Newcomers to federal grants often wonder what happens after they submit their proposal. Typically, multiple reviewers read every proposal; the exact number varies by program. This normalizes the scores and prevents the bias of any one reviewer.
Based on available funding, a minimum score will be established for successful applicants. Applicants above that score will receive funding; applicants below will not, but they might be put on a hold list if additional funds become available.
In some cases, applicants just below the cut line might receive funding based on additional criteria or priorities set by Congress. That is, the agency might need to spread grants out geographically if a number of successful applicants are clustered in one area. Or, the agency might award a grant if an applicant addresses a priority not met by other applicants. For example, if there’s a priority to fund projects in rural areas, but only a few applicants targeted rural areas, the agency has the authority to dip below the cut line to fund a project for that priority.