The American Rescue Plan has now been passed and signed into law by President Biden. Transportation has of course been significantly hampered by the pandemic. The sector has already received a good deal of financial aid from the previous administration, more than has been seen in many other nations, but as COVID-19 has not gone away, neither can the support.
For public transit, the American Rescue Plan is providing $30.5 billion to assist with operating costs, including payroll and personal protective equipment. The funding includes dedicated dollars to support rural transit agencies, transit service for the elderly and individuals with disabilities, and transit on Tribal lands.
There will be an additional $1.7 billion for Amtrak to recall and pay employees furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of fiscal year 2021 and to restore daily long-distance service; includes a set-aside to help states cover lost revenue in state-supported routes.
Airports will receive $8 billion to cover costs of operations, personnel, and cleaning, including a set-aside for rent relief and other costs of airport concessionaires primarily directed toward small businesses and minority-owned firms.
Aerospace manufacturing will be given $3 billion for a temporary payroll support program to retain or rehire workers.
Funding of $3 billion will go to the Economic Development Administration to provide economic adjustment assistance to help prevent, prepare for, and respond to economic injury caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a set-aside for communities that have suffered job losses in travel, tourism, or outdoor recreation activities.
Already, both United and Amercan airlines have said that they would cancel tens of thousands of planned layoffs because of the aid.
And of course, FEMA will be supported with an additional $50 billion to reimburse state, local, tribal, and territorial governments dealing with ongoing response and recovery activities from COVID-19, including vaccination efforts, deployment of the National Guard, providing personal protective equipment for public sector employees, and disinfecting activities in public facilities such as schools and courthouses.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye said the funding will allow transit providers to focus more on welcoming back riders instead of doomsday budget planning. “By signing this landmark legislation into law, President Biden has proven what we’ve known all along – that he is a steadfast supporter of mass transit. ‘Amtrak Joe’ has delivered a historic amount of funding for transit agencies across the country and for New Yorkers. We thank Secretary Buttigieg for his clear support of transit agencies’ need for robust federal support.”
‘Amtrak Joe’ has cautioned that “it’s one thing to pass the American Rescue Plan. It’s going to be another thing to implement it.” The president said fastidious oversight will be needed to make sure there’s no waste or fraud, and the law does what it’s designed to do. “We have to get this right. Details matter, because we have to continue to build confidence in the American people that their government can function for them and deliver.”