FRA makes American Rescue Plan funds for Amtrak available

April 28, 2021
The railroad can begin to draw down on the $1.69 billion the emergency relief funding provided through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Amtrak can now access the $1.69 billion provided to the railroad through the American Rescue Plan Act after the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) made the funds available. The announcement comes about four weeks after the Federal Transit Administration made more than $30 billion available to the transit industry in emergency relief funding provided by the same legislation.

The funding provided in the American Rescue Plan is the third emergency relief measure provided to Amtrak, which received $1 billion in funding from both the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law in March 2020 and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 signed into law in December 2020.

The funding is meant to provide relief to the railroad’s operations, workforce and state funding partners from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Help is here. The president’s American Rescue Plan is already delivering for workers and the traveling public,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. “This new assistance for Amtrak will get employees back to work and restore service on routes across the country, at a time when this help is urgently needed.”

The legislation broke the funding into two buckets: $969 million for the Northeast Corridor and $728.6 million for the national network. The funding also came with a requirement that Amtrak restore service on its long-distance routes within 90 days of the legislation’s enactment and recall employees furloughed because of the pandemic.

FRA is requiring the railroad to report on the number of furloughed employees recalled to service and provide a schedule for the expected recall of all furloughed employees.

Amtrak will restore its long-distance services in three phases that will conclude in June. The railroad has already fully restored full regional service on its Piedmont route in North Carolina and plans to restore its Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha Service on May 23. Additionally, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority will restore Amtrak Downeaster trains to pre-COVID service levels with five daily round trips between Brunswick, Maine, and Boston, Mass.

FRA explained in a release detailing the funds that at least $109.8 million will be used to help states and commuter railroads cover their share of capital costs associated with using the NEC, $174 million must be used to offset amounts that states are required to pay for covered state-supported routes along the National Network and the American Rescue Plan provides up to $100.8 million for debt relief that Amtrak incurred before March 11, 2021.

“The timing of this funding is essential to helping ensure that Amtrak is able to quickly return to service supporting the Nation’s transportation needs and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FRA Acting Administrator Amit Bose. “For our part, we are committed to transparency and are requiring enhanced reporting from Amtrak to show how funding from the American Rescue Plan is being efficiently and effectively used to respond to present challenges.”

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.