U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announces $25 billion to help nation’s public transportation systems respond to COVID-19

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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao delivers remarks during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's 'Infrastructure Week' program May 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Chao highlighted the repair of the I-85 Atlanta highway bridge that collapsed March 30 as an example of public-private work that helped repair the damage in record time. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Special to the
Opelika Observer

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced a total of $25 billion in Federal funding allocations to help the Nation’s public transportation systems respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Funding is provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on March 27.
“This historic $25 billion in grant funding will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who depend on them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
FTA is allocating $25 billion to recipients of urbanized area and rural area formula funds, with $22.7 billion allocated to large and small urban areas and $2.2 billion allocated to rural areas. Funding will be provided at a 100% Federal share, with no local match required and will be available to support capital, operating and other expenses generally eligible under those programs to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19.
Further, operating expenses incurred beginning on Jan. 20 for all rural and urban recipients, even those in large urban areas, are also eligible, including operating expenses to maintain transit services as well as paying for administrative leave for transit personnel because of reduced operations during an emergency. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about this funding are available on the FTA’s web site.
“We know that many of our Nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies, including those in large urban areas as well as pay transit workers across the country not working because of the public health emergency.”
In addition to the $25 billion funding allocation announced Thursday, the FTA has taken a number of steps to support the transit industry during this public health emergency, including expanding the eligibility of Federal assistance available under FTA’s Emergency Relief Program to help transit agencies respond to COVID-19 in states where the Governor has declared an emergency. All transit providers, including those in large urban areas, can now use Federal formula funds under the Urbanized Area Formula Program and Formula Grants for Rural Areas Program for emergency-related capital and operating expenses. This includes the provision of personal protective equipment or special-purpose trips.
FTA also established an Emergency Relief docket that allows transit providers in States where the Governor has declared an emergency related to COVID-19 to request temporary relief from Federal requirements under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 as well as any non-statutory FTA requirements.
Additionally, the FTA recently announced that it would provide a 30-day extension of the deadline for current competitive grant program funding opportunities, including: FTA’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program; Passenger Ferry Grant Program, Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) Challenge Grants and the Helping Obtain Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Program.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other Federal partners to provide guidance to the public transportation industry in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

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