Tuesday, February 7, 2012

FTA Seeks Proposals for Next Round of Veterans Transportation & Community Living Grants

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has just published a notice inviting applications for a new round of funds under its Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI). The notice appears in the February 7, 2012, Federal Register, and also is on-line at the FTA Veterans web page, www.fta.dot.gov/veterans. Applications are due April 19, 2012. Project selections will be announced in the summer of 2012. Additional information for the benefit of prospective applicants is on the FTA Veterans web page; specific questions may be sent by email to VeteransTransportation@dot.gov.

As was the case with the first round of VTCLI grants, FTA wants these funds to be used for the establishment of "one-call/one-click" transportation centers that help better connect veterans, military families and service members with the range of transportation options in their communities. FTA again is requiring successful applicants to demonstrative substantive partnerships between public transit agencies and veterans/military stakeholders in their communities as a central element of how these integrated one-call/one-click services would be designed and deployed.

The bulk of the funding for this initiative is $25 million in FTA Section 5309 bus and bus facilities funds. Therefore, there are a number of statutory restrictions that may present some hurdles to prospective applicants: units of state, local or tribal government are the only eligible applicants; FTA funds may be used only for 80 percent of project costs, and the remainder must be derived from non-federal dollars or in-kind resources; funds may not be used for mobility management activities, nor for any operational costs.

New this year, FTA is augmenting the Section 5309 funds with $5 million out of its discretionary research account. This allows interested applicants to request up to $50,000 (or half their Section 5309 funded amount, whichever is less) to support coordinated planning, marketing, public engagement activities, etc., that directly help support the success of the Section 5309-funded project, but which expenses are ineligible for Section 5309 funding. These "research" funds would be provided at a 100 percent federal share, and do not carry any non-federal matching fund requirement.

For the most part, FTA anticipates it will NOT award any "Round II" VTCLI grants to projects that were funded in the first round of grants, which were announced in November 2011. However, "Round I" projects may be able to apply for the research funds if they can demonstrate that such funding is needed to help get their Section 5309-supported activities carried out more successfully.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Federal Transit Administration Shows Grantees the Money

If you're a grantee of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), there's one Federal Register notice you probably await more than any other. That would be the annual list of FTA's apportionments and allocations. With Pres. Obama having signed the FY 2012 transportation appropriations into law on November 18, those who depend on FTA formula grants have been waiting with bated breath for this year's announcement, which was published in the January 11, 2012, Federal Register.

This year's notice runs 71 pages in length, most of which is taken up in tables showing allocations of FTA's various formula-based grants to states and urbanized areas, along with a healthy dose of other useful and important information. Although no substitution for reading the notice yourself, here are a few interesting aspects to this year's apportionments notice:

1. It's not a full-year apportionment. Because current transportation authorizations expire March 31, 2012, FTA is able to allocate only half of the funds derived from the federal Mass Transit Account. Depending on what actions Congress and the President take this spring (more extensions? reauthorization?), it's reasonable to expect one or more similar notices later this year, making the rest of FTA's funds available....once authorized.

2. FTA is giving a "heads up" on forthcoming discretionary grant competitions. Now that Congress largely has given up the process of "earmarking" specific projects in appropriations bills, FTA, like other federal agencies, has more money available for discretionary grants of its own design and determination (subject, of course, to federal authorizations). So, in this year's apportionments notice, FTA indicates that there soon will be national competitions for (a) "State of Good Repair" bus & bus facility grants ($650 million expected to be available, solicitation of applications likely to be announced later this month), (b) "Livability" bus & bus facility grants ($125 million expected to be available, solicitation to be announced later this month), and (c) "Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative" bus & bus facility grants ($25 million expected, solicitation to be announced later this month). FTA also gives the heads up for this year's rounds of some other discretionary grant competitions: Section 5308 Clean Fuels bus grants ($51.5 million to be available, solicitation  to be announced later this month), Section 5339 Alternatives Analysis grants ($25.0 million to be available, solicitation likely to be announced in February), Section 5311(c) tribal transit grants ($15.0 million to be available, solicitation to be announced in February), and Section 3038 over-the-road-bus accessibility grants ($8.8 million to be available, solicitation anticipated in March).

3. FTA continues to use 2000 population data. The Census Bureau is still in the process of analyzing 2010 census data to identify urbanized areas, their populations, etc. Until these data are released, FTA has to continue relying on 2000 data for the population, population density, and other demographic factors in its funding formulas. Once released, these data may lead to significant changes in the distribution of Section 5307, 5311, 5316 and 5317 funds as places find their urbanized area status categorized differently under the 2010 census. To help prepare for these changes, FTA has launched a "Census and FTA Formula Grants" page on its website, which is in the process of being populated with useful, explanatory information.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to say that this 71-page document leaves FTA grantees with a couple of immediate assignments. For one, all current recipients of FTA formula grants know what steps they need to follow next as a result of the apportionments notices. Second, those who are considering the FTA State of Good Repair, Livability, or Veterans grants should begin doing some background research, as FTA has indicated these solicitations will hit the airwaves in the next few weeks, and will have fairly quick application deadlines.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

VA Proposes Rules on Forthcoming Transportation Grant Program

The Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning to launch a program of grants to state veterans service agencies and local veterans services organizations to help provide transportation to VA medical care for veterans in "highly rural areas" (defined in this case as those counties or county equivalents with population densities of less than seven persons per square mile). This program is being established as a result of Section 307 of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, which Pres. Obama signed into law on May 5, 2010 (P.L. 111-163). The legislation authorized $3 million per year from FY 2010 through FY 2014, and called upon VA to establish a program of $50,000 grants during this period to help states and local veterans service organizations address veterans' medical transportation needs in highly rural areas.

Before the VA can begin soliciting grant applications, they need to have the program structure in place, so they currently are seeking public comment to the rules they have proposed for this program. A notice appears in the December 30, 2011, Federal Register. While most of the proposed regulation for this program is simply a re-statement of the legislation, VA does have some elements that need meaningful input, such as the scoring criteria for applications under this program and the proposed reporting requirements for this program's grantees. Comments are due February 28, 2012.

For more information on this planned program, as well as the Veterans Transportation Service and other VA transportation initiatives, contact the VA's David Riley by email (david.riley3@va.gov) or phone (404-828-5601).