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Hurricane Sandy Emergency Relief Frequently Asked Questions

Categories 1-3

Are budget revisions permissible for Category 1, 2, or 3 Emergency Relief grants?

Given the unique eligibility criteria for the Category 1, 2, or 3 grants, FTA will only permit budget revisions that meet the below criteria with prior FTA approval.

  • Budget revisions will only be permitted to shift funds from an existing Category 2 Activity Line Item (ALI) when a cost-savings is realized to another existing Category 2 ALI, should there be a cost-overrun or need for additional funds.
  • Grantees will be required to submit documentation demonstrating the cost savings and cost over-run involved in the budget revision.

If the grantee experiences a cost-savings or determines it no longer needs the funds obligated in other ALIs in its Category 1, 2, and 3 grant, then the excess funds will be deobligated. Funds that are deobligated from the grant may be available for future obligation by the grantee, should the grantee have additional eligible recovery costs that cannot be funded by its pro-rated allocation or its insurance proceeds.

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Does Category 1 include costs that have been accrued but not yet disbursed (e.g. for completed force account work and task orders)?

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.

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For Category 2, are costs eligible for an RFP issued before January 29, 2013, but for which the contract has not yet been awarded?

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

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Under Category 2, if a contract was executed prior to January 29, can a grantee receive reimbursement for future task orders that it might issue after this date?

FTA will make determinations on a case-specific basis, which may require recipients to submit contract documents to FTA for review. Generally, costs that are incurred after January 29th, such as by amending a contract, exercising options on a contract for additional work, or ordering previously un-budgeted tasks on an indefinite quantity contract, would not qualify for category 2, and would need to comply with all federal requirements, or would need to seek a waiver of specific requirements through the FTA docket as described in the March 29, 2013 Notice of Allocation. The docket is available on, and the docket number for calendar year 2013 is FTA–2013–0001. However, issuing future task orders on an existing contract for which funds were already committed (such as for storm clean-up/debris removal work) may be eligible under Category 2.

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Does the force account have to be approved by the FTA region?

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)."

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What if a project or expense is not cited in a budget but is paid for out of a contingency in the budget?

If the expenses have already been paid out of a contingency in the budget, then they are Category 1 expenses and do not require documentation of budgeting, which is for future expenditures. For future expenditures to be paid from a contingency, there should be some documentation showing either budgeting or approval of the use of the contingency line item (Board meeting minutes, for example). This documentation should be included in the initial proposal.

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Please explain the scope of eligible activities for “force account work,” under Category 3. What type of documentation is required to demonstrate that an expense was budgeted or planned for expenditure?

Force account is the use of a grantee’s own labor force to carry out a capital project. Force account work may consist of design, construction, refurbishment, inspection, and construction management activities, if eligible for reimbursement under the grant. Incremental labor costs from flagging protection, service diversions, or other activities directly related to the capital grant may also be defined as force account work.

Documentation can include a force account plan for the work accomplished or planned, or any other documentation that reflects that in-house labor forces were "budgeted" as of January 29th to accomplish the work.

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In what context does Force Account apply? Is that the normal work force or the work force that was used during the timeframe of the disaster or a combination of both? Additionally, in what respect does budgeted mean, again, in the context of the Force Account, normal or emergency and / or both?

It is reasonable to expect that transit agencies used (and continue to use) their own staff for response and recovery work. Agencies may have ongoing recovery work for which they continue to use their own forces, as opposed to contractors. Any hurricane response/recovery work done by your staff prior to January 29 would fall into Category 1, since the grantee is simply seeking reimbursement. However, if you have plans to continue to use your staff for recovery work that has not yet occurred, then those expenses are eligible under Category 3, as long as you can show documentation that the work is budgeted and ongoing. By budgeted, we mean an amendment to your budget that shows a line item for hurricane response, or something that shows you’ve moved staff off of regular tasks to hurricane response (Board meeting minutes, etc.). If you cannot show us that you have budgeted for that work prior to the 29th, then that work will still be eligible for reimbursement using the agency’s prorated allocation.

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How should grant applications be structured if an agency plans or budgets an expenditure, but has not yet issued an RFP? What if an agency has budgeted force account work associated with a project that has not yet been advertised?

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.

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Does Category 3 extend to work a grantee's contractor performed?

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.

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Competitive Resilience NOFA

Where can I find the materials that were presented on January 7th, 21st or 28th about the resilience competition and the Hazard Mitigation Cost Effectiveness requirements?

The slides and training guides from these presentations can be found on FTA’s emergency relief website. Please contact us at if you are interested in obtaining a recording of the webinars.

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If my agency provides public transportation service, but is not a current FTA recipient, are we permitted to apply to this program?

