House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee budget reconciliation title includes $30 billion for transit

Feb. 9, 2021
The proposal includes more than $27 billion for urban areas, $1.5 billion for CIG Program recipients and $1.5 billion for Amtrak.

A proposed budget reconciliation title from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee would provide the transit industry with $30 billion in emergency funding to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 health crisis.  

This would be the third round of emergency funding relief provided to the industry following the $25 billion provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law in late March 2020 and the $14 billion provided through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021, which was signed into law in late December 2020.

The $39 billion previously awarded to the industry is less than half of the projected $39.3 billion shortfall through 2023 the industry faces per an analysis done by EBP US Inc.

It’s not only agency budgets at risk; the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) surveyed its agency and business members in January and found approximately 40 percent of agencies are considering further service cuts; nearly a quarter of agencies may be forced to lay off employees and nearly a third have delayed, deferred or cancelled capital projects.

Business members responding to the survey said they experienced an average 40 percent drop in transit business; nearly a third of businesses had to lay off employees and 11 percent closed a facility.

APTA commended the inclusion of $30 billion in the budget reconciliation, calling the proposed relief “vital to the industry’s survival” and noted it would prevent reductions in the transit labor force and service reductions.

“The $30 billion of emergency funding included in the Budget Reconciliation Title is essential to providing the public transportation industry with long-term certainty critical to the nation’s economic recovery. The time is now to invest more in our nation’s public transportation infrastructure to support jobs, reconnect American, and build the necessary infrastructure network to provide critical public transit services and economic opportunities for all,” said APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas.

However, APTA expressed worry that funding could be removed or moved out of transit buckets during the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s scheduled markup of the proposal on Feb. 10. APTA is urging its members to reach out to the committee’s members and urge passage of the title.

Details of how it would impact the industry

As written, the title would provide emergency relief to formula funding recipients, projects in the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program and intercity bus service providers. The way the funding is allocated for formula funding recipients will take into consideration the previous awards provided by the CARES Act and CRRSA Act.

Formula funds

  • $26.08 billion for urbanized area formula grants where funds previously awarded through the CARES Act and CRRSA Act will determine how much an urban area is allocated. Each urban area will receive 132 percent of Fiscal Year 2018 operating costs in combination of previously awarded CARES and CRRSA funding. Excess funds will be distributed two ways: Urban areas where CARES and CRRSA funding put above the 132 percent threshold will receive an additional 25 percent of 2018 operating costs and urban areas that received a combination of between 130 percent and 132 percent of 2018 operating costs will receive an additional 10 percent.
  • $281 million for rural area grants where states will be awarded between five percent and 20 percent of its 2018 rural operating costs. States that received equal to or greater than 150 percent of 2018 rural operating costs from the CARES Act and CRRSA Act will receive funding equal to five percent of those costs; if the state received equal to or greater than 140 percent of 2018 rural operating costs it will receive funding equal to 10 percent of those costs and states that do not fit into either of those categories will receive 20 percent of the 2018 operating costs.
  • $50 million for mobility for seniors and person with disabilities grants to be allocated using the same formula as Fiscal Year 2020.
  • $2.21 billion for grants to recipients that need help maintaining operations over and above what has been provided.

CIG Program

  • $1 billion for New Starts and Core Capacity projects
  • $250 million for Small Starts projects

Projects with Full Funding Grant Agreements and that have received allotments from the program are eligible for the funds with the exception being any project that is open for revenue service. According to APTA, there are 19 CIG Program projects that would be eligible for additional funding, including eight light-rail projects, one streetcar project, four commuter rail projects and six heavy rail projects.  

Other transit funds

  • $100 million for intercity bus program recipients to connect non-urbanized areas
  • $25 million in planning grants to restore services impacted by the pandemic. These funds must be used to plan services designed to increase ridership and reduce travel times while maintaining or expanding total vehicle revenue miles of service, adjust service to better serve low-income riders or neighborhoods and the funds can not be used to route planning to a transportation network company or a third-party contractor (unless existing service is provided by a third-party contractor).

Amtrak

  • $820.39 million for Northeast Corridor Grants
  • $679.61 million for National Network Grants in which at least $165.93 million will be used to restore service and recall employees.

The markup hearing can be viewed on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s website. The hearing will be held on Feb. 10 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

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.