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New Jersey Senator calls for $32 billion in transit funds in next stimulus

Sens. Bob Menendez, left, and Charles Schumer in September 2019. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer continue the back and forth to bring the Heroes Act to a floor vote, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez just wants the basics for transit in the Tri-State area.

The basics being $32 billion for emergency supplemental funding through 2021, that is. Menendez issued a letter to Schumer and McConnell on Thursday saying more long-term stimulus support for transit is needed than $25 billion that was provided in the CARES Act in March.

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,” Menendez wrote.

According to leaders in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a better distribution of stimulus funds needs to be considered in an additional bill. This means that as an agency running the largest metro system in North America, they would get more funding than smaller systems in other parts of the country. The MTA has projected it would need $8 to $10 billion from the federal government to cover its operational costs into 2021 alone.

So far, it has only received $3.8 million which is nearly exhausted.

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,” Menendez continued in the letter. “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.”

The Heroes Act, which reserves $3.9 billion for the MTA, has not advanced beyond passed in Congress due to McConnell’s regard for it as a “blue state bailout.” Until action takes place in Washington, the MTA is looking at a financial shortfall of $10 billion from toll and farebox revenue decline after ridership took a 90% dive and a slow rebound upon the reopening of New York City.

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