Any provider of public transportation service is eligible to apply. If your agency is not an active recipient of FTA funding, you must apply in coordination with a current recipient that is willing to receive and administer the award on your behalf. If funds are awarded, you would need to be a subrecipient of the award under the administration of the current FTA recipient. For such cases, applicants should simply provide a letter from a current recipient indicating their willingness to pass the award through to you as a subrecipient. If you are unsure of who can serve as a direct recipient of FTA funds, please contact your regional FTA office. In addition to larger transit operators, this could include State departments of transportation.

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If an applicant’s responses to the evaluation criteria do not fit within the space provided in the supplemental form, can we submit additional attachments to respond to the criteria? (NEW)

In general, responses to the evaluation criteria should be concise enough to fit within the space provided on the supplemental form. Additional files may be submitted if necessary for documentation or backup, however, the supplemental form must still contain a complete summary of your response to the criteria. If additional documents are required (e.g. letters of funding commitment, excerpts from plans or studies, engineering documents), these should be referenced specifically in the response to the relevant evaluation criterion.

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If a grantee combines related initiatives together as a single grant application, is it possible for another FTA recipient to manage one of those initiatives? Or does the other agency need to submit a separate application?

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.

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If an applicant can include sub-grantee projects in a single application, can a discrete amount of funding for the sub-grantee's initiative be flexed to FRA? Or would any project that requires flexing funds need to be an independent application?

In accordance with the answer to the previous question, if a portion of funds are awarded for a project component that must be undertaken by an intercity passenger rail operator, those funds may be transferred to FRA for administration. If such a proposal is submitted as a single project, the applicant must clearly identify the portion of the project proposed to be administered by the intercity rail operator.

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How can a grantee address project benefits that are not directly related to resilience, such as improvements to safety, asset management (SGR), or operational efficiencies?

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.

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What level of NEPA work needs to be done prior to applying?

FTA does not require that any NEPA work be completed prior to applying. However, applicants should have a reasonable understanding about the NEPA class of action required for the project, as this will allow them to develop an appropriate project timeline. If a project is selected, agencies are advised to consult with FTA prior to grant submittal and indicate in the grant submission if a 4(f) or Section 106 review will be needed.

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How should an applicant demonstrate the availability of local matching funds?

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.

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May an applicant request funding for resilience elements of a project that is already underway?

Yes, an applicant may apply for funding for a project that has previously been funded through FTA’s Emergency Relief Program or other programs, however, the funds must be for elements of the project for which funds are currently not obligated. This includes projects that are in the design or engineering stages for which federal funding has been received or resiliency components of a federally funded recovery project if the applicant can demonstrate it has not received sufficient funding from FTA already to carry out the resiliency components. Note that FTA will not allocate competitive resilience funds in cases where they would displace other Federal funds that have been obligated on existing projects. Projects funded from local or state funds may not be eligible if they did not receive FTA pre-award authority or if they do not comply with Federal requirements.

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May an applicant request funding for resilience elements of a project where the entire project is not currently funded?

The applicant must demonstrate that they have the financial capacity to complete the resilience project. If a resiliency projects is dependent on another project being implemented, the applicant must demonstrate they have funding committed (whether federal, state or local) to carry out the other project.

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What does this mean: “In all instances, FTA retains the authority to award funds in direct alignment with recipient acceptance of and continued compliance with Federal determinations regarding increased standards for floodplain management.”

This means that FTA will consider a recipient’s acceptance of a standard base flood elevation of one foot above FEMA’s best available flood hazard information as a minimum requirement for funding under this program. All recipients must indicate how this floodplain management guideline has been considered in project selection and design.

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What information is required to document that a project complies with FEMA’s best available information plus one foot?

For the ABFE+1/FEMA Best Available+1 requirement, applicants must submit documentation showing that they have identified the appropriate flood hazard area and the best available base flood elevation for the project location, or locations, as applicable. Applicant must also provide an explanation of how a proposed project was designed to make the asset resilient based on this flood hazard information. Applicants should cite the relevant FEMA map source and/or FEMA flood insurance study for the project location.

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Are transit projects eligible for FEMA’s Section 40l4 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP)?

Yes, however each state administers its own HMGP funds and determines how those funds are spent, in accordance with FEMA requirements.

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Can HMGP funds be used as local match for Emergency Relief Program resilience awards?

No. The only Federal funds that can be used in place of local share for the FTA Emergency Relief Program are funds, which by statute lose their federal identity and can be used as match for other Federal programs, such as Community Development Block Grant funds.

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Are grantees required to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of multiple resilience alternatives?

No, applicants are not required to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate multiple alternatives for protecting a given asset, although this may be a useful step in selecting and identifying proposed projects for this competition.
As a part of the evaluation criterion “Protection of Most Vulnerable and Essential Infrastructure”, applicants should explain how and why a particular alternative was identified for this competition. This evaluation may use FTA’s HMCE tool, or may utilize a similar hazard-mitigation focused BCA process.

