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Emergency Relief Program FAQs

To view a set of frequently asked questions, select a topic and category based on your interest area. Perform a word search or choose a topic from the list.

Answer:

Yes, a project that prevents disruptions in the case of a disaster, even if an asset is not damaged, could be eligible. For example, a hurricane might submerge the entrance to a bus depot, thereby affecting service but not damaging the facility.

Regarding nuisance events, please be aware that funding in this program is designed to minimize impacts or prevent damage from infrequent extreme weather events and other disasters, which generally means those with a recurrence interval of 10 years or more. A project that protects assets against exposure to typical weather, but has no benefit in a disaster scenario, is not eligible for resilience funding. However, if a project protects against a disaster, but also provides benefits in typical conditions, the application may present these and other ongoing benefits as reduced operations and maintenance costs over the project’s lifespan.

Answer:

Emergency Relief Operating and Capital Projects that have been validated by FTA for Categories 1-3 do not need to be placed in the TIP/STIP. See February 6, 2012 FRN.

Other Emergency Relief projects, including those funded through a pro-rated or future allocation, are subject to the joint FHWA-FTA planning rule (23 CFR 450.324). The joint planning rule requires that capital and non-capital surface transportation projects (or phases of projects) within the boundaries of the metropolitan planning area proposed for funding under 23 U.S.C. and 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 be included in the TIP (and STIP) prior to incurring costs, unless the project qualifies as one of the exceptions listed in the rule. 23 CFR 450.324 provides that emergency relief projects are not required to be included in the TIP (and STIP) except for those involving substantial functional, locational, or capacity changes.

To qualify for this exception, the grantee must certify in writing that the emergency relief project does not involve substantial functional, locational or capacity changes and that the local share is available. The Grantee must submit this documentation to FTA in order for the project to be eligible for federal participation. Absent such certification, FTA expects Emergency Relief projects to be included in the TIP/STIP prior to incurring costs. Grantees may petition FTA for a waiver from this requirement by using the FTA docket process outlined in this Q&A document. FTA encourages grantees to work closely with their MPO in determining whether to include emergency relief projects in the TIP, and ultimately in the STIP.

Guidance for addressing Resiliency Projects will be forthcoming.

Answer:

Yes, FTA considers accrued costs to have been incurred, and hence are eligible under Category 1. It is our intent that both incurred costs, and incurred and disbursed costs are included in Category 1.

Answer:

No. Category 3 is for work performed by a grantee’s in-house labor force. Work by a grantee's contractor under an existing contract would be Category 2, unless it has been paid to the contractor, in which case it would be Category 1.

Answer:

FTA has determined, in consultation with Council on Environmental Quality, that the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) do not apply for Category 1, 2 or 3 projects as these are activities that were already complete, in process, or committed to as of January 29th. However, FTA has determined that other related environmental statutes, such as Section 106, do not apply to Category 1 expenses, but may apply to Category 2 and 3 expenses. For any questions relating to NEPA, please contact the FTA Regional Office.

For any other Sandy-related expenses that will be funded with future allocations (e.g. pro-rated allocation) outside of Categories One, Two, and Three, normal NEPA requirements (and related statutes) apply. It is probable that many recovery projects funded from a prorated or future allocation will fall under FTA’s Emergency Categorical Exclusion (Emergency CE) or another of FTA’s newly revised CEs. Resiliency projects might not fall under one of FTA’s CEs and may require further environmental documentation to be in compliance.

Answer:

FTA prior approval is not needed for force account plans (including justifications for use of force account) for purposes of emergency response and recovery work. Grantees are encouraged to update force account plans as needed for response and recovery projects on which force account labor will be used. For force account work to qualify for an allocation under Category 3, there needs to be evidence that the grantee had budgeted the expense prior to January 29, 2013.

For more information about Force Account Plans, please see FTA Circular 5010.1D, "Grant Management Requirements, October 1, 2008, Chapter IV (PDF)."

Answer:

No. The HMCE tool treats expected damages and historic damages in the same manner to estimate project benefits. However, because expected damages and historic damages are determined differently, there are different rules for their use (described below), and the HMCE tool cannot conduct an analysis based on a combination of expected and historic damages.

  • Historic damages are based on records from actual past disaster events. Since the recurrence intervals (RIs) of historic damage events may be known or unknown, the HMCE tool is capable of conducting analyses of historic damages with events of known RIs, unknown RIs, or a combination unknown and known RIs. (Refer to the HMCE Tool User Guide for additional details.) Historic damages must be documented based on damage reports, insurance claims, or other historic records.
  • Expected damages are based on damages predicted from a theoretical model or engineering analysis. For this reason, expected damages tend to be more difficult to justify than historic damages, and unlike historic damage events, the RIs of expected damage events must be known. The HMCE tool is capable of conducting analyses of expected damages with one or more events of known RIs. (Refer to the HMCE Tool User Guide for additional details.) Expected damages must be documented based on complete theoretical damage models, engineering analysis, or applicable historic damages with similar characteristics.
Answer:

If the RFP has been issued, but the contract has not yet been awarded, the project meets the test for eligibility under Category 2.

