This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 1319, the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021”. The bill provides $30.5 billion in critical COVID-19 emergency funding to help public transit agencies continue to provide a lifeline to essential workers, ensure Americans can get to vaccine distribution sites, and advance communities’ efforts across the country to rebuild our nation’s economy.
Today, APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas sent a letter to Congressional leaders expressing APTA’s strong support for the American Rescue Plan. Please click here to view the letter.
We are focusing our advocacy strategy on the U.S. Senate, which is evenly divided with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. During consideration of the bill, the Senate is expected to consider amendments, including possible amendments to cut or eliminate the public transit emergency funding.
We strongly encourage you to contact your Senators and urge them to pass H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and provide $30.5 billion of emergency funding for public transit. We also urge Senators to oppose any amendments to cut or eliminate the transit funding. Please click here to download a template letter to send to your U.S. Senators.
CALL TO ACTION
Please contact your Senators and urge them to pass H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act, and provide $30.5 billion of emergency funding for public transit. We also urge Senators to oppose any amendments to cut or eliminate the transit funding.
Please click here to view APTA’s Talking Points.
To contact your Senators, please call 202.224.3121.
H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
This analysis assumes adoption of the manager’s amendment offered by Committee on the Budget Chairman John A. Yarmuth (D-KY), which increases public transit funding by $461 million to a total of $30.5 billion and makes other policy changes to the transit section.
H.R. 1319, as amended, provides $30.5 billion of emergency public transit funding and $1.5 billion of emergency Amtrak funding.
A primary objective of the $30.5 billion of emergency transit funding is to ensure that public transit agencies receive sufficient funding under this bill, when combined with their prior COVID-19 transit allocations pursuant to the CARES Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), to equal 132 percent of urbanized areas’ public transit operating costs.
The transit funds provided under the bill are available for operating expenses related to the response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Except for the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) funds, these emergency funds shall be directed to payroll and operations of public transportation (including payroll and expenses of private providers of public transportation) unless the recipient certifies to the Secretary that the recipient has not furloughed any employees. The federal share is 100 percent.
The bill distributes the overwhelming majority of the emergency transit funds through several formula programs:
The bill also provides $2.21 billion for operating assistance grants to eligible recipients or subrecipients that, because of COVID-19, require additional assistance for costs related to operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, and debt service payments incurred to maintain operations and avoid layoffs and furloughs. Applicants must provide estimates of financial need; data on reductions in farebox or other local revenue; a spending plan for such funds; and demonstration of expenditure of more than 90 percent of COVID-19 funds available to the applicant in fiscal year 2020 (i.e., the CARES Act). The Federal Transit Administration shall evaluate grant requests based on the level of financial need demonstrated. The demonstrated need includes future financial need to maintain service as a percentage of 2018 operating costs that has not been replaced by the funds made available by the other grants of H.R. 1319 or prior COVID-19 legislation (i.e., the CARES Act and CRRSAA).
H.R. 1319, as amended, provides $1.675 billion for Capital Investment Grants under 49 U.S.C. § 5309. In particular, the bill provides $1.425 billion for specific New Start and Core Capacity projects. It provides $1.25 billion to CIG project sponsors that have an existing Full Funding Grant Agreement (i.e., New Start or Core Capacity projects) or are currently in the Expedited Project Delivery Pilot Program and received a FY 2019 or FY 2020 CIG allocation. It distributes the funds proportionally based on the non-federal share to qualified project sponsors. Separately, the bill provides $175 million to CIG project sponsors that have an existing Full Funding Grant Agreement (i.e., New Start or Core Capacity projects) that received a CIG allocation prior to FY 2019. However, no project may receive more than 40 percent of the additional allocation of $175 million (i.e., $70 million). If a project exceeds the 40 percent threshold, the excess funds are distributed proportionally based on the non-federal share to qualified project sponsors that did not exceed the threshold. Projects with grant agreements that are open for revenue service are not eligible for these CIG funds. Further, these emergency funds will not be counted toward the maximum federal financial assistance of the projects. Based on APTA’s analysis, there are 24 projects that will receive funding under this provision. Please click here for APTA’s List of CIG Projects Eligible for Funding under H.R. 1319, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
In addition, the bill provides $250 million for Small Start projects that are a recipient of a CIG allocation or an applicant in the project development phase. The funds will not be counted toward the maximum federal financial assistance of the projects.
Finally, the bill provides $100 million for grants to bus operators that partner with recipients or subrecipients under 49 U.S.C. § 5311(f), and $25 million for planning grants under 49 U.S.C. § 5307 regarding planning to restore service.
The bill provides several additional conditions for the transit funding:
H.R. 1319, as amended, provides $1.5 billion for Amtrak grants to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19, including:
The bill sets aside $285 million to be available to Amtrak in lieu of commuter rail and State-supported route payments. In addition, the bill sets aside $166 million for Amtrak to restore service on long-distance routes and to recall and manage furloughed employees.
In addition to H.R. 1319, we wanted to highlight two recent important administrative actions by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Adjustment to Rail Passenger Transportation Liability Cap
On February 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice of adjustment increasing the Rail Passenger Transportation Liability Cap from $295 million to $323 million. The new cap will become effective on March 29, 2021. Under § 11415 of the FAST Act (P.L. 114-94), the Secretary of Transportation is directed to update the rail passenger transportation liability cap for inflation every fifth year. The FAST Act requires that the adjustment be effective 30 days after such notice. Please click here to view the Federal Register notice.
Federal Aviation Administration Expands Eligibility of Airport Passenger Facility Charges for Public Transit Rail Projects
On January 12, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released new airport passenger facility charge (PFC) guidance that makes rail lines that do not exclusively serve the airport eligible for PFC funds. Prior to this guidance, PFCs could only be used if the surface transportation project exclusively served airport traffic. In many cases, a rail right-of-way or the rail line itself might not be eligible if it did not terminate at the airport. The FAA’s new policy allows for the use of PFCs for a rail access project serving an on-airport station that then extends to serve off-airport stations. The new policy also includes three different methodologies for calculating PFC-eligible costs. Please click here to view the FAA’s new PFC policy.