Applications for the EPA's Clean School Bus 2023 Rebate Program are due on Jan. 31, 2024.  -  Image: Canva

Applications for the EPA's Clean School Bus 2023 Rebate Program are due on Jan. 31, 2024.

Image: Canva

Applications for the second round of Environmental Protection Agency rebates through the Clean School Bus Program close at the end of January 2024. The EPA has compiled an updated list of questions from potential funding recipients to help expand available knowledge about how the program works.

School Bus Fleet collected 21 of the new questions that were added by Clean School Bus Program subject-matter experts in November, with answers relating to topics including:

  • General overview of the program.
  • Eligible funding applicants.
  • Eligible school buses and infrastructure.
  • Details of the application process.

Getting the Big Picture on the Clean School Bus Program

Will 2023 EPA Clean School Bus Program grant selectees be announced before the 2023 Rebate Program due date?

EPA: EPA currently expects to announce the 2023 Grant Program selections by early 2024; the 2023 CSB Rebate Program application will be open until Jan. 31, 2024, at 4 p.m. ET. However, EPA cannot guarantee grant program selections will be known prior to the rebate program deadline. EPA anticipates grant agreements will be awarded (i.e., fully executed) after the 2023 rebate deadline.

Besides the “Report to Congress,” what resources does EPA recommend to potential applicants preparing for future funding rounds?

EPA: EPA’s Clean School Bus website, found here, contains information on past and current funding opportunities, which may provide helpful insight for planning to apply for future funding rounds. For example, the website contains links to webinar recordings on topics related to planning for and implementing the deployment of clean and zero-emission school buses. In addition, the supplemental documents and related information from previous funding rounds may be informative for potential applicants for planning. Note that the specifics of supplemental documents and related program information may change for future funding rounds as EPA continues to take stakeholder feedback and into account.

Does EPA plan to progressively lower the percentage of funds reserved for prioritized districts in future funding rounds?

EPA: EPA intends to consider several factors, including stakeholder feedback, overall program goals, and alignment with the Administration’s Justice40 efforts when setting future rebate amounts and/or amount of funds reserved for any particular subset of applicants (e.g., prioritized districts). 

Can EPA provide any insight for future funding rounds? How many funding rounds per fiscal year? Will they continue to alternate between grants and rebates?

EPA: EPA anticipates offering a combination of grants and rebates going forward; additional information on future funding rounds will be made available on the CSB website when those funding opportunities are announced. Individuals can sign up for the email list to be notified of details regarding future CSB funding opportunities.

For current and future funding opportunities, does the application opening date represent the fiscal year funding?

EPA: For each fiscal year between 2022 and 2026, the authorizing statute makes $500 million available to fund Zero Emission (ZE) and clean school buses, and $500 million available to fund only ZE school buses. Since the program began, EPA has provided funding from the Clean School Bus Program through both grants and rebates. Given the high level of interest in the 2022 Clean School Bus Rebates, EPA is offering another round of rebate funding in 2023 and anticipates offering a combination of grants and rebates going forward. For both grants and rebates, EPA may apply funding from one or more fiscal years depending on the application pool and other factors. Please reference the 2023 Clean School Bus Rebate Program Guide Section 6 for more details.

Does the EPA have educational materials to share with local communities?

EPA: Please visit the Clean School Bus Program's Benefits of Clean School Buses page at https://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/benefits-clean-school-buses for benefits of electric and alternative fuel school buses. The Clean School Bus one-pager offers an overview of the program and is available at https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi?Dockey=P1016GOD.pdf. In addition, materials from recent webinars are posted on the CSB Webinars page (https://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/events-related-clean-school-bus-program).

Updates on Eligible Applicants for Clean School Bus Funding

Are applicants who self-certified for the 2023 grants eligible to self-certify for the 2023 rebates if grant program decisions are pending?

EPA: Yes, as long as applicants meet the self-certification criteria, they may self-certify in the 2023 Rebates Program. For more information, please see the Prioritization Self-Certification Instructions, which can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/clean-school-busprogram-rebates#support. Please note that buses can only be selected for replacement under one funding program.

Can a school bus manufacturer apply on behalf of a Joint Transportation Agency (JTA) that serves multiple school districts? If so, is the manufacturer limited to 25 buses or can they apply for 25 buses per school district served by the JTA?

