Allowable Costs for Grants

Q. Can a subgrantee use 5309 funds for office furniture purchases? I believed that 5309 monies were only to be utilized in direct project related activities?

A. You need to send this question to your regional FTA grant manager who can advise you on the particulars of your grant conditions.

Q. Can the procurement of communications monthly service charges be captured under 5307 grant programs as a preventative maintenance budget line item? We will be upgrading our customer support technology (i.e. telephone service, T-1 line service.

A. You should present this question to your FTA regional office grant manager.

Q. Pima County Arizona applied for a JARC grant to help fund a route they have implemented (Route 61) that helps large core groups of people get to and from work. They started the Route 61 with anticipation of getting it funded by a JARC grant. Due to the time frame of getting the grant submitted and approved as well as setting up a sub-recipient Intergovernmental Agreement, the route was in service prior to all the funding being in place. Pima County would like to know if they can turn in the costs they incurred prior to the grant being finalized.

A. FTA advises that you will need to contact your FTA Regional office and present this request to them.  

Q. Agency wants to do a midlife refurbishment of buses to extend their service life. Agency wants to refurbish the first bus in - house in order to have a realistic estimate of costs, and then issue a request for bids or proposals.  Can the agency's costs for the first refurbished bus be charged to the project?  If so, how does this need to be documented?

A. We believe that the proper person to answer your question would be your agency's FTA regional Grants Manager. We would think the FTA manager would be able to review with you the terms of the grant and make a decision as to the acceptability to FTA of the approach you suggest; viz., refurbishing the first vehicle in-house.

Q. The following two questions are related to vehicle procurement. Under FTA rules, are applicable vehicle licensing and titling fees eligible for reimbursement? Are radio, bike rack and vehicle decal eligible for reimbursement?

A. Components (such as radios, bike racks and decals) incorporated into the vehicle during assembly are usually viewed as eligible capital costs, while post-delivery alterations and modifications are not, unless the vehicle is being retrofitted to meet Federal standards (e.g., ADA or EPA emissions controls). As for licensing and titling fees, they would seem to fall into the category of operational expenses and thus not eligible as capital costs.

Q. A grantee is requesting information on allowable travel expenses for a contractor. What will FTA cover in terms of travel and per diem for a contractor to perform the work? The agency is in the process of receiving bids for the implementation of an ERP system, and one competitor included per diem rates and travel expenses for the duration of the project since they would be traveling from out of town. Other bidders did not include these expenses.

A. The allowability of costs incurred by third party contractors funded by FTA grants is determined by the cost principles in the FAR at 48 CFR Part 31. Travel costs are covered in Subpart 31.205-46. The FAR says the travel costs must not exceed the maximum per diem rates set forth in the Federal Travel Regulations.

Q. I would like to check if "opportunity cost" is something that we could bill the FTA for? For example, if we gave out bus tickets to participants of focus groups that are directly associated to a project that is federally funded, would the amount that we lost for not selling those tickets be something that we could ask reimbursements for?

A. The FTA Chief Counsel's Office believes the best way to get your question resolved would be to work with the FTA Research person that is involved with your project. FTA Counsel noted that certain information will be needed in order to give a definitive answer; i.e., what federal project this relates to (i.e., grant number), how supplying the tickets was in support of the research, and if this supply of tickets was part of the project implementation plan under the federal grant.

Q. Can FTA grant funds for a capital construction project be used to purchase safety incentive awards for construction personnel if the procurement is in compliance with 4220.1E? In other words is it allowable to purchase small value award items such as belt buckles, electronic devices, restaurant gift certificates, etc. to be given to contractors personnel who have achieved the target safety record of the project?

A. The cost principles governing the allowability of costs incurred by a non-profit transit agency are set forth in OMB Circular A-122, which is available online at the OMB web site: Our reading of this Circular suggests that these types of employee performance awards are allowable. In Attachment B - Selected Items of Cost, paragraph 13, costs related to "Employee morale, Health and Welfare Costs and Credits" are discussed. This paragraph says that costs related to employee morale and employee performance are allowable. We would think that this would allow performance recognition for contractors' employees as well as your employees, but to be certain there will not be a problem with FTA when the grant is closed out, you may want to get this agreement from FTA in writing before you incur the costs.

Q. What is an acceptable percentage for grant/project administration?

A. There are no set precentages for grant/project administration costs. However, FTA Circular 5010.1C, Chapter 3, provides guidance on allowable costs.

Q. For a federally procured bus purchase, are the inspection costs allowable under the project? If we were in Los Angeles, and our staff had to fly to the plant up in Hayward, California to inspect the buses, can we charge the expense to the project?

A. Costs incurred for the inspection of buses, including the cost of travel to the plant, are an allowable charge to the project. It is considered a necessary task under the "Project Administration" code of your grant budget.

Q. Can pre-award authority be used to incur costs in advance of award if the intended source of funds was not previously disclosed? A local beautification organization has asked to provide (purchase and erect) the transit garage with a new fence (the current one is over 30 years old, and is falling). They would be the purchasing party, and would seek to find a fence contractor who would give them a favorable price. Originally, they wanted to donate the entire fence (value around $7,000). After determining that they could not afford to do so, they offered to supply and erect the fence if we would donate 1/2 the cost of the fence, they providing the other half. It was originally Asheville Transit's intention to include the full cost of the fence replacement and some additional landscaping in our annual FTA operating and capital grant application for FY '02, which is intended to be submitted in December 2001 or January 2002. The local group feels it must do this by August 24, 2001. May Asheville Transit use pre-award authority to incur this cost now?

A. Pre-award authority is found in the annual Federal Register apportionment notice. If the grantee and intended source of funds is included in the notice, the expenditure retains eligibility assuming it meets all other requirements. If the grant is not identified in that notice then the grantee may still request approval from the FTA Regional Office for the expenditure in advance of the grant.

Q.  Can transit authorities use federal grant funds to make payments under a tax-exempt lease?

A.  In response to your question about the allowability of FTA grant funds for payments under a tax-exempt lease, FTA personnel in the Chief Counsel's Office suggest you discuss this issue with your regional FTA grant manager who has jurisdiction is such matters.  

Q. When purchasing capital equipment such as a bus with grant funds, does the local sales tax percentage dedicated to the transit need to be deducted from the total cost of the bus and not charged to the grant (like program income)?   Example:  Bus cost $100,000 with tax and the portion of the tax that goes to the transit is .009% - then $900 is deducted so the total bus cost is now $99,100 (from which 80% is federal funded and 20% is local match).  The only reference that I can find is in Circular 5010 "7. Program Income part d. Government Revenues".  And it seems to say that the answer is no.

A.  OMB Circular A-87 (Cost Principles for State, Local, and Indian Tribal Governments) determines the allow ability of costs under grants with State and local governments and Indian tribal governments.  This Circular lists state and local taxes as an allowable cost.  See March, 2009).

Q.  Is the cost of property and liability insurance an eligible cost for reimbursement   under a 5307 grant?

A. Under OMB Circular A-87 "Cost Principles for State, Local, and Indian Tribal Governments," specific types of insurance are recognized as allowable costs - see  Appendix B, section 22:  (Posted: March, 2009).

Q. Are we allowed to purchase hand tools to be used for an FTA capital project?

A. If the hand tools are necessary for accomplishing the capital project then the cost of acquiring them is allowable under the grant. (Posted: September, 2013).