Education Law Changes in the 2021-22 Enacted State Budget Governing Eligibility of Certain COVID Transportation Expenditures for State Transportation Aid

On November 6, 2020, the New York State Education Department (the Department) advised school districts in a memo entitled “Transportation Reimbursement During Periods of Program Closure” that the New York State Education Law does not authorize the State to reimburse costs associated with keeping employees or contractors on standby, maintaining infrastructure, or other costs incurred when transportation services were not being provided to students during the period of school closures in Spring 2020, including costs associated with the use of school buses to deliver school meals, homework packets and WiFi access. The Department has been strongly advocating for statutory changes to enable such costs to be eligible for transportation aid for as long as some form of remote instruction is necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York State Education Law changes enacted as part of the final 2021-22 state budget expanded the eligibility of certain COVID-related transportation expenditures incurred during the 2019-20 school year for state reimbursement through transportation aid. For the 2020-21 SAMS Claim Year (2019-20 school year), school districts were previously instructed to submit claims for state reimbursement for actual costs incurred in physically transporting students to/from school. As a result of the changes in the 2021-22 enacted budget, school districts will most likely need to revise their 2020-21 SAMS Claim Year (2019-20 school year) submission. All revisions must be submitted in SAMS before June 30, 2021.

Please see the questions and answers below that are meant to provide guidance on the changes, definitions, and how to submit revisions in SAMS.

  1. How did the aidability of COVID-related transportation expenditures change in the 2021-22 enacted budget?

    - The enacted budget expanded aidability of COVID-related transportation expenditures in the following ways:

    a. Transportation expenditures incurred in delivering meals, supplies, and WiFi access between March 16, 2020 and June 30, 2020 are now aidable.

    b. Expenditures for transportation standby costs between March 16, 2020 and May 7, 2020 are now aidable.

    c. Expenditures for transportation standby costs after May 7, 2020 continue to be unaidable.


  2. What is the definition of standby costs?

    - Contract Transportation.

    Standby costs are defined as payments to a transportation contractor during the time that the contractor was not transporting students due to COVID related school closures directed by Executive Order. Standby costs do not include payments for actual services rendered, such as delivery of food and instructional materials. Standby costs do not include expenditures incurred by the Transportation Supervisor’s office (district).

    - District-Operated Programs.

    Standby costs are defined as salaries and benefits paid to drivers, monitors, attendants and mechanics (where applicable) during the time that the district was not transporting students due to COVID related school closures directed by Executive Order, provided that the district kept such employees on payroll and such employees did not claim unemployment benefits. Standby costs do not include any payments for services rendered, such as delivery of food, instructional materials, WiFi, etc. Standby costs do not include expenditures incurred by the Transportation Supervisor’s office.


  3. What if a district contracts for its transportation of pupils for regular routes, and some portion of the contracted costs are considered standby costs and not aidable after May 7, 2020. How should the district submit in SAMS?

    - Districts SHOULD NOT reduce the contract expenditures in Schedule J (column F(a)) to account for the portion of contracted costs that are considered standby and unaidable. If necessary, districts SHOULD still revise the contract expenditures in Schedule J (column F(a)) to account for the total expenditure amount paid to the contractor for any/all costs.

    - Districts should total the unaidable standby costs and enter the total amount in line 180 of Form FT (“Spring 2020 Unaidable COVID Contract Expenditures (Regular Routes)”).


  4. What if a district contracts for its transportation of pupils, and some portion of the contracted cost is for delivery of meals, supplies, and WiFi provided between March 16, 2020 and June 30, 2020 and aidable. How should the district submit these aidable expenditures in SAMS?

    - Districts should include these costs together with costs associated with transportation of pupils for regular routes (Schedule J (column F(a)).


  5. What if a district operates its own transportation of pupils, and some portion of salaries and benefits are considered standby costs and not aidable after May 7, 2020. How should the district submit in SAMS?

    - Districts should not revise/reduce the ST-3 salary amount (line 300 of Schedule A4c). The unaidable portion of salary should be totaled and entered in line 181 of Form FT (“Spring 2020 Unaidable COVID Noninstructional Salaries (Not Supervisor’s Office)”).

    - Districts should not revise/reduce the benefit amount on Form FT (line 117). The unaidable portion of benefits should be totaled and entered in line 182 of Form FT (“Spring 2020 Unaidable COVID Employee Benefits for Transportation Employees (Not Supervisor’s Office)”).


  6. What if a district operates its own transportation of pupils and has incurred expenditures for delivery of meals, supplies, and WiFi provided between March 16, 2020 and June 30, 2020. How should the district submit these costs in SAMS?

    - Districts should include aidable costs together with salary and benefit costs and mileage associated with the transportation of pupils.

    - If a district incurs additional mileage, such mileage should be added to line 111 of Form FT.

    - If a district incurs additional salary, such additional salary should be added to line 300 of Schedule A4c of the ST-3.

