The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program is Open!

Your NY School District Can Apply for Federal Funds for Autogas Buses

propane bus new yorkThe Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program opened on May 20, 2022. The program is open for 90 days, closing on August 19, 2022. This program, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, exponentially increases the amount of funding available toward clean school bus purchases, and $250 million will be put towards “alternative fuel school buses,” including low-emissions propane!

Who Should Apply to the Program?

All school districts can apply for funds. However, the Clean School Bus Program provides “priority selection criteria” to three types of school bus fleets:

  • High Need School Districts and low-income areas based on the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) as having 20% or more students living in poverty. You can study these districts using the SAIPE mapping feature. If your district isn’t listed in SAIPE, there is a “self-certification” potential that can apply to charter schools having 20% or more students residing in poverty.
  • Rural School Districts with locale codes “43-Rural: Remote” and “42- Rural: Distant,” as identified by the National Center for Education Studies.
  • Tribal School Districts

For a good introduction to the Clean School Bus Program, check out School Transportation News’ excellent article.

How to Apply for Clean School Bus Program Funds

Navigating the EPA’s application process can be somewhat complicated, but if you follow the directions exactly, you have a chance of receiving funding through the program.

The first necessary step is registering for a System for Awards Management account (SAM). You should start this process now — it’s time-consuming and can take weeks. A SAM is a federal government registration account needed for any federal program. Before you start, find out if your organization already has this because you do not want to duplicate registrations. If you do not have it, you will need information on many details of the organization. We recommend that your finance department make this account, as they should have all the necessary information. They should place a person from the Transportation Department into the “points of contact” section, as whoever submits the EPA application must be one of the e-mails listed in the account.

SAM is the placeholder in the federal database system that allows the feds to recognize your organization, find you, pay your grant money and other important things. It is ESSENTIAL to do this correctly.

The federal government has generated a SAM Quick Start Guide, which you can look at here.

Bear in mind that you will receive many log-in accounts and special numbers — keep careful track of this log-in information. The system will generate an MPIN, which is a crucial number that must be saved carefully (they do not tell you this in the process). Likewise, the system will generate a CAGE code for the organization, which is also a significant number to save.

Remember, whomever you list as the government business point of contact (EBIZ POC) is a vital role. All the account administration and the ability to edit your account flows through their e-mail address.

The Bottom Line

With New York State’s recent move towards legislating “zero-emission school buses” — meaning electric school buses — now is the time to acquire affordable, low-emissions propane vehicles. Propane is substantially less expensive than diesel or gasoline, and the increased cost of a propane school bus is small (approximately $7,500) in comparison to electric.

The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program requires the scrapping or removal of existing buses. Please review the program to understand which vehicles qualify and which don’t. For a propane school bus, you would be required to scrap a 2010 or older diesel unit.

You can access the EPA’s Clean School Bus program web page here. We recommend that you sign up for the EPA’s explanatory webinars. Also, your local Clean Cities Coalition should be able to offer some advice. Get started now!