May 25, 2009
See numerous senior transit positions — including two CEOs, one assistant general manager, and a senior vice president — in today's Classifieds.
FTA: Navigating Through ARRA—Certifications, Registrations, and Reports
BY JAMES LARUSCH, Chief Counsel and Vice President-Corporate Affairs
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) includes not only long-needed funding for transit capital projects, but also unprecedented certification, registration, and reporting requirements. These new requirements have led to a flurry of rulemaking as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), U.S. DOT, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Congressional staffers rush to create systems that satisfy the need for transparency without unnecessarily burdening the transit agencies, contractors, and other recipients of ARRA funds.
Because these systems are being created quickly and—particularly in the case of FTA—the drafters are working hard to consult the transit community and general public as the systems are created, it has been a challenge to keep up with the latest information.
To help with this process, we have compiled the following guide.
The Easy Part: Certifications
ARRA includes three distinct certifications. The first (§1607) requires state governors to formally accept ARRA funding. Although you may have heard a great deal in the news concerning debate over some portions of the funds, no state has rejected transportation funds and every state has met the requirement. This certification is complete.
The second (§1201) is unique to the transportation programs and requires governors to certify that their states will maintain the level of state transportation funding planned as of Feb. 17, 2009. Again, all states have complied. DOT is reviewing the certifications, but transit agencies need do nothing more to complete the process.
The third (§1511) is a bit trickier. This certification says, essentially, that the project has been properly vetted and is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. The planning process is sufficient to rely on for this certification, plus your state’s governor may have covered all transportation projects in your state under a single certification based on the TIP/STIP process. Some governors, however, certified only highway projects. If that happened in your state, your mayor, board chair, or Metropolitan Planning Organization can make this certification. You can see the certifications on file with DOT here to review the governor’s certification and determine if you need a separate one.
Still Pretty Easy: Registrations
The transit industry has been concerned about Central Contractor Registration (CCR) requirements, and OMB has been unclear on just who must be registered. It is now clear that FTA grantees and sub-grantees must register in CCR.
At this point, it appears that the only contractors that must be registered are first-tier contractors of direct FTA grantees with contracts above $25,000. The good news? Whether a transit agency or a contractor, you have no requirement to complete the Online Representations & Certifications (ORCA) normally associated with the CCR process.
To start this process, find your Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number. If you don’t have one, you can obtain one free. You will also need other numbers and codes that amount to an alphabet soup of the regulatory world—including CAGE, TIN, NAICS, SIC, PSC, and FSC.
To follow this, see screen shots of the entire process here and download a user-friendly guide to assembling the various codes, which includes links to web sites. Your next step: click here and you are on your way. Ignore references to ORCA, part of registration you can avoid.
The Hard Part: Reporting
This is by far the most unsettled part of the process as the federal agencies and Congressional staffers continue to try to define the requirements.
On April 1, OMB published draft data elements the federal agencies would have to collect and asked for public comment. Comments closed May 1. APTA urged OMB to streamline the process by minimizing the amount of actual writing required, allowing small contracts to be lumped into a single report, and using formulas to determine the number of jobs created or maintained through the ARRA investment.
We don’t have a final decision from OMB yet, but will keep watching. You can always check APTA for the latest on this and other rulemaking issues.
ARRA contains three reporting requirements, and one outside the statutory requirements, to keep the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (House T&I) informed. The easiest is a report from the president to Congress on the environmental status of ARRA projects (§1609). To contribute the transit portions, FTA is drawing information already in the TEAM system and grantees need do nothing more.
Section 1512 includes a requirement for quarterly reports, the first one due Oct. 10. These are the reports for which OMB published the draft data elements—so it is still unclear what the final version will look like. We expect OMB to set up a centralized reporting portal for grantees to submit these reports; FTA is standing by to provide guidance once OMB publishes the requirements.
A requirement for periodic reports (§1201) started May 18. FTA grantees, however, only have to start filing these reports after they have an approved, executed grant. The upcoming reports are due Aug. 16, then each Feb. 17. DOT is still refining the reporting requirements and FTA will supply guidance once that is complete. We expect it to be filed through the TEAM system.
The final reporting requirement responds to the House T&I Committee. It is also a work in progress as the T&I staff finds ways to obtain the information the committee needs, establish standards to ensure the data is reliable and consistent, and minimize the burden on transit agencies.
The Bottom Line: Calculating Jobs Impact
The most difficult aspect in all these reporting requirements is answering the simple question—how many jobs did this funding create? To date, we have seen various proposals to count jobs in a variety of ways.
APTA will continue to work with the agencies and committee staff and advocate for the use of formulas to ensure the data is useful and that the data collection process does not overwhelm the process of rebuilding America’s public transit infrastructure.
Help is available as you tackle these issues. The best place to start is the FTA’s ARRA site. Be sure to check the page regularly and take advantage of the RSS system that will deliver update notifications directly to your e-mail inbox.