THE United States Senate has passed an amended version of the $US 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, providing $US 30.5bn in emergency funding for transit services and $US 1.7bn for Amtrak.

The bill includes $US 500m more for transit and $US 200m more for Amtrak than what the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Budget Reconciliation Title proposed last month.

It is also more than what was included in president Mr Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which was unveiled on January 14, and supported a $US 20bn investment to “protect the future of transit.”

“We greatly appreciate that the bill includes $US 30.5bn of emergency transit funding and distributes these funds in a manner that ensures that all public transit agencies can continue to be a lifeline for our essential workers,” American Public Transportation Association (APTA) president and CEO, Mr Paul Skoutelas, said in a statement after the bill was passed on March 6.

Highlights of the funds, which would be available through fiscal year 2024, include:

  • $US 26.09bn for urban areas
  • $US 317m for rural areas
  • $US 50m for grants to improve services for seniors and people with disabilities
  • $US 2.21bn for operating assistance grants to eligible recipients or subrecipients that, due to Covid-19, require additional assistance for costs related to operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitisation, and debt service payments incurred to maintain operations and avoid layoffs and furloughs
  • $US 1.675bn for Capital Investment Grants (CIG), including $US 1.425bn for specific New Start and Core Capacity projects
  • $US 250m for Small Start projects that are recipients of a CIG allocation or an applicant in the project development phase, and
  • $US 1.7bn for Amtrak grants “to prevent, prepare for and respond to Covid-19.” This includes $US 970m for Northeast Corridor (NEC) grants and $US 730m for National Network grants. In addition, the bill sets aside $US 285m to be available to Amtrak in lieu of commuter rail and State-supported route payments and $US 166m to restore service on long-distance routes and to recall and manage furloughed employees.

The House is expected to consider the amended bill this week. If passed without further changes, it will be sent to president Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

“We are grateful that the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan which includes more than $US 6bn in federal funding for the MTA,” New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) chairman and CEO, Mr Patrick Foye, said in a statement. “This funding is crucial as we work to bring back ridership and recover from the pandemic. Critically, it will also further offset Covid’s impact and help protect against devastating service cuts and layoffs in the years ahead where we still face deficits. We look forward to the House’s swift passage of this plan and president Biden signing it into law.”