CARES Act funding did not even carry the Metropolitan Transportation Authority through to the end of July as Friday will see the last of the $3.9 billion from the one and only federal stimulus of the pandemic exhausted.
MTA Chairman Pat Foye announced Thursday morning that they were fresh out of support until another stimulus gets adopted by a legislative branch in Washington D.C. divided by political motivations. It follows Wednesday’s MTA board meeting in which the fiscal situation of North America’s largest transit network forced leaders to ponder unpopular decisions such as fare increases and service cuts.
“I think I’ll make news now which is we’re going to exhaust the last of the CARES dollars tomorrow. We’ll get the last installment from FTA in August,” Foye said. “We need another $3.9 billion from the federal government to close the deficit through the end of 2020. The Heroes Act which the House of Representatives passed included that $3.9 billion. The United States Senate is back in session and we’re hoping that transit agencies, and I’m hoping especially the MTA is going to receive an additional $3.9 billion to close the deficit through the end of the year.”
Decimated ridership numbers since March from the COVID-19 pandemic and other tax revenue loss account for 40% divot in the agency’s financing and commuters do not seem to be returning at a favorable enough rate for the MTA’s pocketbook as they serve between 1.1 to 1.2 million customers a day now. For contrast, a normal weekday for the MTA pre-pandemic would look more like 5 million riders across buses and subways.
The Heroes Act has turned into a forlorn hope for transit advocates and industry leaders as one man in the nation’s capital stands between the $3 trillion stimulus and a floor vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday it still would go to a vote despite being passed by Congress on May 15.
However, as coronavirus is on the rise in most states across the country, McConnell and Senate Republicans have relented in their opposition to passing the HEROES Act and announce another stimulus could come through in August, according to Forbes.
While the $3.8 billion in the HEROES Act will guide the MTA through the remainder of 2020, troubled waters in the following years are still expected.
Wednesday, the MTA unveiled the details of an expected $16 billion deficit by 2024. Next year alone could bring a $6 billion shortfall.
The agency has not yet released any details of what service cuts or a fare increase would look like, but the board may have to make a decision on these measures by December, MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran has said.