2016 for FY17 contract start
Access to Basic Supports: Food, Transportation, Legal Rights and Benefits
Supportive Services for Community Living
Compete in 2017 for FY18 contract start
Public Health
Behavioral Health
Compete in 2018 for FY19 contract start
Planning and Evaluation To be determined (in development)

*Early Childhood contracts were competed as a subset of the Child and Youth Development issue area, as a pilot for new competitive procurement processes. These contracts will be brought into timeline alignment with Youth Development contracts in the future (specifics in development).

**This pilot investment is also planned to transition to the new investment strategy (specifics in development).

***Each Issue Area will begin a new solicitation phase every 5 years.

What will competitive procurement look like?

Although specific dates may vary by issue area, in general, the competition year timeline is roughly as follows:

  • Request for Services (RFS) release in winter (January-March)
  • Evaluation of bids in spring (March-May)
  • Contract negations and awards in summer through early fall (June-September)
  • Contract target start date on October 1st

For specific timelines by issue area, please view the Investment Cycle Timeline Chart.

Most services will compete for funding through a Request for Services process. All Requests for Services will be run through Bid Sync. The specific dates for RFS release and duration, the scope of services, minimum service amounts, desired outcomes, and evaluation criteria may be individualized to each issue area’s RFS. However a few general criteria will apply to all competition cycles:

  • Agencies responding to any RFS must successfully pass an Administrative and Fiscal Review (AFR), which includes, but is not limited to, answering narrative questions concerning the agency’s controls and fiscal information, submitting the current IRS form 990 and Audit, and excerpts from the agency’s Personnel Policies and Procedures as requested.
  • Proposals will be scored using four evaluation categories: 1) Experience of Personnel, 2) Experience of the Agency, 3) Cost/Fee Proposal, and 4) Proposed Approach.
  • If awarded, contracts begin on October 1st and follow a fiscal year calendar.
  • Agencies awarded a contract must meet Travis County administrative, programmatic, and performance requirements.

Some select services may be exempted from competitive procurement, if they meet a specific set of criteria regarding either: 1) Unique business efficiencies that allow the County to conduct business that would otherwise be logistically prohibited, or 2) Investments that stabilize a critical system and/or leverage critical external public investments. Contractors considered for exemption will receive formal communications and requests for information from their Travis County staff contacts. Services identified for exemption from competitive procurement will be subject to direct negotiation and will be fully included in their issue area’s larger Issue Area Investment Portfolio planning processes.

I am a current contractor. What will this new system look like for my agency or program?

Until your program’s issue area is competed, your contract will continue to be renewed annually, provided it continues to meet all County compliance standards, through the competition year of your program’s issue area. Following competition, the continuation of funding for any given program depends on the outcome of the issue area’s RFS process.

After your program’s issue area is competed and funding allocations are determined for the coming 5-year planning and funding cycle, contractors that are awarded funding will be funded for an initial 12-month contract period1 followed by up to four 12-month contract periods, for a total potential funding period of 5 years, followed by the next competition cycle for that issue area.

Transition to 5 Year Planning and Funding Cycles

1An initial 12 month contract period is contingent upon contract negotiations that result in an October 1st start date for a full fiscal year of funding. Contracts that begin after October 1st will be adjusted accordingly to cover the remainder of that FY.

How do I know when my program’s funding will be up for competition?

Existing contractors will receive pointed, detailed communications from their Travis County Contract Compliance Specialist in the year prior to their issue area’s competition cycle, informing them when their issue area is set to compete and providing further details prior to RFS release.

For a small number of contracted programs, the dollars allocated toward their program might be moved into a different issue area prior to competition, or the program’s funding allocation might be split across several issue areas depending on service outcomes. If your program experiences either scenario, you will receive advance communications from your Travis County contacts.

Do I have to compete in my current issue area or can I compete in a different one? If I’m a new potential contractor applying for funds, in which issue area should I compete?

Any current contractor or other service provider desiring to compete for a Travis County social service contract can choose to bid for funds in any of our nine issue areas. The Department has organized its existing investments into nine issue areas based on the best fit of those programs with our desired service outcomes. We recommend that agencies compete for funds in the issue area for which their program best aligns with the desired service outcomes as defined by that issue area’s Request for Services.

The following table summarizes the desired outcomes of purchased services within each issue area:

Issue AreaDescription
Child and Youth Development Programs and services promote the availability, affordability, accessibility, and quality of a continuum of services to infants, children and youth, their families and other caregivers.
Holistic Family Services Programs utilize a holistic services approach to address multiple complex needs of whole families in an effort to create lasting, positive change for children in these families. Services address at least five social service issue areas: Child and Youth Development, Housing Continuum, Workforce Development, Behavioral Health, and Food and Transportation. Programs must serve families in the outlying Target Areas of Travis County.
Workforce Development Programs and services provide employment, training, and adult education services to help individuals improve workplace skills, obtain employment, succeed in the workplace, and help employers secure a skilled workforce.
Housing Continuum Programs and services promote both availability of and access to safe, decent, affordable, and stable housing in order to prevent homelessness, reduce housing cost burden, and promote housing stability.
Safety Intervention Services Programs and services promote the safety and well-being of individuals, families, and communities that have experienced victimization, loss, and/or harm.
Access to Basic Supports: Food, Transportation, Legal Rights and Benefits Programs and services within this issue area provide: access to food to prevent hunger and promote wellness; access to transportation for critical needs and to improve transportation utilization; and access to legally entitled benefits for identified populations.
Supportive Services for Community Living Programs and services promote independence and well-being of persons in need of and able to benefit from assistance to support community living.
Behavioral Health Programs and services provide prevention, intervention, and treatment to adults and children who have been impacted by behavioral health problems. Also included are the service systems encompassing the promotion of emotional health, prevention of mental and substance use disorders and related problems, treatments and services for mental and substance use disorders, and recovery support.
Public Health Programs and services work to improve the health and well-being of community members by encouraging healthy behaviors; providing health education programs; enforcing regulations that protect from injury and illness; reducing the occurrence and impact of disease; and increasing public health emergency preparedness.
Planning and Evaluation Programs provide assessment, planning, and evaluation services to improve knowledge of community conditions and needs as well as improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health and human services.

To verify the issue area classification for current contractors, refer to the Department’s annual Community Impact Report.

For any open solicitation process, refer to that specific Request for Services via BidSync to find desired service outcomes: http://www.bidsync.com/

I have more questions. Who should I contact?

Please note that HHS/VS staff, as well as Commissioner Court members and other Travis County employees, are prohibited from responding to inquiries regarding any open RFS or other Travis County solicitation process. For questions about any current or open RFS process, contact the Purchasing Office representative listed on the solicitation in BidSync.

For HHS/VS Social Service Request for Services contact: David Walch, Purchasing Agent Assistant III David.Walch@traviscountytx.gov or (512) 854-6663

For questions about future RFS processes or the Department’s overall investment strategy and plan, you may contact either or both of the following staff:

Brook Son (for programmatic inquiries)Brook.Son@traviscountytx.gov

Lisa Glass (for fiscal inquiries) Lisa.Glass@traviscountytx.gov

2014sefphoto

Sherri Fleming,
County Executive

502 East Highland Mall Blvd
Austin, TX 78752 (Map)
Phone: (512) 854-4100
Fax: (512) 279-2197

HHS Divisions

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