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Can an applicant reduce the cost side of the HMCE analysis by providing additional local share, or sharing the project’s cost with another entity? If so, how should the cost of the project be reflected, as the resulting Federal request, or the total project cost?

No, the HMCE analysis should always reflect the total project cost, as the analysis is based on the costs and benefits of the project to society, not to the Federal government. The application should clearly identify both the total project cost and the requested Federal funding amount.

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Should travel time costs include both the time an asset is out of service due to a disaster and also the projected time it is out of service for repairs after the disaster?

Yes. Applicants should include the customer impact of repair projects together with the customer impact from direct storm damage in the same section of the HMCE analysis. Please show how each estimated interruption is estimated and how the user impacts are calculated for each. If multiple types of customer impacts are included, please provide a separate analysis showing how each was calculated.

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According to FTA’s guidance, the value of passenger time may be adjusted for regional differences. Can you please explain further how this number may be adjusted?

The standard value of passenger time in the HMCE tool is pre-set at $15.58 per hour. Consistent with FEMA and DOT guidance, this represents one half of the average national wage, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The value allows the HMCE tool to evaluate the benefits of avoided service outages or alternative services, as well as the cost of outages associated with project implementation.
Applicants have three options for this value:

  1. Use the standard value in the tool of $15.58 per hour, reflecting 50 percent of the national average wage rate.
  2. Adjust the value to account for regional differences, using regional wage information reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


    Based on an analysis of the September 2013 BLS report “Employer Costs for Employee Compensation – September 2013”, Historical Listings through September 2013, and National Compensation Survey data from 2010-2011 for applicable Census regions and combined statistical areas (CSAs, i.e. adjacent metropolitan areas), comparing regional average wage values to the regional average private industry wages resulted in the following adjustments:

    • Regional:
      1. New England (CT, RI, MA, ME, NH, VT): $18.38 per hour
      2. Mid-Atlantic (NY, NJ, PA): $17.59 per hour
      3. South-Atlantic (MD, DC, DE, VA, NC, etc.): $14.38 per hour
    • Combined Statistical Areas
      1. Boston-Worcester-Manchester (RI, MA, NH) CSA: $18.80 per hour
      2. New York-Newark-Bridgeport Mid-Atlantic (NY-NJ-CT) CSA: $19.40 per hour
      3. Philadelphia-Camden-Vineyard (PA-NJ-DE-MD) CSA: $17.86 per hour
      4. Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia (DC-MD-VA-WV) CSA: $18.25 per hour
  3. Adjust the value to account for regional differences as follows: Calculate one half of the average household income for the applicant’s service area, or for all public transportation users in the applicant’s service area, divided by the average household size for the population used.

Regardless of the approach selected, the same value must be used in all proposals submitted by a single applicant. If an applicant intends to use the third option, additional backup documentation is required, including copies of the applicable census tables, the calculations used, and a brief statement of why one of the other two options is not accurate or sufficient for the analysis. Other alternative approaches are not recommended.

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For public transportation projects is it legitimate to include benefits to passengers that accrue at all times, rather than just in weather events? For example, if one is building a new bridge that will be storm resilient, but this bridge would shorten the trip for all users, can the “routine” time savings be included as a benefit (along with all costs of course)?

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.

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Under what circumstances does the following text from the NOFA apply? “Additional information may be considered on a case-by-case basis, such as if an applicant believes that the information requested above does not adequately measure the proposed benefits of a project.”

If an applicant believes the FTA HMCE analysis tool does not capture all of the resilience benefits of a proposed project, the applicant should provide additional information in the qualitative benefits section of the HMCE tool, which is located beneath the projects apparent benefit cost ratio (BCR). Other benefits may also be quantified by an applicant and submitted separately, however, in such a case the applicant must submit a highly detailed explanation of how and why the alternative analysis differs from the HMCE tool. FTA will carefully scrutinize the justification, as well as the procedures and methodology provided together with the results of the HMCE tool.

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Can the HMCE tool be used to estimate cost effectiveness for a scenario where a 100 year event causes more damage than a 200 year event? For example, this may occur if a lower flood elevation (e.g. 100-year event) causes bridge-damaging wave forces to hit a bridge for a long duration, whereas a higher flood elevation (e.g. 200-yr. storm) submerges the bridge pillars quickly and protects them from wave damage. How can you account for this in the tool?

The HMCE tool is designed to accurately interpolate between two or more events with increasing total damages and increasing recurrence intervals (RIs). So for a scenario where a 100-year event causes more damage than a 200-year event; the HMCE tool would not accurately interpolate between the events and would underestimate the actual project benefits. Therefore, to produce accurate results in the HMCE tool, we recommend the following:

  • If there are only the two known RI events, then input only the 100-year event as a known RI event and omit the 200-year RI event to avoid an undercounting of project benefits and explain your reasoning in the documentation.
  • If there are three more events including the two known RI events, then input all the events as unknown RI events and let the tool estimate the RIs and group the results.

