U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, joined 24 colleagues in urging Senate leadership to provide an additional $32 billion in emergency supplemental funding for public transit agencies in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.
“Whether it’s essential workers heading to hospitals and care facilities, individuals heading to vital medical appointments, or students getting ready to head back to school in the fall, New Yorkers rely on mass transit to get where they need to go,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must act swiftly to make sure that all New Yorkers, including the tens of thousands of public transportation workers who keep our trains and buses moving, are able to do this safely. Our economic comeback depends on investing in public transportation and it’s critical that federal transit funding is included in the next stimulus package.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, eight million people in the NYC region used the subways, buses, and railways each weekday. Subway ridership alone has plummeted around 90%, with an average of 505,000 daily riders on buses in April and May. Frontline workers in cleaning services and social services are among the most reliant on public transit, according to a report from the NYC comptroller.
Senator Gillibrand has pressed for funding to support New York’s public transit systems in order to help the economy recover. Senator Gillibrand has also fought to protect frontline transit workers by updating safety guidelines around access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
A copy of the letter can be found here and below:
Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:
As you continue negotiations on further actions to respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we write to strongly urge you to include significant financial support for public transit in any final agreement. Safe and healthy buses, subways, and trains are absolutely vital for health care workers, law enforcement, first responder, and other safety personnel working on the front lines of the pandemic, and will be essential to a full economic recovery in the months and years ahead. For those reasons, we must ensure that our transit systems are fully operational going forward by providing an additional $32 billion in emergency supplemental funding for public transportation through the end of 2021.
Public transit enables our economy. In addition to the 435,000 workers directly employed by transit agencies and the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing, rail supply, construction, maintenance, and design and engineering jobs dependent on the industry, millions of other activities are enabled by transit – either for getting to and from work or by the economic multiplier effects transit creates. Through the depths of the current crisis, public transportation agencies have continued operating to ensure that essential workers and others can do their jobs and get back to their families at the end of each shift. These operations have enabled our economy to stay alive, but they have come with massive increases in costs while revenues have fallen.
In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), we took decisive action to support our transit systems by providing $25 billion in immediate support. This funding came at a time when we expected the crisis to be relatively short and accompanied by a steep, immediate recovery. Now, as the public health crisis has necessitated the continuation of stay-at-home orders for months in states across the country, we must recognize the true costs of the coronavirus on our transit systems. Decreased farebox revenue has continued longer than we anticipated two months ago, and the reduction in other revenue sources such as local sales taxes are deeper than anyone predicted. Many transit agencies, particularly those hardest hit by the pandemic, will exhaust their CARES Act funds before the end of the year.
Given these facts, we must act swiftly to preserve public transit options for Americans and keep our systems safe and healthy. This is an unprecedented time in our history and it requires strong, demonstrated leadership from this body, as well. We support an additional $32 billion in emergency aid to transit systems through the end of 2021 not only to keep these systems operational, but also to signal to our constituents that we will be ready for the economic recovery we are all working towards.