EPA: Eligible third-party entities, including OEMs, may apply on behalf of a JTA if that JTA has its own NCES ID. In this scenario, the applicant could only be awarded funding for up to 25 buses.

Alternatively, or in addition, eligible third-party entities may submit multiple applications, each on behalf of a different school district served by the JTA if those school districts have their own NCES IDs. In this scenario, the eligible third-party entity may apply for up to 25 buses on Page 21 of 65 each application.

Please note that each application must list different existing school buses and that the school buses listed must serve the school district listed on the application. Please see Section 5 of the Program Guide for additional guidance on the application process and supplemental forms required for third party applicants, including the School Board Awareness Certification and the School District Approval Certification.

Also, Section 2 of the Program Guide specifies that any OEM that applies for a CSB rebate must certify that it is eligible to sell buses in the state where the school district listed on the application is located. Note also, that a JTA may separately be eligible to apply on its own if it is responsible for:

  1. providing school bus service to one or more public school systems;
  2. or, the purchase, lease, license, or contract for service of school buses. The maximum number of buses that the JTA may request on a single application is 25, even if the agency serves multiple school districts. A JTA may submit multiple applications, each on behalf of a different school district served by the JTA if those school districts have their own NCES IDs. In this scenario, the JTA may apply for up to 25 buses on each application. Please note that each application must list different and school buses and that the school buses listed must serve the school district listed on the application.

More About Eligible School Buses and Infrastructure

Does an eligible contractor that sells zero-emission school buses and/or charging infrastructure need to purchase buses and/or infrastructure from an entirely different entity?

EPA: Eligible contractors must not purchase buses and/or charging infrastructure from a parent company, subsidiary, or other affiliate to ensure that the contractor does not sell equipment to themselves and maintain ownership of that equipment. As such, Entity A, which sells ZE school buses and/or charging infrastructure, may sell the equipment to a school district or third-party transportation provider, but could not “sell” the equipment to Entity A. Please refer to Footnote 6 of the 2023 CSB Rebates Guide 2 CFR 180.905 for additional details.

Do the buses to be replaced need to be titled in the applicant’s name?

EPA: The buses to be replaced do not necessarily have to be titled in the applicant's name. The applicant organization is ultimately responsible for ensuring that program requirements are met (i.e., old buses are scrapped, sold, or donated) (see Section 9 of the Program Guide for details on scrappage requirements).

May the buses to be replaced be donated to the applicant by another school district? If so, what documentation is required?

EPA: Yes. A bus could be donated to a school district and then replaced under the 2023 Rebates program so long as both the bus and school district(s) meet all eligibility requirements before the application is submitted (see Section 3 of the 2023 Program Guide for details on usage requirements). Applicants should ensure all ownership rules and regulations are followed. All forms must be completed where applicable for any existing bus in the 2023 CSB Rebate Program (see Section 9 of the 2023 Program Guide for details on scrappage requirements). Please note that EPA cannot be involved with any contractual agreements between a school district and a bus donor it received a bus from.

Does the existing bus have to come from the school district listed on the application?

EPA: No. The existing bus can come from a different school district than the one listed on the application; however, they must meet all the eligibility requirements for existing buses listed in Section 3 of the Program Guide. These include requirements for operability and bus usage in the 2022/2023 school year. In addition, if the school district listed on the application is eligible for priority consideration, then EPA strongly encourages third-party applicants to replace existing buses that provided service to the public school district listed on the application, or another school district eligible for priority consideration; for details see the Prioritized School Districts list found on the 2023 CSB Rebates webpage. All replacement buses must serve the school district listed on the application as outlined in Section 3 of the Program Guide.

Curious About School Bus Wheelchair Lift Funding?

If a school district purchases an ADA-compliant bus, will they automatically receive the full $20,000 in funding, or will they only receive funding up to the actual cost of the wheelchair lift?

EPA: The additional funding for ADA-compliant replacement buses equipped with wheelchair lifts cannot exceed the actual cost of the wheelchair lift, up to $20,000.

Delving into the Clean School Bus Application Process

Can applicants of the 2023 grant program also apply for the 2023 rebate program? Further, can the same buses be listed on the next application?

