Sneak Preview: FHWA Proposes Changes to Uniform Relocation Regs

Jerry Ashworth
December 26, 2019 at 13:10:08 ET
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(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently proposed to amend its regulations implementing the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (42 U.S.C. §4601, et seq.), also known as the Uniform Relocation Act, to reflect changes prompted by the enactment of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) (Pub. L. 112-141), which increased the statutory relocation benefits and reduced the length of occupancy requirements.

Title II of the Uniform Relocation Act deals with relocation assistance. The major purposes of the law are to assure the fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced by federal or federally assisted programs or projects, and to ensure that such displaced persons “shall not suffer disproportionate injuries as the result of programs and projects designed for the benefit of the public as a whole, and to minimize the hardship of displacement on such persons.” The law accomplishes this by providing for relocation advisory assistance and relocation payments to eligible displaced persons. Award recipients must obtain some type of certification from all persons who are to be displaced as the result of a federal or federally assisted program or project, although they are given wide latitude in determining the level of detail needed for documentation.

The act also is discussed in the cost sharing and matching provision in the Office of Management and Budget’s uniform grant guidance at §200.306(i)(1), when discussing the determination of the value of donated property. The section states: “The value of donated land and buildings must not exceed its fair market value at the time of donation to the nonfederal entity as established by an independent appraiser (e.g., certified real property appraiser or General Services Administration representative) and certified by a responsible official of the nonfederal entity as required by the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, as amended, except as provided in the implementing regulations at 49 C.F.R. Part 24.”

In the Dec. 18 Federal Register, FHWA issued a proposed rule to amend 49 C.F.R. Part 24 to comply with the requirements of section 1521 of MAP-21, which increases benefit levels for displaced persons. The proposal would add a provision stating that if FHWA, the lead federal agency overseeing the Uniform Relocation Act, determines that the cost of living, inflation or other factors indicate the relocation assistance benefits should be adjusted to meet the policy objectives of the law, then the agency may adjust: the amounts of relocation benefits for reestablishment expenses-nonresidential moves; fixed payments for moving expenses-nonresidential moves; replacement housing payments for 90-day homeowner-occupants; and replacement housing payments for 90-day tenants and certain others.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time here.)

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