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How should an applicant account for the benefits of a project that affect riders of other systems, for example a ferry project that would provide additional service in the event of a disaster?

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.

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Can we assume that certain assets would experience increased utilization during a 100-year storm event? For example, a secondary terminal could see an increased number of passengers if damage restricts access to a primary terminal.

Yes, it can be assumed that certain assets would experience increased utilization during a 100-year storm event; however, data documentation must be provided to support this assumption indicating 1) the historical precedence for the assumption, 2) the estimated level of increased utilization, and 3) the basis for the estimated increase. In general, assumptions based on predicted behavior will require much more stringent documentation than for historic events.

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Can we propose mitigations whose sole or primary benefit is preventing disruption, rather than protecting an asset? For example, enhanced drainage in a yard could mitigate nuisance rain storms that previously resulted in service delays, but little to no physical asset damage.

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.

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Can mitigation of chronic climate-related damages be considered a competitive grant objective? For example, preventing repeated exposure to rainwater flooding into sidewalk vent gratings, which gradually diminishes the useful life of assets.

No. Resilience projects must be designed to reduce damages and losses from extreme weather events and other disasters, not to protect assets from exposure to typical weather patterns and other environmental factors. 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.

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Does the HMCE tool treat historic damages and expected damages differently?

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.

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What should an applicant consider in deciding whether a project is scalable?

Applicants should indicate when a resilience project can be undertaken either in multiple phases or multiple independent elements, provided that each phase or element can be completed independently and will serve to make the transportation system more resilient. If funding is not available for an entire project, FTA may consider awarding funds for one or more scalable project phases or elements. Applicants should identify the proposed scope and reduced funding amount for each scalable alternative, and must complete a separate HMCE analysis for each alternative.

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How many HMCE analyses are required for scalable projects?

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

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May an applicant request funding for repair and recovery costs that include resilience improvements under the competitive resilience NOFA?

No. This Competitive Resilience NOFA is for resilience projects only, which may include upgrades or other improvements to existing assets. Recovery project should be funded from the initial Category 1-3 allocations or the pro-rated recovery allocations published by FTA on March 28, 2013 and May 29, 2013. If an agency has repair and recovery costs exceeding the amount that has been allocated to date (less any insurance settlements), they should discuss this with FTA.

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Is there a defined time limit on expending resilience funds?

Although Section 904(c) of the Disaster Relief Act requires that funds received under the Disaster Relief Act be expended within two years of obligation, OMB issued a waiver of this requirement for grants awarded under FTA’s Emergency Relief Program. In issuing this waiver, OMB stated an expectation that Federal agencies and grantees will work together to ensure that funds obligated under the Disaster Relief Act are expended in a timely manner.
Based on the complexity of projects we expect to be submitted, FTA expects to award funds for major capital projects that will take multiple years to complete. While there is not a defined timeframe in which these funds must be expended, all projects must be undertaken and completed in accordance with the project grant agreement and all identified milestones.

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If a project comes in under budget, or does not require the full amount awarded, what happens?

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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Where can we find the Rebuild by Design risk criteria referenced in the NOFA?

This information can be found at:

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If a project is not selected for competitive funding, can it be undertaken using other FTA ER funds?

As an alternative to the competitive resilience NOFA, some projects may also be eligible for funding that FTA allocated to certain agencies for locally prioritized resilience projects on May 29, 2013. In general, these local priority resiliency funds were intended for resiliency improvements that are integrated with a repair project, or for stand-alone projects that are not complex and/or need to be completed quickly. Grantees should contact their regional office, which must approve local priority resiliency projects.

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Is integrity monitoring an eligible expense under the Emergency Relief Program?

Yes. As permitted by statute (49 U.S.C. 5324(d)(1)), FTA will determine the terms and conditions that apply to grants awarded under the ER Program. Accordingly, FTA requires utilization of integrity monitors for Sandy projects for recipients receiving over $100 million in funding in addition to the standard oversight program. Integrity monitoring is a project administration expense.

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Are short-term, modular, or temporary resiliency projects eligible for funding under the FTA Emergency Relief Program?

It depends. Capital projects may not have a useful life of less than one year. “Resiliency projects” are defined as capital projects designed and built to reduce the vulnerabilities of a public transportation facility or system to future emergencies or major disasters likely to occur in the geographic area in which the public transportation system is located; or to projected changes in development patterns, demographics, or extreme weather or other climate patterns.

All resiliency projects must comply with FTA’s useful life requirements for capital assets. FTA’s useful life requirements state that a recipient must reimburse FTA for the remaining useful life of any asset that is disposed of prior to the end of its useful life.

