April 3, 2020 - From the April, 2020 issue

CARES Act Transit Funding Allocations Released

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced yesterday how the $24.925 billion in emergency funding provided in the CARES Act for public transit agencies would be divided between cities nationwide facing unprecedented operational challenges and budgetary shortfalls during this public health, and economic, crisis. TPR shares summary of the allocations and their formulation as well as the response from LA Metro CEO Phil Washington on Metro's portion of the federal spending package. 


"Funding will be provided at a 100 percent federal share, with no local match required, and will be available to support capital, operating, and other expenses generally eligible under those programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19"

Federal Transportation Funding Update

Earlier today (a day ahead of schedule), the Federal Transit Administration announced the apportionment and allocation of $24.925 billion in emergency appropriations to mass transit agencies across the country. The money was provided by the $2+ trillion coronavirus response bill signed into law six days ago.

“This historic $25 billion in grant funding will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who depend on them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The law provided that $75 million out of the original $25.0 billion appropriation be taken “off the top” for FTA administration and oversight, and the rest be apportioned to states via five different formulas, each in the proportion that the formula total in fiscal 2020 bore to all formula apportionments:

·        The 49 U.S.C. §5307 urbanized area formula (55.1604%);

·        The 49 U.S.C. §5311 non-urbanized (a.k.a. rural) formula (7.9818%);

·        The 49 U.S.C. §5337 state-of-good-repair formula (30.0316%);

·        The 49 U.S.C. §5340 high-density state formula (3.4618%); and

·        The 49 U.S.C. §5340 growing state formula (3.3645%).

For program administration and record-keeping purposes, all the other money was then to be folded into either the urban or rural area formula program. The rural program then had set-asides for Appalachian and Indian programs taken out. It wound up working out like this:

In terms of which area or agency gets what money:

·        The list of which urbanized areas get what dollar amounts from the $22.7 billion §5307 apportionment is here;

·        The list of which states get what dollar amounts from the $2.2 billion §5311 apportionment and the $20 million Appalachian set-aside is here; and

·        The apportionments under the Indian reservations set-aside are here.

Normally, apportionments under §5307 and §5311 come with a whole host of strings attached, but those conditions and restrictions are superseded by the language of the appropriations bill, which says that the money is “to remain available until expended, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus…Provided further, That notwithstanding subsection (a)(1) or (b) of section 5307 of title 49, United States Code, funds provided under this heading are available for the operating expenses of transit agencies related to the response to a coronavirus public health emergency as described in section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, including, beginning on January 20, 2020, reimbursement for operating costs to maintain service and lost revenue due to the coronavirus public health emergency, including the purchase of personal protective equipment, and paying the administrative leave of operations personnel due to reductions in service…” Other variances from underlying statute are listed here.

Operating expenses dating back to January 20, 2020 are eligible for this funding.

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FTA has prepared a FAQ document giving further explanation of how the funds can be used. Recipients should note the requirements that the new funding still needs a Labor Department sign-off, and that the split of urbanized money between political entities still needs to be updated for the new funding.

Metro CEO Phil Washington issued the following statement to LA Metro Board Members in response:

Dear Board Members:
 
Earlier today, our agency communicated (see attached letter) with all members of the Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation to express our appreciation for the financial assistance for Metro and other transit agencies that was included in H.R. 748 – the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law last week.  Specifically, for transit agencies nationwide, the CARES Act provides $25 billion through sections 5307, 5311, 5337, and 5340 of title 49, United States Code. According to preliminary estimates by Metro’s professional staff – and as I have previously shared with the Board in a Legislative Alert issued on March 27, 2020 - our agency may receive approximately $710 to $810 million in assistance through S. 3548 – with specific terms on how these funds can be spent on matters directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Metro will, over the coming days, be working with relevant federal authorities, including but not limited to, the U.S. Department of Transportation and members of the Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation, to ensure our agency takes all reasonable and prudent steps to allocate these important federal resources to their highest and best use in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
On March 18, 2020 our agency had written to all members of the Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation regarding the financial impact this national emergency is having on our agency – and our request for federal funds in response to this crisis. I have also had direct communication with a number of our Members of Congress – including Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Congressman Ted Lieu – to ensure they are fully aware of the responsible steps we are taking during this pandemic.  In the days and weeks ahead – we will continue to communicate with all Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in Los Angeles County and our two U.S. Senators to ensure that they and Congressional leaders and their staffs are fully aware of the continuing challenges facing our agency.  Please be assured that we will keep all Board members apprised of any future Congressional actions related to our agency and other transportation providers across the nation. 
 
Phillip A. Washington

 

FTA Allocations Announcement

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced a total of $25 billion in federal funding allocations to help the nation’s public transportation systems respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Funding is provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, on March 27, 2020.

"This historic $25 billion in grant funding will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who depend on them," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

FTA is allocating $25 billion to recipients of urbanized area and rural area formula funds, with $22.7 billion allocated to large and small urban areas and $2.2 billion allocated to rural areas. Funding will be provided at a 100 percent federal share, with no local match required, and will be available to support capital, operating, and other expenses generally eligible under those programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.

Further, operating expenses incurred beginning on January 20, 2020 for all rural and urban recipients, even those in large urban areas, are also eligible, including operating expenses to maintain transit services as well as paying for administrative leave for transit personnel due to reduced operations during an emergency. Answers to frequently asked questions about this funding are available on FTA’s web site.

"We know that many of our nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19," said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. "These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies, including those in large urban areas as well as pay transit workers across the country not working because of the public health emergency." 

In addition to the $25 billion funding allocation announced today, FTA has taken a number of steps to support the transit industry during this public health emergency, including expanding the eligibility of federal assistance available under FTA’s Emergency Relief Program to help transit agencies respond to COVID-19 in states where the Governor has declared an emergency. All transit providers, including those in large urban areas, can now use federal formula funds under the Urbanized Area Formula Program and Formula Grants for Rural Areas Program for emergency-related capital and operating expenses. This includes the provision of personal protective equipment or special-purpose trips.

FTA also established an Emergency Relief docket that allows transit providers in states where the Governor has declared an emergency related to COVID-19 to request temporary relief from federal requirements under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 as well as any non-statutory FTA requirements.

Additionally, FTA recently announced that it would provide a 30-day extension of the deadline for current competitive grant program funding opportunities, including: FTA’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program; Passenger Ferry Grant Program; Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) Challenge Grants; and Helping Obtain Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Program.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to provide guidance to the public transportation industry in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). FTA has held regular conference calls with transit stakeholders and posted Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding COVID-19 on its web site.

 

 

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