The “CV3” Bill’s $25 Billion in Mass Transit Grants – How Will It Work?
The third coronavirus response bill appropriates $25 billion from the general fund of the Treasury “to remain available until expended, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus…Provided further, That notwithstanding subsection (a)(1) or (b) of section 5307 of title 49, United States Code, funds provided under this heading are available for the operating expenses of transit agencies related to the response to a coronavirus public health emergency as described in section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, including, beginning on January 20, 2020, reimbursement 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 the administrative leave of operations personnel due to reductions in service…”
This is the most important thing to remember – the entire $25 billion can be spent on anything eligible under the above paragraph and is not subject to the eligible types of projects under normal federal transit grants. The “notwithstanding subsection (a)(1) or (b) of section 5307” part specifically exempts the grants from the (a)(1) requirement that, generally speaking, only transit agencies in areas of under 200,000 population can use grant money for operating expenses, and the (b) requirement that requires a lot of public reporting and hearings on programs of projects (implying capital projects, since this money is clearly targeted for operating expenses).
If there is any conflict between the language in the appropriations paragraph in the coronavirus bill and language in underlying title 49, the language in the coronavirus bill prevails.
The money must be apportioned to transit agencies “not later than 7 days after the date of enactment of this Act” and does not require the use of any local matching funding (federal share: 100 percent).
The appropriations language provides that anything funded by this $25 billion does not have to appear on “a transportation improvement program, long-range transportation, statewide transportation plan, or a statewide transportation improvement program.” And the language prohibits the Secretary of Transportation from waiving the labor standards in 49 U.S.C. §5333 for this money or for any other FTA money in relation to coronavirus.
The bill also provides that “unless otherwise specified, applicable requirements under chapter 53 of title 49, United States Code, shall apply to funding made available under this heading in this Act” with the exception of any federal cost share requirements, which (as noted above) are 100 percent federal for these funds. (Again, note the fact that in the event of a conflict between language in the appropriations paragraph of the bill and language in title 49, the bill wins.)
The bill provides that the money be apportioned via the §5307 urbanized area formula, the §5311 rural formula, the §5337 state of good repair formula, and the §5307 high density state and rapid-growth state formula, in their relative proportions to each other in the fiscal 2020 apportionments and using to the updated apportionment factors used in those 2020 apportionments. Here are preliminary estimates provided by FTA to Capitol Hill on how much of the $25 billion would go towards transit agencies in each state. (Estimates for each individual transit agency are not available yet, and this being a Senate-driven bill, they care much more about state totals than they do about city totals. Funny how statewide transit funding totals tend to only be produced by FTA when the Senate is writing a bill.)
Word of warning: §5340 is a formula, not a program. It is a formula “tweak” created by the SAFETEA-LU law to give extra money to some states but not others (thanks, Senate). Every year, the §5340 money for each state is calculated via its two formulas, then about 86 percent of that money is just plugged into the §5307 urban program and rest into the the §5311 rural program. (See how it worked in FY20 here.) This will work the same this time – the §5340 money merely serves to “plus up” some states’ 5307 and 5311 money more than others. Likewise, the appropriations paragraph in the bill provides that the money given out via the §5337 SOGR program “shall be added to funds apportioned under 5307 for administration under 5307.” So when FTA actually apportions the money in 7 to 10 days, it may show up just as three programs (urbanized area, rural area, and tribal, which is a sub-program of rural), with the other formulas already having been incorporated.
Dollar amounts in millions.
|Via §5307||Via §5337||Via §5311||Via §5340||Via §5340|
|Urban Area||SOGR||Rural Area||Density||Growth||GRAND|
|DIST. OF COL.||65.3||470.3||0.0||0.0||0.0||535.6|
|N. MARIANA ISLANDS||0.0||0.0||1.1||0.0||0.0||1.1|