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CARES Act Provides $25 Billion for Public Transit

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The CARES Act (Title XII of Division B) includes $25 billion for public transit formula operating and capital grants to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. The bill provides that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) distribute the transit funds proportionally based on the ratio of funding of four specific programs: urbanized area formula grants (49 U.S.C. § 5307); rural area formula grants (49 U.S.C. § 5311); state-of-good-repair (SOGR) formula grants (49 U.S.C. § 5337); and growing/high-density states formula grants (49 U.S.C. § 5340).

The CARES Act provides almost three times (280 percent) the FY 2020 appropriations for each of these programs; and distributes the funds proportionally based on the ratio of funding for these formula programs in the FY 2020 apportionments.

However, it is important to note that CARES Act funds are only eligible for grants to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. Under the bill, the funds are eligible for COVID-19 impacts as if they were made available under urbanized area grants (§ 5307) or rural area grants (§ 5311).

The bill requires the FTA to apportion these funds (using FY 2020 apportionment formulas) within seven days of the date of enactment. The federal share of the costs for grants made available under the bill is 100 percent (at the option of the recipient).

In general, transit law requirements (Chapter 53 of Title 49) apply to these operating and capital grants. However, notwithstanding transit law limitations, these funds are expressly available for operating expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 beginning on January 20, 2020. These funds are available to reimburse public transit agencies for operating costs to maintain service and lost revenue due to the coronavirus public health emergency, including the purchase of personal protective equipment and paying administrative leave of operations personnel due to reduction in service. Although these specific operating expenses are outlined in the bill, other operating costs may also be eligible. These operating expenses are not required to be part of state-wide or metropolitan transportation improvement programs or state-wide or long-range transportation plans.

The bill prohibits FTA from waiving the prevailing wage and transit labor standards (49 U.S.C. § 5333) for these formula grants.

Source: American Public Transportation Association: "CARES Act Provides $25 Billion for Public Transit"