Hurricane Sandy: Frequently Asked Questions—Eligibility

Hurricane Sandy: Frequently Asked Questions Main Page

Question Response
Is integrity monitoring an eligible expense under the Emergency Relief Program? Yes. As permitted by statute (49 U.S.C. 5324(d)(1)), FTA will determine the terms and conditions that apply to grants awarded under the ER Program. Accordingly, FTA requires utilization of integrity monitors for Sandy projects for recipients receiving over $100 million in funding in addition to the standard oversight program. Integrity monitoring is a project administration expense.
Are short-term, modular, or temporary resiliency projects eligible for funding under the FTA Emergency Relief Program? It depends. Capital projects may not have a useful life of less than one year. “Resiliency projects” are defined as capital projects designed and built to reduce the vulnerabilities of a public transportation facility or system to future emergencies or major disasters likely to occur in the geographic area in which the public transportation system is located; or to projected changes in development patterns, demographics, or extreme weather or other climate patterns.

All resiliency projects must comply with FTA’s useful life requirements for capital assets. FTA’s useful life requirements state that a recipient must reimburse FTA for the remaining useful life of any asset that is disposed of prior to the end of its useful life.

Useful life is determined in accordance with the purpose of the project as well as the type of asset acquired. Since the purpose of a resiliency project is to protect other assets, the useful life of a resiliency project is tied to the lesser of the length of time that an asset (or its replacement) needs protection or the standard useful life of the purchased asset. For example, the useful life of a concrete flood barrier around a substation that is projected to be moved in five years is equal to five years. The useful life of movable equipment, such as modular flood barriers, should be determined by the grantee based on guidance in FTA Circular 5010.
Can I use local priority resiliency funds to pay for design costs for competitive resiliency projects, not yet selected? No. Local priority resilience funds cannot be used to design projects that will be submitted as part of the competitive process.

However, the grantee has the following options for paying for these costs:

  1. FTA will extend pre-award authority for environmental work (to comply with NEPA) and design costs for these activities, permitting them to be eligible for reimbursement OR count towards your local match if the competitive resiliency project is selected.
  2. A grantee can use their FTA formula funds such as the Section 5307 funds to pay for these costs.
Are design costs eligible expenses for the local priority resiliency allocation? Yes. However, apportioned resiliency funds cannot be used for design costs of projects unless the grantee has documented the availability of funding for the entire project, including construction.

Additionally, a grantee may not incur capital expenses for local priority resiliency projects until a project has received formal FTA approval granting pre-award authority for the project.
May a grantee use FTA Emergency Relief funding to increase its inventory of spare parts beyond the level that existed prior to Hurricane Sandy? In general, the acquisition of spare parts is an eligible capital expense under FTA’s Emergency Relief program. Pursuant to the May 29, 2013 Federal Register Notice, FTA will review proposed local priority resiliency projects based on information included in the program of projects, including the resiliency justification. The acquisition of additional spare parts may be justified in cases where an extreme weather event or other emergency would accelerate the consumption of particular parts (e.g. replacement parts for modular flood barriers or pump equipment), where spare parts likely to be affected by an emergency require extended lead times, or where a higher standing inventory of a particular item has been otherwise identified as necessary as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Provisions of the DOT Common Grant Rule 49 CFR Part 18 Section 18.32 apply to the acquisition of spare parts.
Some language in the notice says "repair to a state of good repair". Often that means replacing more than what was there because of advances in technology or design standards. That was an issue under Stafford Act. Since a significant portion of the seriously damaged transit infrastructure was technologically obsolete, and hence not appropriate to replace in kind or restore to the exact previous condition, FTA will fund repair and replacement projects that bring transit assets up to a state of good repair.

Specifically, when repairing or replacing facilities and infrastructure damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, the following activities are eligible for Emergency Relief funding: 1) replacement of older features with new ones; 2) incorporation of current design standards; 3) replacement of a destroyed facility at a different location when replacing at the existing location is not practical or feasible; and 4) additional required features resulting from the NEPA process. The incorporation of improvements or changes designed solely to improve the resiliency of transit infrastructure is not considered a state of good repair improvement under this eligibility. Further guidance on mitigation and resiliency improvements will be forthcoming.