Useful life is determined in accordance with the purpose of the project as well as the type of asset acquired. Since the purpose of a resiliency project is to protect other assets, the useful life of a resiliency project is tied to the lesser of the length of time that an asset (or its replacement) needs protection or the standard useful life of the purchased asset. For example, the useful life of a concrete flood barrier around a substation that is projected to be moved in five years is equal to five years. The useful life of movable equipment, such as modular flood barriers, should be determined by the grantee based on guidance in FTA Circular 5010.

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Can I use local priority resiliency funds to pay for design costs for competitive resiliency projects, not yet selected?

No. Local priority resilience funds cannot be used to design projects that will be submitted as part of the competitive process.

However, the grantee has the following options for paying for these costs:

  1. FTA will extend pre-award authority for environmental work (to comply with NEPA) and design costs for these activities, permitting them to be eligible for reimbursement OR count towards your local match if the competitive resiliency project is selected.
  2. A grantee can use their FTA formula funds such as the Section 5307 funds to pay for these costs.

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Are design costs eligible expenses for the local priority resiliency allocation?

Yes. However, apportioned resiliency funds cannot be used for design costs of projects unless the grantee has documented the availability of funding for the entire project, including construction.

Additionally, a grantee may not incur capital expenses for local priority resiliency projects until a project has received formal FTA approval granting pre-award authority for the project.

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May a grantee use FTA Emergency Relief funding to increase its inventory of spare parts beyond the level that existed prior to Hurricane Sandy?

In general, the acquisition of spare parts is an eligible capital expense under FTA’s Emergency Relief program. Pursuant to the May 29, 2013 Federal Register Notice, FTA will review proposed local priority resiliency projects based on information included in the program of projects, including the resiliency justification. The acquisition of additional spare parts may be justified in cases where an extreme weather event or other emergency would accelerate the consumption of particular parts (e.g. replacement parts for modular flood barriers or pump equipment), where spare parts likely to be affected by an emergency require extended lead times, or where a higher standing inventory of a particular item has been otherwise identified as necessary as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Provisions of the DOT Common Grant Rule 49 CFR Part 18 Section 18.32 apply to the acquisition of spare parts.

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Some language in the notice says "repair to a state of good repair". Often that means replacing more than what was there because of advances in technology or design standards. That was an issue under Stafford Act.

Since a significant portion of the seriously damaged transit infrastructure was technologically obsolete, and hence not appropriate to replace in kind or restore to the exact previous condition, FTA will fund repair and replacement projects that bring transit assets up to a state of good repair.

Specifically, when repairing or replacing facilities and infrastructure damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, the following activities are eligible for Emergency Relief funding: 1) replacement of older features with new ones; 2) incorporation of current design standards; 3) replacement of a destroyed facility at a different location when replacing at the existing location is not practical or feasible; and 4) additional required features resulting from the NEPA process. The incorporation of improvements or changes designed solely to improve the resiliency of transit infrastructure is not considered a state of good repair improvement under this eligibility. Further guidance on mitigation and resiliency improvements will be forthcoming.

Rolling stock and other equipment used in public transportation that was damaged or destroyed before the end of its useful life may be replaced with new rolling stock and equipment.

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What is meant by heavy maintenance, since it is mentioned as being ineligible? If "heavy maintenance" could restore vehicles to operable status -- instead of scrapping-- you would call that repair?

Heavy maintenance generally refers to occasional or periodic maintenance on facilities, such as track work, or cleaning a station and making minor repairs to that station after the storm, as opposed to restoring vehicles to operable status. Repairing vehicles seriously damaged in the storm to an operable status is an eligible expense.

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How does a grantee request funds for emergency repair projects that fall outside the scope of the three categories outlined in the notice?

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.

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In the March 29th Federal Register Notice, there was an allocation identified as “Other” ($28,048,497) and described as being for affected recipients that may have eligible expenses not yet reimbursed to date? What is the process for applying for these funds?

If you are an eligible recipient and have eligible response and recovery expenses not yet reimbursed and you did not receive a pro-rated allocation in the March 29th allocation notice, you may be eligible for these funds. Please contact your regional office (either Region 1, 2 or 3) to apply for these Emergency Relief funds. FTA set-aside two percent, or $28,048,497, for affected recipients that suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy and who may have outstanding expenses. If your request is approved, you will be asked to submit an electronic grant application with the regional office.

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Please clarify what costs are eligible for reimbursement at 100%.

The 100% Federal share is only for specific emergency operations and emergency protective measures incurred between October 30- November 14, 2012 in affected areas in CT, NY, and NJ. These costs include: evacuations; rescue operations; moving rolling stock to higher ground in order to protect it from storm surges; additional bus or ferry service to replace inoperable rail service or to detour around damaged areas; returning evacuees to their homes after the hurricane; and the net project costs related to reestablishing, expanding, or relocating public transportation service before, during, or after the hurricane. Eligible costs include emergency protective measures (capital projects) intended to protect transit infrastructure from Hurricane Sandy and that were undertaken to respond to the immediate aftermath of the storm. Eligible costs incurred prior to October 30, 2012 or after November 14, 2012 are eligible for reimbursement at a 90% Federal share.

