Jan. 12, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The MTA has been sent more than $6 billion in COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Wednesday.
The bailout, a near $6.2 billion lump sum, is the largest one-time payment ever awarded by the Federal Transit Administration, an agency within the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
Schumer said the funds would save the cash-strapped agency from a “COVID-catalyzed brink of death.”
“The bottom line is that without the money that we were able to get, the subway system never would have bounced back,” Schumer said in a morning press briefing via Zoom.
The funds, Schumer said, will keep the agency’s mass transit network operating, support the economy and stave off potentially thousands of MTA workers being furloughed.
The MTA requested the COVID-19 relief funds since the pandemic has led to a substantial dip in ridership and revenue – spiraling the agency deep into the red.
For instance, 2.267 million riders took the subway Tuesday, which is about 42 percent of the ridership level pre-pandemic, according to MTA data.
Schumer said it was important that the money be released all at once.
“In the past, these subsidies have trickled down and the MTA was never sure they could plan ahead,” Schumer said. “But this $6 billion gives them deep, deep liquidity.”
Schumer said the money would also go towards funding the MTA’s capital program – a $54.8 billion investment project in the region’s subways, buses, commuter railroads, bridges and tunnels.
MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said the injection of funds will support the entire transit system and help rebuild New York’s economy.
“This funding helps the MTA continue to provide top-tier service and in the near term avoid fare increases,” Lieber said in a statement.
The rescue package brings the total amount of money received by the MTA from the federal government to more than $14 billion over the course of the pandemic – with more funds on the way.
The agency is expected to receive a $10 billion windfall from the infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden in November.
There is more to Senator Schumer’s announcement that the Federal Transit Administration released a $6 billion dollar grant to the MTA for CARE COVID-19 relief. These funds were made available in March, 2021. Why did it take ten months for the MTA to obtain the approved grant? This grant brings the total amount of CARE COVID-19 relief funding from Washington for the MTA to $14 billion. What Schumer neglected to mention was how much of these funds have been paid for rather than how much have been borrowed adding to our $29 trillion and growing national debt. He said “it is a public service and the higher percentage we get from city, state and federal help the better” Funding for the MTA has always been a four way partnership between what riders pay at the farebox along with city, state and federal funding. Commuters and Washington always ante up. Will Schumer hold one of his press conferences to ask Governor Kathy Hochul, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Steward Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to increase Albany’s contribution? Will he also ask NYC Mayor Eric Adams, Comptroller Brad Ladner, and NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams increase City Hall’s contribution? Schumer never explained why many other transit agencies around the nation already received their second and third rounds of funding ahead of the MTA.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NJ Transit along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)