RELEASE: The emergency funding for transit and Amtrak is good but not enough

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Late Monday evening, Congress passed appropriations for fiscal year 2021 that included $908 billion in a supplemental COVID-19 relief package. Transportation for America and our partners the Alliance for a Just Society, NRDC, and U.S. PIRG released this statement:

WASHINGTON, DC: The Alliance for a Just Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), U.S. PIRG, and Transportation for America are happy to see Congress make a critical downpayment of emergency funding for public transportation in the coronavirus supplement to FY 2021 appropriations. Millions of riders—including essential workers—rely on transit to reach jobs, groceries, healthcare, COVID-19 testing centers, and soon vaccination sites. Additionally, 60 percent of transit riders are people of color. We appreciate that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize the crucial role that transit plays in our economy and COVID-19 response. 

However, this bill’s $14 billion for transit is less than half of what transit needs to survive—and it won’t be as effective as it should be because it is being provided through a short-term, halting approach. Many transit agencies could assume that they will not receive additional relief in time to prevent devastating service cuts and layoffs when this funding runs out in a few months. Transportation costs more and works less well when funded in short-term chunks.

This bill also gives state departments of transportation $10 billion in flexible emergency relief. We encourage governors and state legislatures to work with their transportation departments to use this funding to support essential workers, improve access to work and essential services for people whether they have access to a car or not, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce the impact of the transportation system on neighboring communities, especially Black and brown communities. 

Transportation for America appreciates the $1 billion in emergency funding for Amtrak in this bill, but this too is short of the $2.5 billion Amtrak needs to survive this crisis. Passenger rail provides critical connections for rural communities and big cities alike—losing reliable Amtrak service will massively hinder our economic recovery. 

We’re glad to see lawmakers from communities large and small, blue and red recognize the importance of transit to our pandemic response and economic recovery in this relief package. And we look forward to working with Congress in the new year to secure long-term, reliable transit funding that is necessary for a robust and equitable economic recovery. 

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