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How can my agency receive reimbursement for emergency recovery work performed after January 29th, and which does not qualify under Categories 1-3?

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.

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What is the starting date for eligible costs?

There is no fixed starting date for eligible costs, since different parts of the region may have started preparations at different times. Costs that were incurred in preparation for the storm's landfall during the time that the storm was forecast to hit an affected area are eligible for reimbursement at a 90% Federal share under this announcement unless otherwise noted.

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If an expenditure is not eligible under FTA, can it be handed off to FEMA?

In most instances, FTA's eligibility criteria are more flexible than FEMAs. We recommend that grantees first pursue FTA funding. However, if an expense is not eligible under the FTA program, grantees are free to pursue FEMA funds. FTA and FEMA have developed open lines of communication to ensure that project reimbursements are not duplicated and will assist grantees with identifying the proper source for reimbursement to the extent possible.

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Can project team resources be covered by FTA?

Project administration costs are considered to be those necessary and reasonable administrative costs associated with the implementation of specific FTA approved capital project activities. Such costs may be direct or indirect. Direct costs must be supported with documentation to show the nature and amount of cost including time and attendance records for actual staff time charged to the activity. Indirect costs must be supported with a federally approved indirect cost allocation plan. Project administration costs should be budgeted separately or included in related capital activity line item budgets. Project administration costs are funded as capital costs. While project administration is an eligible capital cost, general program administration is not.

Project team resources may be funded up to a reasonable amount, which generally does not exceed 10 percent of the total capital costs of the project.

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Is there flexibility to modify the grant based on existing/actual conditions as they occur?

Yes, but Grantees should consult regions on any special requirements for Sandy-grant budget revisions or amendments. Also, any grant modification that increases the federal funds (e.g. grant amendment) will need to comply with all Federal requirements unless the funds being added were part of the initial allocation for expenses within categories 1, 2, or 3.

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Are both straight time and overtime forces eligible for FTA reimbursement?

For all eligible force account and operating expenses, FTA will pay both straight and overtime labor costs.

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Can transportation development credits be used as matching funds?

Yes, recipients may use transportation development credits as local match for grants under Section 5324.

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If a recipient receives an allocation of insurance proceeds, will this affect the amount of Federal recovery funds available to them?

Please see FTA’s recent Dear Colleague letter and policy guidance on this question. If the Federal recovery allocation plus any insurance proceeds received together exceed the total amount of estimated damages, FTA will reduce the recovery allocation to equal 100 percent of the estimated damage. A grantee may request that FTA adjust the total damage estimate by submitting evidence of additional damage or increased recovery costs.

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What is the process for determining if a project funded under FTA's Emergency Relief Program (ERP) qualifies for the exception found in 23 CFR 450.324?

The FHWA and FTA joint planning rule (23 CFR 450.324) provides that "emergency relief projects" that do not involve substantial functional, locational, or capacity changes are not required to be included in the TIP/STIP. For purposes of FTA's Emergency Relief Program (ERP), "emergency relief projects" may include recovery funded projects, and if applicable, integral resiliency-elements for the said specific recovery projects. Generally, it does not apply to stand-alone or auxiliary resiliency projects funded out of a project sponsor's local priority resiliency allocation or future competitive resiliency allocations. For these category of projects and others that would not qualify under the exception, grantees must ensure the projects funded under this program are included in the TIP and STIP prior to incurring costs.

To qualify for this exception, the grantee must certify in writing that the project funded under FTA’s ERP 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 considered eligible for federal participation. If a Grantee is unsure whether a project qualifies as one of the exceptions, it should contact the FTA. If during the grant award process the FTA determines that the exception does not apply to a specific project that the Grantee certified, then that project must be programmed on the TIP/STIP. Absent a certification stating that the project qualifies as one of the exceptions or a previously issued waiver, the FTA expects projects funded under FTA’s ERP be included in the TIP/STIP prior to incurring costs.

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Are there particular considerations for including Resiliency Projects funded under FTA’s ERP in a TIP/STIP?

As the specific purpose of a resiliency project is to add protective features to existing infrastructure to minimize damage from future emergencies or major disasters, a resiliency project typically includes a “substantial functional, location or capacity change." As such, FTA expects project sponsors to ensure such resiliency projects are included or appropriately referenced in the MPO’s metropolitan transportation plan as well as the TIP and STIP prior to incurring costs. Please reference FHWA and FTA’s joint planning rule (23 CFR 450.324) for TIP/STIP requirements. Project sponsors are also reminded they must comply with other applicable pre-award requirements (unless specifically waived), before incurring costs for these projects.

