Receipt Acknowledgement Letters ("RALs")
To provide additional application status information to schools and libraries that submitted Form 471s within the window period, Receipt Acknowledgement Letters ("RALs") are being sent to applicants in weekly waves after their Form 471s have gone through the basic data entry stage. Early RAL waves acknowledged Form 471s that were entered directly online by applicants; later waves will cover applications that were mailed.
RALs should be carefully reviewed as soon as possible. The RAL letters give applicants a chance to correct any data entry errors and possibly certain errors made by the applicants themselves – while the applications are still in the SLD review process and before funding commitment decisions made. Quick response is critical. Once a Form 471 gets through data entry, it moves to the Problem Resolution and/or Program Integrity Assurance stages, and then to the funding commitment stage. There is no built-in delay in the process to allow for corrective responses from the applicants. Errors not corrected before the funding commitment decision step will have to be handled through a more cumbersome and time-consuming appeals process. The SLD strongly encourages applicants to respond to RAL letters, if necessary, within two weeks of receipt.
Applicants may be receiving several different types of correspondence from the SLD during the same period, so each must be checked vigilantly. RAL letters should be distinguished from BEAR acknowledgement letters, that indicate approval of reimbursement requests for the current funding year. More importantly, RAL letters are not the same as Funding Commitment Decisions ("FCD") letters. RALs merely mirror application data; FCD letters reflect actual E-rate award decisions.
The RAL letter should be mailed to the contact person provided on the associated Form 471 application. The applicant name and Billed Entity Number will be shown in the address and reference sections, together with an assigned Form 471 Application Number. A sample copy of a RAL letter is available on the SLD web site (see sample RAL letter).
Besides basic applicant identity information, it is important to check that every request line from Item (15) or Item (16) of the Form 471 is properly listed in the RAL letter. Each line item should be assigned a unique Funding Request Number ("FRN") by the SLD. For each FRN, the following four items should be carefully checked against the original Form 471:
- The Service Provider Identification Number ("SPIN"), a nine-digit number beginning "143…," should be accurate or will have to be changed later. The service provider's formal corporate name is also given, but may not be familiar if the provider normally does business under a different name. Bell Atlantic Mobile, for example, may show up as "Cellco Partnership." If the name is not familiar, double check the SPIN. If in doubt, check with the supplier.
- The abbreviated services ordered description should correctly indicate which of the three types of service is applicable (Telecommunications Service, Internet Access, or Internal Connection). If E-rate funding is limited in 1999-2000, as it was last year, it is particularly important that telecommunications and Internet access services not be mis-characterized as Internal Connection services for which funding may not be available for lower discount rate applicants.
- The pre-discounted cost should match the requested amount.
- The discount rate should be carefully checked, not only against the last column of Item (15) or Item (16), but against the discount rate calculation table provided in Item (14).
If no FRN is provided for a line item requested in the original Form 471, there could be one of two problems. Either the line was erroneously skipped during data entry, or the item did not pass the SLD's Minimum Processing Standard. In the latter case, the applicant should receive a separate letter from the SLD explaining why the item was rejected. If no letter is received, then the error should be corrected.
Correcting RAL Errors
Any data entry errors should be brought to the SLD's attention within two weeks in the following manner:
- Photocopy the Receipt Acknowledgement Letter.
- Draw a line through each incorrect item; next to it, mark clearly what the correct information should be.
- Make a photocopy of the marked-up letter to keep for your files.
- Mail (with proof of delivery) the marked-up RAL as soon as possible to:
Data Entry Corrections
Schools and Libraries Division
Box 300 - Correspondence Unit
100 South Jefferson Road
Whippany, NJ 07981
Technically, the RAL correction process is only designed to address data entry errors made by the SLD, not to correct errors made by an applicant in their Form 471 application. Applicants uncovering errors in their original Form 471 can try one of the following approaches.
- Applicants may be able to correct simple errors, such as an incorrect SPIN, through the same RAL correction process. If this doesn't work, a SPIN change can subsequently be requested by separate letter, before or after a funding decision.
- An alternative approach to making a pre-funding correction is to mail a change letter or amended Form 471 to the same Whippany address shown above.
- As a last resort, the applicant may have to wait until after a final funding commitment decision in order to file a formal appeal.