December 09, 2020

Maryland Delegation Members Urge Congressional Leaders to Include Robust Funding for Transit in Next COVID Relief Bill

WMATA, MTA, and transit systems across the U.S. that serve as regional economic drivers face severe and worsening financial concerns

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin, and David Trone (all D-Md.) today sent a letter urging congressional leaders to provide critical funding for transit agencies as a part of any upcoming COVID-19 relief proposal. In light of recent news of the dire financial situation WMATA, MTA, and other transit agencies across the country are facing, this crucial funding would help ensure these systems have the resources necessary to limit additional layoffs and service cuts during this challenging time. Public transit systems serve as a key economic driver in our region, are crucial for commuters and front line workers, and employ thousands of Marylanders throughout the region.

 

“We are encouraged to see a bipartisan proposal emerge as a starting point for negotiations and urge you both to come to the table to finalize a plan this week that delivers real relief to the American people. It is essential that any coronavirus package includes much-needed support for our nation’s struggling transit systems. During this pandemic, it has become vital as more than thirty percent of essential workers depend on these public transportation services to get to work at hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, and more. These essential workers are the backbone of our economy and without them we would experience more shortages of essential goods in our stores and food on the shelves,” the lawmakers write.   

They point to the devastating impacts COVID-19 is having on our regional transportation networks, noting, “People are hurting and with budgets so severely strained, we are at a breaking point where a dire situation will only worsen with forced service cuts and additional layoffs. Just last week, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) released their FY22 budget proposal which includes draconian cuts to rail and bus service and an additional 2,400 layoffs on top of the 1,200 layoffs they must do now during their 2021 Fiscal Year. WMATA is not an outlier – their proposal is yet another example of the type of cost-cutting measures that transit agencies across the country have to undertake without additional funds from Congress.”

“The House-passed updated HEROES Act included $32 billion for transit emergency relief and distributed those funds using existing funding formulas. These funds won’t meet the full need, but they would provide a stopgap to prevent layoffs and drastic service cuts at this time. We urge you to include these funds in any upcoming COVID-19 relief proposal. Transit plays an essential role in our economy and we simply cannot afford to wait,” the lawmakers conclude.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.  

 

Dear Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi:

It has been over eight months since the CARES Act became law and in that time more than 250,000 Americans have died, more have lost their jobs, and tens of thousands of businesses have shuttered their doors. As cases surge across the country and communities come together to fight this pandemic, it is long past time for Congress to follow suit and swiftly pass a robust COVID-19 package.

We are encouraged to see a bipartisan proposal emerge as a starting point for negotiations and urge you both to come to the table to finalize a plan this week that delivers real relief to the American people. It is essential that any coronavirus package includes much-needed support for our nation’s struggling transit systems. During this pandemic, it has become vital as more than thirty percent of essential workers depend on these public transportation services to get to work at hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, and more. These essential workers are the backbone of our economy and without them we would experience more shortages of essential goods in our stores and food on the shelves.

People are hurting and with budgets so severely strained, we are at a breaking point where a dire situation will only worsen with forced service cuts and additional layoffs. Just last week, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) released their FY22 budget proposal which includes draconian cuts to rail and bus service and an additional 2,400 layoffs on top of the 1,200 layoffs they must do now during their 2021 Fiscal Year. WMATA is not an outlier – their proposal is yet another example of the type of cost-cutting measures that transit agencies across the country have to undertake without additional funds from Congress. Rail ridership, the main revenue source for WMATA, is not expected to rebound until a vaccine is widely available and people feel comfortable taking transit again – which may take several years.

Similarly, as a result of the pandemic, Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) recently implemented a significantly reduced schedule for the MARC commuter train service, the commuter bus service, and continued its suspension of all Express Bus routes and two other local bus routes. Without additional federal support, the MTA and other state transit agencies have made it clear – they will be forced to further cut service and layoff additional transit workers.

And while transit agencies make very difficult decisions, riders and commuters in need of public transportation services will suffer. With growing numbers on job losses and COVID-19 cases, Americans cannot afford to spend more time on public transportation systems or lose the ability to get to work as they struggle to put food on the table for their families. The House-passed updated HEROES Act included $32 billion for transit emergency relief and distributed those funds using existing funding formulas. These funds won’t meet the full need, but they would provide a stopgap to prevent layoffs and drastic service cuts at this time.

We urge you to include these funds in any upcoming COVID-19 relief proposal. Transit plays an essential role in our economy and we simply cannot afford to wait.

Sincerely,

 

###