Rolling stock and other equipment used in public transportation that was damaged or destroyed before the end of its useful life may be replaced with new rolling stock and equipment.
What is meant by heavy maintenance, since it is mentioned as being ineligible? If "heavy maintenance" could restore vehicles to operable status -- instead of scrapping-- you would call that repair? Heavy maintenance generally refers to occasional or periodic maintenance on facilities, such as track work, or cleaning a station and making minor repairs to that station after the storm, as opposed to restoring vehicles to operable status. Repairing vehicles seriously damaged in the storm to an operable status is an eligible expense.
How does a grantee request funds for emergency repair projects that fall outside the scope of the three categories outlined in the notice? In addition to allocating funds for expenses under categories 1-3, FTA has allocated approximately $1.4 billion to applicants based on projected overall recovery costs as detailed in damage assessments conducted to date and validated by FTA over the past several months. These allocations were published in the Federal Register on March 29, 2013. Recipients may apply for eligible projects in TEAM up to the total amount awarded.
In the March 29th Federal Register Notice, there was an allocation identified as “Other” ($28,048,497) and described as being for affected recipients that may have eligible expenses not yet reimbursed to date? What is the process for applying for these funds? If you are an eligible recipient and have eligible response and recovery expenses not yet reimbursed and you did not receive a pro-rated allocation in the March 29th allocation notice, you may be eligible for these funds. Please contact your regional office (either Region 1, 2 or 3) to apply for these Emergency Relief funds. FTA set-aside two percent, or $28,048,497, for affected recipients that suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy and who may have outstanding expenses. If your request is approved, you will be asked to submit an electronic grant application with the regional office.
Please clarify what costs are eligible for reimbursement at 100%. The 100% Federal share is only for specific emergency operations and emergency protective measures incurred between October 30- November 14, 2012 in affected areas in CT, NY, and NJ. These costs include: evacuations; rescue operations; moving rolling stock to higher ground in order to protect it from storm surges; additional bus or ferry service to replace inoperable rail service or to detour around damaged areas; returning evacuees to their homes after the hurricane; and the net project costs related to reestablishing, expanding, or relocating public transportation service before, during, or after the hurricane. Eligible costs include emergency protective measures (capital projects) intended to protect transit infrastructure from Hurricane Sandy and that were undertaken to respond to the immediate aftermath of the storm. Eligible costs incurred prior to October 30, 2012 or after November 14, 2012 are eligible for reimbursement at a 90% Federal share.
How can my agency receive reimbursement for emergency recovery work performed after January 29th, and which does not qualify under Categories 1-3? Emergency recovery work that does not qualify under Categories 1-3 may be funded under the prorated allocations announced on March 29th, 2013, or under a future allocation of Emergency Relief funds. Grantees should provide FTA with a list of projects prior to beginning work in order to verify eligibility.

Grantees have pre-award authority for the amounts allocated to them in the March 29, 2013 Federal Register Notice of Allocations, including for work performed after January 29, 2013 (and not in a contract, RFP or budgeted force account prior to January 29) provided that all federal requirements are met or a waiver is granted using the waiver request process detailed in the Notice of Availability of Emergency Relief Funding. Such costs are incurred at the grantees own risk, and there is no guarantee that such costs will be approved for Federal funding.

Projects that have costs in excess of the amount allocated in the March 29 notice must request a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) from the FTA Regional Office prior to incurring costs if they intend to seek Federal funding at a later date. The issuance of an LONP does not guarantee that the project will either be allocated funds or approved for reimbursement.
What is the starting date for eligible costs? There is no fixed starting date for eligible costs, since different parts of the region may have started preparations at different times. Costs that were incurred in preparation for the storm's landfall during the time that the storm was forecast to hit an affected area are eligible for reimbursement at a 90% Federal share under this announcement unless otherwise noted.
If an expenditure is not eligible under FTA, can it be handed off to FEMA? In most instances, FTA's eligibility criteria are more flexible than FEMAs. We recommend that grantees first pursue FTA funding. However, if an expense is not eligible under the FTA program, grantees are free to pursue FEMA funds. FTA and FEMA have developed open lines of communication to ensure that project reimbursements are not duplicated and will assist grantees with identifying the proper source for reimbursement to the extent possible.
Can project team resources be covered by FTA? Project administration costs are considered to be those necessary and reasonable administrative costs associated with the implementation of specific FTA approved capital project activities. Such costs may be direct or indirect. Direct costs must be supported with documentation to show the nature and amount of cost including time and attendance records for actual staff time charged to the activity. Indirect costs must be supported with a federally approved indirect cost allocation plan. Project administration costs should be budgeted separately or included in related capital activity line item budgets. Project administration costs are funded as capital costs. While project administration is an eligible capital cost, general program administration is not.

Project team resources may be funded up to a reasonable amount, which generally does not exceed 10 percent of the total capital costs of the project.
Is there flexibility to modify the grant based on existing/actual conditions as they occur? Yes, but Grantees should consult regions on any special requirements for Sandy-grant budget revisions or amendments. Also, any grant modification that increases the federal funds (e.g. grant amendment) will need to comply with all Federal requirements unless the funds being added were part of the initial allocation for expenses within categories 1, 2, or 3.
Are both straight time and overtime forces eligible for FTA reimbursement? For all eligible force account and operating expenses, FTA will pay both straight and overtime labor costs.
Can transportation development credits be used as matching funds? Yes, recipients may use transportation development credits as local match for grants under Section 5324.