Demand doubles Clean School Bus rebate program to nearly $1B

When announced in the spring, the Clean School Bus Program rebate administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was set to provide only $500 million to applicants, though the program had promised to provide $1 billion a year for five years for the replacement of zero- and low-emission school buses.

School Transportation News reported in April that the EPA announced the lower funding because it was concerned it would receive too few applications in year one, and that more funding could be released later. 

That came to be Sept. 29, when the EPA announced it is nearly doubling the rebate funding because of the number of applications. The agency said demand for the clean vehicles surpassed expectations, and that school districts from all 50 states applied.

The application process closed in August, and the agency received about 2,000 applications requesting nearly $4 billion for over 12,000 buses. The agency said more than 90% of requests were for zero-emission electric buses. Nearly 9% of applications were for propane buses and 1% of requests were for compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.

Priority given to low-income

The agency said a vast majority of the applicants met the priority definition under the Clean School Bus Program, which prioritized low-income, rural and tribal communities. The program also delivers on the Biden administration’s Justice40 commitment, which aims to deliver 40% of benefits from certain federal programs to underserved or overburdened communities.

“In May, EPA had announced the availability of $500 million, but given overwhelming demand from school districts across the country, including in low-income communities, tribal nations, and territories, EPA is nearly doubling the amount of funding that will be awarded to $965 million,” the press release stated.

The agency added it will move swiftly to review applications and expects to issue awards next month.

“Thanks to the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration and the president’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re working across all 50 states to accelerate the transition to a future where clean, zero-emissions school buses are the American standard,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “America’s school districts delivered this message loud and clear – we must replace older, dirty diesel school buses. Together, we can reduce climate pollution, improve air quality, and reduce the risk of health impacts like asthma for as many as 25 million children who ride the bus every day.”

This is the first of several funding opportunities for the multiyear Clean School Bus Program, the EPA said, adding that it anticipates running both a grant competition and another rebate program in 2023, with another $1 billion in funding. “The agency encourages school districts not selected in the first round of rebates – and those that did not apply this funding cycle – to participate in future rounds,” it said in a news release.

Reprinted with permission from School Transportation News. Read the original post.

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