While 23 CFR 450.324 contains an exception for "emergency relief projects" that do not involve substantial functional, locational, or capacity changes be included in the TIP/STIP, FTA does not expect resiliency projects, particularly those funded from the local priority resiliency allocations and future competitive resiliency allocations, to qualify for the reason noted above and given most are not "emergency" in nature.

However, there may be some integrated resiliency elements or projects specifically tied to a recovery project and funded from a grantee's recovery allocation that do not include "substantial functional, location, or capacity changes". Project sponsors should review the additional planning FAQs for more information about this exception and the process for certifying if a project qualifies. What appropriate funding assumptions can be made to include projects funded under FTA’s Emergency Relief Program (ERP) in a TIP/STIP? Per FHWA/FTA’s joint planning rule, a project must be fully funded from “reasonably anticipated” fund sources to be included in the TIP/STIP. To meet the requirement of anticipated full funding, sponsors of ERP projects must identify all the funding sources for the ERP project including the federal funds that FTA has allocated from the ERP to individual project, any required non-federal match plus any other funds required to meet the total cost of the project. Project sponsors should not assume the availability of ERP funds for a specific project if Congress has not appropriated those funds to the ERP, or if FTA has not specifically allocated ERP funds to the specific project. Projects that have been allocated ERP funds from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act by the Notice of Availability published May 29, 2013 can assume the ERP funds to be “reasonably available” to the project so that the project can be included in the TIP/STIP.

However, project sponsors cannot assume that any future funds that have not yet been allocated, particularly those that may be awarded on a competitive basis, are “ reasonably anticipated to be available” until FTA makes an allocation to a project. Once FTA makes an allocation, the project sponsor should work with the MPO and/or State to amend the TIP/STIP to include the ERP project, identifying all federal and other funds required to meet the full cost of the project. Project sponsors are urged to work closely with the MPO and States early to understand and plan for any TIP/STIP amendment procedures for project inclusion once FTA has allocated ERP funds. If my agency has incurred eligibility expenses, recovery and/or resiliency, in advance of having the project programmed in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Statewide Improvement Program (STIP), can they be reimbursed from my pro-rated allocations for recovery and local priority resiliency? It depends. Some grantees, in preparation for the 2013 hurricane season, have incurred costs on local recovery and resiliency projects prior to those projects being included in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) or the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Inclusion in the TIP/STIP is a requirement for pre-award authority. Given the short time frame for completing these projects, FTA has determined that it will reimburse costs incurred for recovery and approved resiliency projects if those projects are in the TIP/STIP by November 1, 2013. However, grantees are reminded that the planning requirement is just one of the pre-award requirements. In order to be eligible for reimbursement, the project must have met other applicable federal requirements (e.g. NEPA, procurement) or had a waiver in place. Resiliency projects also require FTA approval prior to incurring costs to confirm eligibility.

Beyond November 1, the agency will need to determine if we will permit reimbursement of costs incurred that were not in compliance with the planning rule.

FTA also already published guidance in a previous Q&A about exceptions that may apply to recovery projects that do not involve substantial functional, locational, or capacity changes. If you have a recovery project that may qualify for this exception to the planning rule (23 CFR 450.324), please submit the request in writing to the FTA Sandy Office. (here)

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Does NEPA apply to the expenses under Cat 1-3? If not, does it apply to grants for other Sandy-related expenses?

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.

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Is there a requirement to fully expend and close the grant 24 months from the date of obligation?

FTA has received numerous inquiries regarding the 24 month timeframe. FTA is pursuing a blanket waiver from this requirement for Hurricane Sandy Emergency Relief projects. Further guidance will be provided once it is available.

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Is Department of Labor grant review/approval required before FTA obligation?

No. Section 5333(b) aka 13(c) does not apply to the FTA’s Emergency Relief program or funds allocated under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013

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What is the period of availability of ER funds allocated to an agency?

Funds made available for the FTA Emergency Relief Program are available until expended, and thus do not have a lapse date. Once obligated, funds must be expended within 24 months. FTA is working to resolve questions and concerns regarding this issue and will post information as it becomes available.

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What is the process for requesting waivers for projects NOT in Categories 1, 2 and 3?

Recipients affected by Hurricane Sandy may request an FTA Administrator determination that certain terms and conditions not apply when the requirement(s) will limit a recipient’s or sub-recipient’s ability to respond to an emergency or major disaster. Recipients must follow the procedures as set forth in 49 CFR part 601, subpart D when requesting such a determination or seeking a waiver of administrative requirements. The docket is available on, and the docket number for calendar year 2013 is FTA–2013–0001. More information is available in the Notice of Availability of Emergency Relief Funding.

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Do projects funded under the ER Program need to be included in the TIP/STIP?

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.

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Will FTA permit a recipient to use Section 5324 Emergency Relief Program funds to support a sole source procurement, and if so, what is the documentation and the process that FTA will require?

