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The U.S. House today is expected to vote on a $2.2 trillion legislation package passed by the U.S. Senate late Wednesday in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation includes $25 billion for public transportation agencies, including commuter-rail operators. The funds will be provided through formula operating and capital grants to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19, according to a summary provided by the American Public Transportation Association.
"This funding is the largest appropriation in the history of the transit program. It will enable our agencies to offset some of the extraordinary costs and revenue losses during this difficult time," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas in a letter to APTA members.
The bill calls for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to distribute the transit funds based on four formula grant programs: urban, rural, state of good repair, and growing/high-density states. The FTA would be required to appropriate the funds within seven days of the legislation's enactment.
Also included in the bill is $1 billion for Amtrak grants to prevent, prepare for and respond to the pandemic. The bill includes $492 million for grants to the Northeast corridor, $526 million in grants for Amtrak's national network and $239 million to assist states in making federally required payments to Amtrak for state-supported routes, the National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association (NRC) reported yesterday in a newsletter.
Amtrak and transit agencies have reported significantly reduced ridership and farebox revenue since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. They've also faced increased operational costs related to their efforts to stop the spread of the disease.
In addition, the bill includes $31.3 million in budget resources for the U.S. Department Transportation and its agencies, including the FTA and Federal Railroad Administration. Those funds will help support activities for preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID-19, the NRC newsletter stated.
The stimulus legislation is the third bill in recent weeks that Congress has voted on to address the pandemic's impact on Americans and the U.S. economy.
On March 6, Congress passed an $8.3 billion bill focused on COVID-19 vaccine research and development; and on March 18, Congress passed a $104 billion bill that addresses paid sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers and families.