Rome Transit Department

In this December 2019 file photo, a visually impaired woman makes her way toward one of the Rome Transit Department’s paratransit buses from the Rome Senior Center off Riverside Parkway.

The Rome Transit Department is going to receive more than $5 million to help with operation costs as part of the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress last month.

The city will get $5,456,603 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, according to an announcement by the Federal Transit Administration. The money will come from the federal government and will not require a local or state match.

“On the face of it, it sounds like a great opportunity for us to get some help on the federal level,” City Manager Sammy Rich said. “Most of the federal money we receive is reliant on a local and state match, but this is 100% federal. It seems like it’s a little more flexible than what we would typically get.”

The money is eligible to be used for all operating expenses to maintain service, as well as to pay for leave for any transit personnel affected by reduced operations during the emergency. Rome’s transit services have remained in full operation through the COVID-19 crisis.

Transit Director Kathy Shealy said she was surprised at the amount of Rome’s allocation and they will be grateful for anything they can use the money for in the coming months. She said there are currently no specific plans for the extra funds.

The allocation was first announced by the office of U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, who supported the CARES Act in Congress. Graves said he’s been working to make sure its funds go to as many municipalities in the 14th District as possible.

“I am impressed at how quickly the administration has been able to provide support to our communities during this health crisis,” Graves said in a statement. “We are already helping Northwest Georgia families, businesses and workers navigate these new processes and relief opportunities, and will continue to in the weeks ahead.”

The news of the transportation funds comes on the heels of the announcement that Rome will get more than $250,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding through the CARES Act.

Mayor Bill Collins said he has been in constant contact with Graves’ Deputy Chief of Staff Bud Whitmire in recent weeks and said he appreciates all they are doing for Rome.

“These transportation funds are going to be huge for our community,” Collins said. “I have told them that if we can get the same amount of money for our small businesses it would be really great. We will have many small businesses looking to stay afloat once we get all this behind us.”

The FTA was put in charge of allocating $25 billion in federal funds to transit authorities across the country as a way to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia will receive more than $520.9 million of that, according to information from Graves’ office. The amount each transit department receives is based on the funding formula used when distributing federal funds.

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