EPA: 2023 CSB Grant selections are anticipated to be announced between November 2023 and January 2024. Applicants to the 2023 Grants funding opportunity can apply for the current 2023 Rebates program so long as they meet all eligibility requirements of the new program, including bus requirements. Please note that buses listed on a previous funding opportunity’s application, but not yet selected, may be listed on the application for the current funding opportunity; however, if selected for funding, changes may need to be made to either the grant project or the rebate application to ensure that distinct buses are replaced under each funding opportunity.

Can EPA provide applicants with a Clean School Bus Survey template to use with stakeholders when developing workforce training plans?

EPA: No, EPA does not have a survey for applicants to use in developing workforce training plans; however, please refer to the Clean School Bus Workforce Development and Training Resources webpage (https://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/workforce-development-and-trainingresources) for additional relevant resources.

If we applied for the 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate Program, can we transfer our previous information to the 2023 application?

EPA: No, information cannot be transferred. Applicants will need to fill out a new application for the 2023 CSB Rebate Program. The 2022 and 2023 Rebate applications include some differences in fields and thus information would not readily transfer between the two. In addition, applicants need to ensure that all information is accurate and up to date when applying for a new funding opportunity (e.g., SAM.gov account information, new points of contact).

Can an applicant complete their application and supplemental forms in tandem?

EPA: The 2023 Rebate Application Form does not need to be completed all at once; it can be edited and saved as needed. However, the School District Approval, School Board Awareness, and/or Electric Utility Partnership templates (where applicable) do need to be uploaded on the second page of the application before moving on to the Organizations/School District/Buses pages. If you want to access these pages of the application prior to fully completing the supplemental application forms, we recommend uploading draft templates as a placeholder while the remainder of the application and supplemental forms are completed.

If a school district were to get a new private bus contractor after submitting an application but before submitting the payment request form, can they edit the application to change the “scrapped/sold” buses to be from the new contract’s fleet instead?

EPA: During the application process, applicants must enter into the application the existing buses they plan to replace. If selected for funding, EPA can accommodate changes to the existing buses being scrapped on a case-by-case basis prior to the selectee submitting the Payment Request Form.

The selectee will need to provide sufficient justification (e.g., change in private fleet contract). Selectees requesting changes should note that the fuel type and vehicle model year of existing buses to be replaced can impact the eligible fuel types of new replacement buses per Section 3 of the Program Guide. EPA will not award higher amounts of funding to selectees based on revisions to applications after the application period closes, and EPA can only provide funds to the direct applicant.

To request a change of the old buses, selectees may email cleanschoolbus@epa.gov. If the request is sufficiently justified, EPA will reopen the application for the selectee to make changes to the existing buses. EPA will subsequently review the application and when the review process is complete, the Payment Request Form will again be available for completion.

Who is considered an authorized representative on each of the supplemental applicant forms?

EPA: The School District Approval Certification, School Board Awareness Certification, and Utility Partner Template all require a signature from an authorized representative. An authorized representative is any individual who has the consent of the applicable organization to sign on its behalf; for example, a school board member could sign a School Board Awareness Certification as an authorized representative.

Who should sign the School Board Awareness Certification if the School Board does not have budgetary oversight over the school district listed in the application? If another state agency manages the school district’s budget, then should an authorized representative of that agency sign the certification?

EPA: The School District Approval Certification, School Board Awareness Certification, and Utility Partner Template all require a signature from an authorized representative. An authorized representative is any individual who has the consent of the applicable organization to sign on its behalf; for example, a school board member could sign a School Board Awareness Certification as an authorized representative.

Impact of Selling, Donating Newer School Buses

Does donating or selling a 2011 or newer school bus impact the likelihood of being selected for a rebate?

EPA: No. A random lottery process is used to select rebate recipients. Scrappage plans do not impact selection. Please see the Clean School Bus 2023 Rebate Program Guide for a more detailed explanation of the application and selection process, as well as details on the scrappage requirements.

About the author
Wes Platt

Wes Platt

Executive Editor

Wes Platt joined Bobit in 2021 as executive editor of School Bus Fleet Magazine. He writes and edits content about student transportation, school bus manufacturers and equipment, legislative issues, maintenance, fleet contracting, and school transportation technology - from classic yellow diesel buses to the latest EPA-funded electric, propane, and CNG vehicles.

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