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The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) yesterday held its organizational meeting for the new session of Congress as well as a hearing on protecting transportation workers and passengers from COVID-19.
Committee members and witnesses testified on the pandemic's impact on transportation sectors, including rail.
"Our transportation networks will take a long time to recover financially, and they may be forever altered fundamentally by changing workplace practices," said T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) in prepared remarks. "Transportation workers in particular have been hard hit by the devastating health dangers and significant financial repercussions of the public health crisis our nation continues to face."
DeFazio praised the transportation and its workers for their continued work in keeping passengers and freight moving during the pandemic. Those workers have continued to work despite facing a high risk of contracting the virus, he said. He criticized the former President Trump's administration for not taking more steps to protect the industry's workers.
"There is hope on the horizon with a new vaccine, new plans by the Biden administration to double the nation's testing capacity, and to mobilize 100,000 Americans in a new U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to conduct contact tracing, and implement a national mask mandate," DeFazio said.
T&I Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) noted the unprecedented amount of $113 billion that Congress has authorized during the pandemic to support different transportation sectors, including $39 billion for transit, $10 billion for state departments of transportation and $2 billion for Amtrak.
"We need to ensure that all of this money leaves the federal government and gets to the intended recipients as soon as possible," said Graves.
Also yesterday, the committee finalized assignments for its six subcommittees. Those assignments include the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, with Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) serving as chair and Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) as ranking member; the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, with Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) serving as chair and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) as ranking member; and the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, with Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) as chair and Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) as ranking member.