The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) hosted a congressional briefing for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. APTA President/CEO Paul P. Skoutelas discussed with the Committee, virtually, how the public transportation industry is coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and that additional aid will be needed now and for the future.
"This crisis has demonstrated how essential public transportation is in keeping our society working, and the indispensable role it will play in America's social and economic recovery," said Skoutelas. “Recovering from COVID-19 and 'building back better' will be a collective effort. As essential as the CARES Act was to backstop our transit agencies and passenger rail authorities in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 closures, the need for additional Emergency Response and Recovery funding is clear — without additional support, some transit agencies could begin to run out of money by late summer."
"Public transportation is always an essential service, but during a global health crisis it's particularly important to make sure doctors, nurses, and other essential employees can get to work. In addition, many people need public transportation to get to the pharmacy, a doctor's office, the grocery store, and expect to be able to do so safely and efficiently," said Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR). "I am extremely grateful to all transit workers, and I'm glad to report the Committee was able to secure significant funding to help public transit agencies prevent, prepare for, and respond to the spread of COVID-19 during the recently-implemented CARES legislation. I want to thank APTA President Paul Skoutelas for briefing our Committee members on the state of public transportation and issues related to combating the spread of COVID-19. It's clear we must all continue to work together and be diligent in our fight against COVID-19 and to ensure the long-term success of public transit."
"Transit is not just an amenity important to our large cities, it's also how many living in our smaller cities continue to access groceries, dialysis, and essential jobs," said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). "I appreciate APTA updating us on how the CARES Act has helped our transit system continue to serve those who rely on it and how they're protecting passengers and employees. This communication helps us better understand the challenges transit continues to face and how we can work together to keep this essential service moving."
Speaking to Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Davis, and the Committee Members, Skoutelas noted that APTA's members are using the overwhelming majority of CARES Act funding to maintain their workforce and avoid layoffs. However, given the enormous farebox, state and local sales tax, parking, and other revenue losses, the CARES Act funding will only keep transit agencies afloat for a matter of months. APTA is currently analyzing the national need for additional funds and urges lawmakers to provide Emergency Response and Recovery funding for the public transportation industry above what was provided in the CARES Act.
Skoutelas also urged the Committee to continue to press forward on the Surface Transportation Authorization bill. APTA believes a long-term authorization bill is critical to jumpstart construction of public transit projects and restore the nation's economy.