This is the final update to this blog — for more information, please visit the CoaST COVID-19 Resource Page
April 2, 12:30 PM
The FTA has released apportionments for CARES funding. Additional information can be found below
March 27, 7:00PM
Agreement has been finalized and the legislation is being passed today – will be signed by the President soon.
March 25 1:00am Update
Republican and Democrat negotiators have reached a deal, text has not been provided, but as soon as it is we will provide an update.
March 23 3:30pm Update:
Senate – Another attempt to move the original proposal failed. At the same time Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he was working with the White House on a deal and hoped to have it wrapped soon, calling the cloture vote unnecessary.
House – In the House, Speaker Pelosi has introduced her version of a phase 3 bill (link below). In her version, FTA would receive $25 billion with it being funneled through the formula programs with a small tweak to favor urban areas. The House language also allows for operating expenses, 100% Federal share, and like the Senate, expenditures made with this funding are not required to be included in a transportation improvement program, long-range transportation, statewide transportation plan or a statewide transportation improvement program, removing an administrative hurdle for agencies.The same issue related to sub-recipients remains in place (see below)
It’s unclear if there will be action on the House bill or if it’s simply a messaging piece.
March 23 Updated at 5:30am — A proposal released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (referred to as Phase 3) includes $20 billion funding for transit agencies. That funding would be distributed by the Federal Transit Administration within 7 days of the legislation being passed into law. Based upon the initial draft, $16 billion would be distributed through the 5307 (urban) formula program and $4 billion would be distributed by the 5311 (rural) program. Funding can be used for operational assistance, to fill-in for farebox losses, and to purchased needed equipment and services to adopt/address COVID-19 issues. In the legislative language, transit agencies are urged to make operational changes to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, expenditures made with this funding are not required to be included in a transportation improvement program, long-range transportation, statewide transportation plan or a statewide transportation improvement program, removing an administrative hurdle for agencies.
The funding is equal to the amount requested by APTA.
The bill also appropriates $1 billion for grants to Amtrak ($492 million for the Northeast Corridor and $526 million for the National Network). The bill also requires that, in the event of any Amtrak furloughs, “the Secretary shall require the National Railroad Passenger Corporation to provide such employees the opportunity to be recalled to their previously held positions as intercity passenger rail service is restored to March 1, 2020 levels and not later than the date on which intercity passenger rail service has been fully restored to March 1, 2020 levels.”
State of Legislation (5:30 3/23) — On Sunday evening Senate Democrats blocked the legislation from moving forward. The 1.8 trillion stimulus package is said to be too friendly to Wall Street and according to Democrats does not do enough to protect against job loss. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that the House will move early this week to pass its version of a stimulus bill. In the meantime negotiations between Republicans and Democrats are ongoing. The Senate is poised to take up the legislation again at 1:00 pm on March 23rd.
Potential Issue with Transit Funding — There is some concern about solely using 5307 and 5311 as a way to distribute the funds. Formula funds only go to designated (and direct) recipients. There are a lot of small municipal agencies that do not receive Federal transit funds directly from the FTA, rather they receive those funds through the ‘designated recipient’ and are considered ‘sub-recipients’. There is some concern that without the funding needing to go through any of the planning processes, smaller agencies — especially municipal connectors, private non-profit service providers, and others — will never see any of the funding.
CoaST remains highly supportive of the funding request, however, is urging lawmakers to include language that either compels regional cooperation that ensures all providers of public transportation receive funding, and/or establishment of some funding that is made available by the FTA Administrator for sub-recipients, private non-profits providers of public transportation, and private providers of service working with State or municipal agencies.
Congress will likely adjourn following the passage of a ‘Phase 3’ stimulus bill. However, there is already talks of a phase 4 stimulus package which would likely include additional funding for infrastructure as a part of a recovery effort. It is unclear if this would be a ‘reauthorization’ of the FAST-ACT, or simply additional appropriations similar to that of the 2008 stimulus bill which provided $50 billion for shovel ready projects.