While FTA may permit a recipient to use of a sole source method of procurement for a project supported by Emergency Relief Program funds, the recipient must seek and obtain FTA’s approval in writing. FTA will only permit a recipient to use Section 5324 Emergency Relief Program funds to support a sole source procurement, if the recipient articulates compelling written justification for the sole source procurement consistent with the Common Grant Rule, FTA’s Third Party Contracting Guidance Circular 4220.1F, and FTA’s Best Practices Procurement Manual.

Recipients must send a written request for approval to the appropriate Regional Office POC, and the recipient must provide compelling justification and any relevant supporting documentation for the sole source procurement, consistent with applicable law. FTA will review the request and if FTA agrees with the request, FTA will require the grantee to attach the sole source justification in TEAM, and the award of the grant will serve as the approval. For grants already awarded, FTA will document its approval of the request in writing (e.g. email), and FTA will require the grantee to attach the sole source justification in TEAM. The recipient is at risk for any sole source contract commitments made prior to receiving FTA’s approval. FTA reserves the right to review any project-related documentation at any time during project development.

FTA strongly recommends that recipients submit requests for approvals of sole source procurements as early as practicable in the procurement process. Recipients should not assume that requests for approvals of sole source procurements will be granted. If a recipient has not articulated a compelling justification for a sole source procurement consistent with the Common Grant Rule, FTA may require the recipient to submit a request to waive the full and open procurement requirements through FTA’s Emergency Relief Docket (available at, docket number FTA-2013-0001).

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In what scenarios will FTA allow a sole source procurement on the basis of “public exigency” or “emergency” under the Common Grant Rule at 49 C.F.R. § 18.36(d)(4)(i)(B)?

FTA only allows a sole source procurement on the basis of “public exigency” or “emergency” during a national or regional emergency or disaster and during the days and weeks immediately following a national or regional emergency or disaster.

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Will FTA permit a recipient to use Section 5324 Emergency Relief Program funds to support a limited competition procurement, and if so, what is the documentation and the process that FTA will require?

FTA has the discretion to permit a recipient to use Section 5324 Emergency Relief Program funds to support a limited competition procurement.

Pursuant to FTA’s authorizing statute at 49 U.S.C. § 5325(a), an FTA recipient is required to use FTA funds to support project activities using full and open competition. A recipient may conduct a sole source procurement in very limited circumstances under the Common Grant Rule at 49 C.F.R. Part 18.36. A recipient does not have explicit authority, by law, to conduct a limited competition procurement.

Notwithstanding this framework, FTA has the discretionary authority under 49 C.F.R. Part 601, Subpart D to waive its requirements through the Emergency Relief Docket in cases involving national or regional emergencies and disasters. Given this authority, FTA will entertain requests for emergency relief waivers from FTA’s full and open competition requirement, and FTA will consider requests to approve limited competition procurements. To be clear, a request for a waiver is not a guarantee of a waiver. FTA maintains the discretion to grant or deny a waiver request.

If a recipient is interested in pursuing a limited competition procurement, then it must obtain an emergency relief waiver of FTA’s full and open competition requirement pursuant to 49 C.F.R. Part 601, Subpart D and FTA’s Federal Register Notice of Establishment of Emergency Relief Docket for Calendar Year 2013 dated February 15, 2013 (available at, docket number FTA-2013-0001). A request for a waiver should be addressed to the Administrator, and it should contain a compelling justification and any relevant supporting documentation as to why a waiver should be granted. The recipient should upload its request into the Emergency Relief Docket. FTA will process the request in accordance with 49 C.F.R. Part 601, Subpart D. A recipient may not award a limited competition contract supported by Section 5324 Emergency Relief Program funds prior to FTA’s written approval.

FTA strongly recommends that recipients submit requests for waivers as early as practicable in the procurement process. A recipient should submit such a request at the time it determines the best strategy is a limited competition procurement. Recipients should not assume that waiver requests will be granted.

Is a “blanket approval” authorizing multiple change orders compliant with federal procurement requirements?

Federal procurement regulations neither authorize nor prohibit recipients from approving multiple change orders in a single “blanket approval” action. Although this action is not specifically defined under federal procurement standards, approving multiple change orders in a single “blanket approval” would generally be discouraged, but is not prohibited. There may be situations in which such an action may be reasonable and appropriate. It is important to note that Federal procurement requirements do not explicitly recognize a contractual action termed "Blanket Change Order Approval."

If a transit agency’s applicable state and local procurement regulations or policies allow for blanket approvals and the procurement official followed the applicable regulation or policy, then the blanket approval could be a valid procurement method for that particular transit agency.  A transit agency using a blanket approval should identify its authority for doing so in the blanket approval and include the document in the project file.   Likewise, if a transit agency’s procurement regulations or policies do not allow for or address blanket approvals, then a blanket approval would not be a valid procurement method.   

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Updated: Thursday, December 1, 2016
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