Program Letter 20-6

Technology Costs for PAI Volunteers
Ronald S. Flagg, President
October 20, 2020

Over the past few months, LSC recipients have sought guidance on the use of LSC funds to pay for purchases of technology intended to allow staff and private attorneys to access recipients’ records. These questions arose for two primary reasons. First, recipients are increasingly banning the use of non-recipient computer equipment to access their records because of the need to maximize the security of their records, particularly client databases containing confidential and privileged information. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased recipients’ need to purchase additional technology, such as laptop computers, headsets, and other related equipment, to facilitate PAI volunteer work of both grantees and subgrantees.  LSC notes that having additional equipment available to loan may facilitate immediate restart and/or a direct increase in client services, such as through virtual clinics and distance advice.

This Program Letter lays out the questions LSC received and LSC’s responses in a question and answer format. This information will also be available on the Private Attorney Involvement Frequently Asked Questions page of LSC’s website.

Q1: Can LSC provide guidance regarding adoption of a policy that prohibits use of non-recipient equipment, such as PAI volunteer computers, for accessing recipient case/client databases?

Answer:  For increased security of program records, LSC agrees it is a best practice to limit recipient database access solely to equipment owned, and controlled, by the recipient.

Q2: Are the costs of computers, headsets, and related equipment provided to PAI volunteers, such as volunteer attorneys or seasonal interns, an allowable allocation to PAI?  

Answer:  Yes, if the services to be provided using the equipment are solely LSC-eligible, and in compliance with 45 C.F.R. Part 1614.

Any loan of equipment purchased with LSC funds must include a use agreement.  This agreement should be executed prior to any loan and should protect the recipient’s property.  Terms should require: the immediate return of equipment upon demand; cooperation with requests for computer maintenance or updates; limitation of use to LSC-eligible PAI work; and an explicit prohibition on unauthorized use.  

Q3: If the computers, headsets, and related equipment are to be dedicated to PAI for the extent of their use, could the entire purchase price be allocated to LSC funds? 

Answer:  Yes, if the services provided are solely LSC-eligible, and in compliance with 45 C.F.R. Part 1614.   The allocation of these costs, either in a single year, or over the useful life of the equipment, will depend on the recipient’s adopted fiscal policies.

Q4: What if the computers, headsets, and related equipment are initially used for PAI activities, but the equipment is later repurposed and used for a non-PAI purpose? 

Answer:  If, during its useful life, equipment initially used for PAI is later used for non-PAI work, costs must be prorated.  Only that portion of PAI use can be allocated as PAI expenditures.  Further, the non-PAI costs should be allocated between the recipient’s funding sources according to the recipient’s cost allocation policy.

Q5: Can the purchase price of computers, headsets, and related equipment provided by a recipient directly to the PAI volunteers of its LSC-funded subgrantee, be paid by allocated to LSC funds?

Answer:  Yes, if the equipment is to be used as part of an LSC-eligible PAI effort where the services are solely LSC-eligible, and in compliance with 45 C.F.R. Part 1614.

Further, when purchased directly by the LSC recipient, the equipment must remain under the recipient’s control, and the use agreement should be executed by the volunteer directly with the recipient.

Q6: An internet stipend payment (such as $25.00 monthly) to partially compensate for use of a volunteer’s internet service is paid to volunteers.  Is this an allocable cost for LSC funds?  Would these costs be a permissible allocation to PAI?  

Answer: These payments may be allocated to LSC funds if the services are solely LSC-eligible, and in compliance with 45 C.F.R. Part 1614. However, these costs are allocable to PAI only when they involve a PAI volunteer that is not a law student, such as a volunteer attorney or other qualified volunteer. Pursuant to 45 C.F.R. § 1614.4(b)(7), when this stipend is paid to a law student/intern, it is not allocable to the PAI requirement.