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American Public Transportation Association (APTA) leaders and transit industry executives hosted a press call yesterday to explain why they're seeking additional federal stimulus relief to offset transit agencies' extraordinary revenue losses and cost increases related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
APTA recently called on Congress to provide nearly $24 billion in additional emergency funding, while a coalition of some of the nation's largest transit agencies are calling for an additional $32 billion in funding.
"It is imperative that agencies receive federal support so that they can survive and help our nation recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas on the call. "Without significant additional emergency funding, we will not be able to serve our essential riders, as well as help our communities recover both economically and socially."
The $27.8 billion in emergency funding is needed beyond the $25 billion provided to the industry under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), which helped address an immediate need to keep operations intact for essential service, APTA leaders said. Agency budgets continue to be hammered by revenue losses, as ridership has plummeted under states' stay-at-home orders, they added.
APTA Chairwoman Nuria Fernandez, who is general manager and CEO of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in California, said the pandemic has prompted the industry to rethink how it will operate in a post-pandemic environment. Fernandez recently established an industry recovery task force to "create a national roadmap for public transportation" in a post-COVID-19 world.
"COVID-19 has helped all of us to think and plan differently," she said. "There will be challenges to returning to near-normal service."
During the press call, APTA officials noted that U.S. House Democratic leaders yesterday unveiled a $3 trillion federal coronavirus rescue bill, which included $15.75 billion for operating assistance grants to support transit agencies that require additional assistance to maintain basic service.
Asked to comment on the proposal, Skoutelas — noting that APTA officials hadn't yet been able to study the legislation — said the association is "very appreciative" of support the industry has received in Congress and from the Trump administration during the crisis. However, the $15.75 billion falls short of what public transportation will need to survive and help local, state and the national economies recover from the pandemic, he said.