    - If a district incurs additional benefits, such additional benefits should be added to line 117 of Form FT.


  7. What if a district utilizes Public Service Carrier (SAMS Schedule K) for its transportation of pupils for regular routes, and some portion of the Public Service Carrier costs are considered standby costs and not aidable after May 7, 2020. How should the district submit in SAMS?

    - Districts should NOT revise/reduce the Public Service Carrier expenditures in Schedule K (Column E).

    - Districts should total the unaidable Standby Costs and enter the total amount in line 183 of Form FT (“Spring 2020 Unaidable COVID Public Service Carrier Expenditures”).


  8. How should a district pro-rate expenditures for standby costs?

    - For purposes of calculating standby costs, districts should pro-rate expenditures by factoring out standby costs during the timeframe between May 8, 2020 and June 30, 2020, if and when services were not rendered.

    - The following examples are meant to speak generally to the concept of adjusting the aidable expenditures to account for any unaidable standby costs (as defined separately in question and answer #2). The 180 days in the examples may not be appropriate for every scenario. The Standby costs that you are reporting on Form FT should reflect the standby costs for the May 8-June 30th time period. For district-specific interpretation, we suggest consulting with district’s counsel and advisors.

    For example, District A contracts for its transportation of pupils and scheduled 150 session days prior to May 7, 2020 and paid $100,000 on a contract for the entire school year. District A should report $16,667 (30/180 * $100,000) on line 180 of Form FT. Note the district should NOT revise/reduce Schedule J amounts.

    For example, District B operates its own transportation of pupils and scheduled 150 session days prior to May 7, 2020 and paid $100,000 for salary and $100,000 for benefits for the entire school year. District B should not revise the salary amount on the ST-3 but report $16,667 (30/180 * $100,000) on line 181 of Form FT. District B should not revise the benefit amount on line 117 of Form FT but report $16,667 (30/180 * $100,000) on line 182 in Form FT.

    For example, District C utilizes Public Service Carriers for its transportation of pupils and scheduled 150 session days prior to May 7, 2020 and paid $100,000 to Public Service Carriers for the entire school year. District C should report $16,667 (30/180 * $100,000) on line 183 of Form FT. Note the district should NOT revise/reduce Schedule K amounts.


  9. What if a district is in litigation or pending litigation with a contractor. How should the district submit in SAMS?

    - Districts should not claim legal fees (legal fees are not aidable and should not be entered anywhere in form FT in SAMS).

    - Districts should not claim expenditures for pending litigation.

    - Districts should contact State Aid for specifics regarding how and when to submit claim information in SAMS for a future settlement or verdict expense.


  10. In general, regardless of the type of routes, what if a district contracts for services but does not end up paying for such services (services were not rendered). How should the district submit in SAMS?

    - Districts should only submit the amount that is paid to the contractor in Schedule J.


  11. If a district revises aidable transportation expenditures by June 30, 2021, when should the district expect these adjustments to affect state aid payments?

    - If a district submits a revision by June 30, 2021 to transportation expenditures, the next scheduled General Aid Payment in September 2021 will reflect this adjustment. Future payments may also be impacted if a reduction to aid occurs and the September payment has insufficient Aid monies to cover the take-back.


  12. Are payments to transportation contractors for Spring 2020 eligible for transportation aid?

    -Payments made to transportation contractors for Spring 2020 services, whether standby costs or for providing actual services (delivery of food, materials and supplies, Wi-Fi) will be eligible for transportation aid depending on the time frames provided for in the enacted state budget (see §§20 and 22 of Part A of Chapter 56 of the Laws of 2021):

    - Standby costs incurred between March 16, 2020 and May 7, 2020 are eligible.
    - Provision of actual services between March 16, 2020 and June 30, 2020 are eligible.

  13. If a district made a payment to transportation contractors after June 30, 2020 (for 19-20 school year contracts), which year in SAMS should the expenditure be reported?

    -Whether a district paid for such services before June 30, 2020 or some time after the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year will not impact eligibility. If payments for such time period are (were) made after July 1, 2020, districts should report those payments in the SAMS 2020-21 Claim Year according to the procedures outlined in this guidance document.


  14. Did the enacted budget include any provisions regarding payments to contractors?

    -The language that was included in the state budget addressed the eligibility for transportation aid of certain transportation expenditures for particular time periods in Spring 2020. It did not include any provisions related to district payments to transportation contractors. Any such payments are still subject to all applicable laws, regulations, and district policies regarding budgeting and procurement.


  15. Are maintenance costs considered standby costs?

    -Maintenance costs are considered standby costs only when services were not rendered. Maintenance costs are eligible for transportation aid according to the time frame for such costs as indicated in this guidance.

Information and Assistance

For specific questions about SAMS revisions, please contact the State Aid Office by email at OMSSAMS@nysed.gov.

For specific questions about aid eligibility, please contact the Pupil Transportation Unit at 518-474-6541 or email Pupil Transportation Unit

Last Updated: May 13, 2021