V. Operating Assistance
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Question: Under the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009 (H.R. 2346) which ARRA programs will now allow operating expenses as eligible program costs?
Answer: The Supplemental Appropriations Act allows recipients and subrecipients of the Transit Capital Assistance Urbanized Area Program funds and the Transit Capital Assistance Nonurbanized Area Program funds the ability to use up to 10 percent of the amount apportioned for operating expenses, including recipients and subrecipients under the Section 5311(f)- Intercity Bus program.
2. Question: Are there specific criteria for use by FTA to determine eligibility for Recovery Act operating assistance?
Answer: Operating expenses eligible for reimbursement using Recovery Act funds should be consistent with the objectives of the Act. FTA considers expenses consistent with the Act that serve to advance the mission of job preservation, job creation, or service preservation.
3. Question: Is a TIP or STIP amendment necessary in order to revise the scope of a project programmed in the TIP/STIP from capital to operating expenses?
Answer: The law permits up to 10 percent of the amount of ARRA funds apportioned to an urbanized area or non-urbanized area pursuant to sections 5336 or 5311 to be used for the operating costs of equipment and facilities for use in public transportation or for eligible activities under section 5311(f). For grantees wishing to amend projects already programmed in TIP/STIPs to include operations, the percentage of that project’s cost that is proposed to be shifted from capital to operational expenses, and the associated change in project scope, will determine whether a TIP/STIP amendment or an administrative modification is appropriate. Grantees should follow the guidelines of their local metropolitan planning organization (MPO) in determining whether the change in project scope that is proposed would necessitate a formal amendment. In all cases, changes that affect transportation-air quality conformity determination would necessitate formal TIP/STIP amendment.
4. Question: Is the 50 percent local match requirement applicable to ARRA funding for operating expenses?
Answer: No, there is no local match required for ARRA funds used to fund operating expenses; the federal share is 100 percent.
5. Question: How will FTA handle amendments for grants already awarded, and will they need to go for Department of Labor (DOL) certification?
Answer: Grantees may immediately begin developing grant amendments to ARRA grants that have already been awarded to add operating assistance to the grant. However, consistent with current FTA practice, grant amendments must be submitted to DOL for review and certification if the grant is for urbanized area program funds. Grant amendments for nonurbanized area program funds must be submitted for information.
6. Question: If my grant is currently being processed should I modify the grant to add operating assistance, or allow the grant to continue through the process and amend it once it has been awarded?
Answer: This question is overtaken by events. Grantees wishing to add operating assistance to existing or pending grants successfully worked with their regional offices to change pending applications or amend after obligation consistent with the status in the grant processing timetable.
7. Question: Does the Supplemental Appropriations Act change the eligibility of FHWA ARRA funds transferred to FTA?
Answer: No. FTA will follow current Surface Transportation Program transfer rules which do not allow recipients to use STP funds for operating assistance on public transportation projects; however, recipients may use STP funds for any public transportation capital project.
8. Question: Will FTA approve an ARRA grant that includes operating assistance for a period longer than one year?
Answer: Consistent with current program guidance for Section 5307 and 5311, FTA will only award a grant for operating assistance for a period that includes the applicant’s current local fiscal year, plus one additional year, either prospective for the next local fiscal year based on estimated net deficit, or retrospective for the previous fiscal year, based on actual net deficit. For operating assistance, as for capital projects, FTA’s expectation is that grantees will spend ARRA quickly for ready to go projects that stimulate the economy, rather than banking them for future needs.
9. Question: If I already have obligated a grant with operating funds at the fifty percent Federal share, can I reprogram the funds in that grant for other purposes and submit an application for ARRA funds for operating assistance at the 100 percent Federal share?
Answer: No. As for capital projects, if you already have an obligated grant you can not supplant that grant/purpose with ARRA funds. If a grant has not yet been obligated, you can withdraw a pending application and submit or amend an ARRA application to include operating assistance. (see Question II, A, 21)
10. Question: If I want to apply for ARRA operating assistance, do I need to amend or submit a new 1511 certification?
Answer: No. Section 1511 only requires the certification for infrastructure investments, which FTA has defined as applying to all capital projects, but not operating assistance.