March 4, 2021
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The House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved a package of roughly $42.5 billion in further COVID-19 transportation relief – funding largely headed for the transit sector – by a vote of 39 to 25.

According to a news story, the bill sets aside $30 billion for public transit agencies, $8 billion for U.S. airports and concessionaires, $1.5 billion to Amtrak and $3 billion for a temporary payroll support program for aerospace manufacturing.

Photo by Amtrak

The overall aid package also includes $50 billion to reimburse state, local, tribal, and territorial governments dealing with ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery activities, including vaccination efforts, deployment of the National Guard, providing personal protective equipment for critical public sector employees, and disinfecting activities in public facilities such as schools and courthouses.

“By approving this legislation, our committee is moving forward with providing much-needed relief to the millions of transportation workers and rural and urban communities alike that have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn,” explained Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and chair of the T&I committee, in a statement.

Rep. DeFazio

“With the plan that passed through our Committee on a bipartisan vote, Amtrak will be able to recall furloughed workers and restore service, transit workers will receive lifesaving personal protective equipment, and FEMA will receive critical funding to help get vaccines into the arms of Americans,” he added.

However, though Republicans on the committee offered 60 amendments during the House T&I’s mark-up of the bill, not one of them was accepted

On top of that, Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo – the committee’s ranking member – pushed back on the need to provide more emergency aid since previously authorized relief funding has not been fully spent.

Rep. Sam Graves

“We haven’t seen the full effect of the trillions of dollars that Congress has approved,” he said in a statement.

“One reason is simply that not all of that money has gotten to the intended recipients yet,” Rep. Graves noted.

“For example, Amtrak still hasn’t spent the $1 billion dollars they received in the last package. Of the $39 billion provided for transit [in the last relief package] 60 percent has not been spent,” he pointed out. “The $2 billion for the motorcoach industry hasn’t made its way to those struggling businesses yet. And as of this month, the $2 billion dollars for airports hasn’t yet been disbursed. That’s not surprising, as it’s been barely a month since Congress provided the last wave of assistance.”

editor@aashto.org

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