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Explorer Program for NEARS

Agencies participating in our Explorer Program will get the opportunity to explore the CDC NEARS and Environmental Assessment Training Series (EATS). State, local, tribal, or territorial governmental food safety agencies not yet enrolled in CDC NEARS are eligible.

Note that jurisdictions can enroll in CDC NEARS at any time, participating in the Explorer Program is not required to register for CDC NEARS.

2024 Funding Opportunity

The 2024 NEARS Explorer Program will support state food safety programs focused on exploring CDC NEARS. The NEARS Explorer Program duration is four months, beginning on February 1, 2024. This funding opportunity provides up to $5,000 for state agencies.

The funding is approved to cover:

  • Staff time to gain knowledge and skills to become a CDC NEARS Participant, including:
    • Practice conducting environmental assessments in an interactive virtual environment as part of an outbreak investigation team through the Environmental Assessment Training Series (EATS)
    • Attending a CDC NEARS Training Webinar Series
    • Attending a regional or national NEARS presentation
  • Purchase of environmental sampling and/or other investigation equipment to build workforce capacity in foodborne outbreak investigations
  • Promotion for local jurisdictions within the state to participate in NEARS

The application period for the 2024 Explorer Program has closed.

Program Components

Explorer Webinar Series

The Explorer Webinar Series is an in-depth overview of CDC NEARS including:

  • Introduction to CDC NEARS
  • Online Demonstration of CDC NEARS, including how data is reported into CDC NEARS
  • Perspectives from jurisdictions enrolled and actively participating in CDC NEARS
  • Steps to register as a CDC NEARS site following the Explorer Program

Environmental Assessment Training Series

As an Explorer, jurisdictions will have the opportunity to be trained in CDC’s EATS - Environmental Assessment Training Series.

EATS trains you to conduct environmental assessments during outbreak investigations and report the assessment data to CDC NEARS. The training is ideal for agencies that conduct foodborne illness outbreak investigations.

Final Report

After completing the EATS training and webinar series, participants must complete a final report. The one-page final report must identify:

  • The overall impact and outcomes of participating in the NEARS Explorer Program
  • Any challenges faced during the NEARS Explorer Program, including any foreseen challenges in jurisdictional implementation of NEARS
  • Explanation of why your jurisdiction will or will not enroll in CDC NEARS

Participant Evaluation

Explorers will each complete a program participant evaluation. This evaluation will provide each participant the opportunity to rate the program, and provide feedback and recommendations.


To participate in the Explorer Program, your organization must meet the following qualifications:

  • State jurisdictions only
  • Not currently a CDC NEARS participant
  • Have not previously participated in the NEARS Explorer Program
  • Able to have at least one employee committed to completing all program components listed above within the duration of the program

NEARS Explorer Program Funding Requirements

  • A completed application must be submitted during the RFA (Request for Applications) open period
  • A Point of Contact (POC) must be made available for program collaboration and communications
  • A Subaward Agreement is required to participate in our Explorer Program. The agreement is required to be executed by both parties prior to starting the program
  • A Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) which comes from being registered in SAM.gov must be provided
  • A W-9 and ACH form must be provided


Explorer Program funding is awarded after all program deliverables are completed.

  • Jurisdictions must invoice us for the full amount awarded.
  • Funding is not a reimbursement for expenses; therefore, no receipts or record of staff time is required to be submitted with the invoice.
  • Invoicing the full amount of the award is required upon submission of final program deliverables
  • Funds will be awarded within 30 days of receipt of a completed invoice and final program deliverables
  • Invoices must be received no later than June 15, 2024