Answer:

No. Please see the response to the question regarding non-resilience benefits. In accordance with the intent of the program, the HMCE analysis is designed to only assess the resilience benefits of a proposed project, which are those that are realized in the event of a natural disaster.

Answer:

This purpose of this program is to provide funding for projects that make the regional public transportation system more resilient to future extreme weather events and other disasters. Consistent with the evaluation criteria listed in the Notice of Funding Availability, FTA will evaluate proposed projects based entirely on their resilience benefits and the ability of the project sponsor to carry out the project. To the extent that a project may have other incidental benefits, these may only be described to the extent they relate to the stated evaluation criteria. The overall purpose and complete benefits of the project may also be summarized in the project description.

Answer:

Emergency recovery work that does not qualify under Categories 1-3 may be funded under the prorated allocations announced on March 29th, 2013, or under a future allocation of Emergency Relief funds. Grantees should provide FTA with a list of projects prior to beginning work in order to verify eligibility.

Grantees have pre-award authority for the amounts allocated to them in the March 29, 2013 Federal Register Notice of Allocations, including for work performed after January 29, 2013 (and not in a contract, RFP or budgeted force account prior to January 29) provided that all federal requirements are met or a waiver is granted using the waiver request process detailed in the Notice of Availability of Emergency Relief Funding. Such costs are incurred at the grantees own risk, and there is no guarantee that such costs will be approved for Federal funding.

Projects that have costs in excess of the amount allocated in the March 29 notice must request a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) from the FTA Regional Office prior to incurring costs if they intend to seek Federal funding at a later date. The issuance of an LONP does not guarantee that the project will either be allocated funds or approved for reimbursement.

Answer:

In addition to allocating funds for expenses under categories 1-3, FTA has allocated approximately $1.4 billion to applicants based on projected overall recovery costs as detailed in damage assessments conducted to date and validated by FTA over the past several months. These allocations were published in the Federal Register on March 29, 2013. Recipients may apply for eligible projects in TEAM up to the total amount awarded.

Answer:

Applicants should submit one HMCE analysis for each proposed funding amount, including the total funding request and any reduced alternatives.

Answer:

The HMCE analysis for this type of proposal would show its benefits entirely in the value of passenger time. The analysis should describe the number of passengers who would have shortened trips, or who would be able to get to work when their other travel mode is out of service. Note that this type of project could have a positive cost effectiveness ratio even if it does not reduce any direct damages, provided that the social benefits of the project are large relative to the project cost. FTA will carefully evaluate the methodology used to estimate social benefits in cases where the affected infrastructure is owned or operated by a separate entity. As in other parts of the HMCE analysis, information from previous disasters would be valuable in documenting the impact on passengers.

Answer:

If an applicant is proposing to use their own funds as local match, the documentation of the availability of such funds in a capital or financial plan is recommended. If local match will be provided by a separate entity, a letter that promises the availability of funds should be submitted. Finally, if an applicant will need to raise funds for a project, such as through the issuance of bonds, a description and timeline for that process should be provided.

Answer:

Work that has been budgeted (but for which an RFP has not been advertised) is eligible for funding under the prorated allocation, not under Categories 1-3. The RFP, when issued, will need to comply with all federal requirements unless FTA issues a waiver to the applicant pursuant to the waiver process detailed in the Notice of Availability of Emergency Relief Funding. Force account work associated with that contract should not be requested under Category 3, unless it has independent utility and is not contingent upon a future contract action.

Answer:

As with other Hurricane Sandy funds, construction agreements are required for all projects receiving $500 million or more of Federal funds and FTA may require their use for projects receiving $100 million or more. FTA is evaluating the risk of each grant and/or major capital project to determine the appropriate level of oversight. Based on that review FTA will determine whether a risk assessment or other oversight is required.

Answer:

An agency may submit an application for a project that involves multiple subcomponents, provided that those components are part of a larger overall resilience proposal. If one or more of the subcomponents need to be undertaken by another agency, the applicant may either serve as the grantee for the entire award, and administer a sub-award to the other agency, or if the other agency is an FTA direct recipient (grantee), the applicant may direct the other agency to apply to FTA separately for its part of the project. In this second case, both agencies will be required to enter into an agreement outlining their mutual responsibilities in accomplishing the project and the terms of their coordination.

Answer:

Any funds awarded for a competitively selected project must be used for that project, consistent with the scope identified in the project proposal. If a project is completed under budget, any remaining funds must be returned to FTA. If funds cannot be used to complete the project as proposed, FTA should be notified immediately, so that funds can be reallocated through the program.

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