CARES Act portal creates innovative
way to serve public transit providers

ITD’s Office of Public Transportation (PT) is making things a bit easier for Idaho transit providers during a time of COVID-19 uncertainty and decreased ridership.

In late March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, providing some economic relief to Americans, and support to public transportation across the country. ITD-PT wasted no time bringing this federal relief funding to Idaho, working countless hours preparing and submitting a new grant application to the Federal Transit Association (FTA). Idaho was one of the first five states in the nation to execute a grant with the FTA, securing more than $27 million for public transportation.

CARES Act funding also came with more tracking requirements to monitor how the money is distributed and used.

“It didn’t take long for our team to realize we were going to have to go above and beyond the normal requirements for managing federal funds,” said PT Grants and Contracts Officer Taylor Bothke.

ITD's PT team innovated to create a CARES Act online portal, giving transit providers in Idaho a designated website to log on, submit back-up documentation, request authorization for spending, and self-generate reimbursement documentation. Data is also collected through the portal, measuring how funding is impacting our state.

“We saw this as an opportunity to innovate and build a new, more efficient system that brings clarity and vision to how this money is being managed, and the impact it is having on Idahoans” said PT Manager Ron Duran. “We want to provide complete transparency on how we are managing these funds.”

Duran says while other states spent $1 million to $3 million of their CARES Act funding paying someone to build an online portal, PT decided to create their CARES Act online portal in house, leveraging the valuable skillsets of their team. Grants and Contracts Officer Summer Hirschfield took on the task of building it. Despite maintaining her normal responsibilities, in just three short weeks, Hirschfield had built a fully functional portal, ready to change the way PT does business forever.

“It gives Idaho transit providers the opportunity to monitor and manage their grant award like never before,” Bothke said. “Providers have told us this online portal is the way of the future. We think this online process is mutually beneficial for not only our office and transportation providers, but most importantly the firsthand customers who are riding public transportation in Idaho.”

It is now mid-August and Duran says a couple of Pacific Northwest states report they are processing their first CARES Act payments. Here in Idaho, PT’s first CARES Act payment was authorized in May.

“The team’s (and especially Summer’s) swift action got this relief funding out to these agencies months sooner, allowing providers the means to increase and improve their sanitation practices, provide masks to riders, give admin pay to laid off workers, and ultimately keep their doors open,” Duran added.

“Keep in mind, all of this was accomplished with the entire team working remotely. This team continues to impress me with their relentless dedication and talent.”

Published 08-21-20