House to vote Friday on American Rescue Plan

Feb. 26, 2021
The amended bill contains $30.5 billion for transit and $1.5 billion for Amtrak.

Update: The House passed The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 early Saturday morning, Feb. 27, with a vote of 219 to 212. It now heads to the Senate. 

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The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Friday, Feb. 26 on H.R. 1319, The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The bill incorporates priorities laid out by President Joe Biden in January.

The amended bill contains $30.5 billion for the transit industry through urbanized and rural formula funding, planning grants, operating assistance grants and grants to qualifying projects in the Capital Improvement Grants (CIG) Program. This is $500 million more than the bill’s previous version.

What remains the same

  • $26.08 billion for urbanized area formula grants;
  • $50 million for mobility for seniors and persons with disabilities grants;
  • $100 million for non-urbanized intercity bus program recipients;
  • $25 million for planning grants;
  • $2.21 billion in grants for recipients in need of financial assistance to maintain operations over and above the aid that has been provided; and
  • $1.5 billion for Amtrak, which includes $820 million for Northeast Corridor grants and $680 million for National Network grants.

What has been amended

The CIG Program will be provided $1.68 billion, which is an increase from the initial $1.25 billion.

While Small Starts projects will be provided with $250 million (the same as the initial bill), certain New Starts and Core Capacity projects will be provided $1.43 billion. The increase includes $1.25 billion for projects that received CIG Program allocations in FY19 or FY20 and have Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGA) in place or are in the Expedited Project Delivery Pilot Program. Projects open for revenue service are not eligible. The increased funding also includes $175 million to project sponsors with FFGAs and were allocated funding prior to FY19. An American Public Transportation Association (APTA) analysis of the program indicates there are 24 light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail and streetcar projects in 13 states that would be eligible under the parameters of the bill.

A second section to see amended amounts is the grants to rural areas, which will be provided $317 million. This represents an increase of approximately $36 million from the initial version of the bill.

President Biden, speaking at the National Governors Association’s Winter Meeting, explained the American Rescue Plan allows the nation to address the economic crisis “with the same aggressiveness and seriousness of purpose” with which the virus itself has been addressed.

“The bottom line is: The American Rescue Plan meets the moment,” said President Biden.

For the transit industry, the moment remains steeped in financial uncertainty. While there has been relief from threatened cuts to service and staffing levels, an EBP US Inc. analysis of the industry found it still faces an estimated $39.3 billion funding gap—even with $39 billion in federal aid provided by two relief packages in 2020.

APTA offered its support of the amended American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“Given these immense needs, we applaud the inclusion of $30.5 billion of emergency public transit funding provided in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “We also greatly appreciate that the bill distributes these funds in a manner that ensures that all public transit agencies can continue to be a lifeline for our essential workers, ensure Americans can get to vaccine distribution sites and advance our communities’ efforts to rebuild from the economic fallout of the pandemic.”

The bill is expected to pass the House and have a bumpier road in the Senate. Should it undergo revisions while it moves through the Senate, it will return to the House before any final legislation is sent to President Biden.

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.