On January 29, President Obama signed into law the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 to help the victims of last fall's Hurricane Sandy. A key feature of that law is $10.9 billion in funding for the Federal Transit Administration's new Emergency Relief Program. And today, the FTA is making available the first $2 billion of those funds to transit systems hardest hit by the storm.
The special disaster appropriation requires the FTA to issue interim regulations before the remainder of the $10.9 billion is released. But this initial $2 billion is certainly welcome relief to many transit agencies on the East Coast.
We'll use it to reimburse transit agencies for extraordinary expenses incurred to protect workers and equipment before and after the hurricane hit, and support urgently needed repairs to seriously damaged transit systems and facilities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and elsewhere.
FTA’s Emergency Relief Program was established last summer under the two-year surface transportation law, MAP-21. The special disaster relief the President signed last week provides funds for the program so that FTA can respond to the worst transit damage in our nation's history.
As FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said, "Damage from this storm directly affected well over one-third of the nation’s transit. We are pledged to distribute the emergency relief funding responsibly and quickly to ensure that transit riders have the reliable service they need and deserve."
The funds will be awarded on a rolling basis, in the form of grants to states, local governments, transit agencies and other organizations that own or operate transit systems damaged by the storm. Information about the funds and how to apply is available at www.fta.dot.gov/emergencyrelief.
FTA will begin accepting applications for response and recovery costs already paid, existing contracts and commitments, and contracts out for bid but not yet finalized. Applications for these categories are due by March 4.
Despite the magnitude of the storm's damage, in some ways, we are actually ahead of the curve on this recovery effort. Following the storm, we developed a rapid-response strategy to assist transit providers in the short-run, while laying the foundation for the responsible administration of the transit funds that are now available.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and FTA have conducted damage assessments and cost-estimates for both operating and capital costs associated with restoring and rebuilding transit in the impacted areas. These early efforts boost our ability to support the affected transit agencies promptly while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly.
Last fall's storm presented a tremendously difficult challenge to residents and local and state governments. I'm proud to know that the federal government's response has been of some relief, and with today's announcement, we can continue to help these hard-hit communities rebuild.