May 11, 2009
FTA: Complete ARRA Paperwork as Soon as Possible
Federal Transit Administration representatives—during their May 6 session at the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Seattle—emphasized the importance of U.S. public transit agencies completing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant process, stressing that waiting until July 1 may put agencies at risk of losing a portion of their ARRA formula funds.
Mary Martha Churchman, senior policy advisor in FTA’s Office of Program Management; Bruce Robinson, deputy associate administrator for research, demonstration, and innovation; and Richard Steinmann, senior advisor to the administrator, explained the nominal July 1 due date as simply subtracting 60 days—the normal time needed for review by the U.S. Department of Labor—from Sept. 1. Any designated recipient who has not successfully obtained an approved and executed a grant agreement for the first half of their allocated formula funds by September 1 must forfeit that portion of their funding under the terms of the ARRA legislation. Even submitting a grant by July 1 does not guarantee completion of the process in time for the September 1 deadline, so, the presenters stressed, “time is of the essence” in submitting grant packages.
Thus far, FTA has awarded 1 percent of available ARRA funding for public transit—five grants totaling $48.5 million—and another 165 grants totaling $1.7 billion (about 20 percent) are pending.
The FTA representatives reviewed the necessary elements of the grant process, including the DOL component, TIP/STIP amendments, and project descriptions in ARRA grant applications, and gave the audience a status check on progress to date on all the programs.
Churchman updated conference attendees on the latest guidance concerning the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) system. After weeks of mixed signals from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), that agency published guidance in the April 23, 2009, Federal Register limiting registration to grant recipients, grant sub-recipients, and possibly prime contractors of direct FTA grantees.
Based on this newest guidance, contractors providing goods or services to transit agencies that are themselves sub-grantees need not be registered in the CCR system. She also provided an overview of all ARRA programs, addressing additional certification and reporting requirements and use of the recovery program logos.
Robinson’s presentation focused on the new Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program, a section of ARRA that allows transit systems to apply for capital funding based on projected savings of either greenhouse gases and/or projected energy reduction.
Action on Data Elements
The FTA staffers also reported on another OMB action concerning the data elements FTA and other federal agencies will be required to collect under ARRA. They cautioned that the data elements proposed have not yet been finalized and that OMB collected comments on the proposal through May 1.
APTA’s comments urged OMB to minimize subjective requirements and to incorporate industry-specific formulas for calculating job creation and preservation, noting the difficulty and inconsistency inherent in requiring project-specific calculations.