The Flint Hills Area Transportation Agency, also known as aTa Bus, has been awarded a $2.5 million grant by the Federal Transit Administration as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed in March.
The grant is part of $25 billion in CARES Act funding that is going towards public transportation systems across the United States.
Funds going to aTa Bus will be spent in areas such as operations and supplementing wages for employees whose hours have been cut back due to reduced operations.
“We’ve been able to implement what’s called administrative leave for those employees,” Melanie Tuttle, finance director for aTa Bus, said. “So if they don’t work a full 40 hours, we’re able to supplement their wages to get them to a more normal rate.”
aTa Bus will also use the grant to make up for the annual matching fees local governments will not be asked to pay in 2020.
Although the grant has been awarded, the transportation agency has yet to receive any of the $2.5 million.
“We are not given any money up front,” Tuttle said. “We have to spend the money first, so we have to apply for it on a reimbursement basis.”
According to Tuttle, the $2.5 million grant will only go towards aTa Bus operations within certain areas overseen by the Flint Hills Metropolitan Planning Organization, particularly in the Manhattan area.
aTa operations in other areas that are overseen by the FHMPO, such as parts of Pottawatomie County and Geary County, are receiving funding from separate grants.