FTA allocates $14 billion in COVID-19 emergency funding

Jan. 11, 2021
The funds are the second round of federal emergency funding relief and comes with a directive for transit providers to prioritize payroll and operational needs.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has allocated the $14 billion provided through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSAA), which was signed into law at the end of December. The law mandated the funds be allocated within 30 days of enactment and the FTA completed the task more than two weeks ahead of the deadline.  

"We know that many of our nation’s public transportation systems continue to face challenges due to COVID-19, and these supplemental funds will help ensure that safe transit services remain available for riders traveling to jobs, health care and other essential services in communities across America," said FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams.

This is the second round of emergency relief funding provided to the U.S. transit industry following the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed at the end of March 2020 and provided $25 billion to the industry.

Funding through CRRSAA, like the CARES Act, is at 100-percent federal share with no local match required. CRRSAA provides $13.27 billion for urbanized area formula funds, $678.2 million allocated to rural areas and tribes and $50 million allocated for the enhanced mobility of seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Within the urbanized area formula funds, $12.3 billion has been allocated to areas with populations above one million, $745.5 million has been allocated to areas with populations between 200,000 and 999,999 and $208.6 million has been allocated to areas with populations between 50,000 and 199,999.

The additional emergency funding has halted layoffs in at least one urban area. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said last week it will temporarily hold off on planned layoffs and service cuts during Fiscal Year 2021. FTA tables shows the District of Columbia will receive $459.5 million from CRRSAA as part of the $830.7 million allocated to the Washington, DC-VA-MD urban area.

"Without service cuts and layoffs triggered by the budget shortfall, we are now able to serve our riders and businesses at least through the first half of this year to finish out FY21," said WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld. "But we are far from out of the woods, without sufficient revenue to cover all of next fiscal year. While the choices may not be quite as severe, there is still enormous financial pressure on our funding jurisdictions and ridership and revenue is likely to return very gradually, so we have tough choices still ahead."

In Denver, Colo., the Regional Transportation District (RTD) reduced its workforce by 300 last week following projections that it would need $140 million in cuts to bridge its budget gap. At the time of the reduction announcement, RTD hoped the additional emergency funding would allow it to rescind some of the layoffs.

The Denver-Aurora urban area has been allocated more than $209 million according to the FTA’s CRRSAA tables. RTD expects it will receive $203.3 million of that allocation. 

“Today’s announcement brings clarity regarding the amount of funding our agency will receive, and I extend my appreciation to our partners at the FTA, our congressional delegation and all of our federal stakeholders for this critical funding,” said RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson. "The leadership team and I will continue assessing in an expeditious manner how this funding will best support our transit service delivery. RTD and our transit peers nationwide provide a crucial lifeline for many people during this pandemic. Our essential employees have continued to deliver service to those who need it most, and we are committed to doing so as we look ahead."

CRRSAA directs recipients to prioritize payroll and operational needs. Funding will also support expenses traditionally eligible under the relevant program. FTA will host a webinar series to provide further information starting on Jan. 11.


Story updated at 6:04 pm 01/11/2021 to incorporate additional comment from RTD. 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.