WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen led members of the Maryland delegation, including Senator Ben Cardin and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin, and David Trone (all D-Md.) in sending a letter urging congressional leaders to provide critical funding for transit agencies as a part of any upcoming COVID-19 relief proposal. In light of recent news of the dire financial situation WMATA, MTA, and other transit agencies across the country are facing, this crucial funding would help ensure these systems have the resources necessary to limit additional layoffs and service cuts during this challenging time. Public transit systems serve as a key economic driver in our region, are crucial for commuters and front line workers, and employ thousands of Marylanders throughout the region.
“We are encouraged to see a bipartisan proposal emerge as a starting point for negotiations and urge you both to come to the table to finalize a plan this week that delivers real relief to the American people. It is essential that any coronavirus package includes much-needed support for our nation’s struggling transit systems. During this pandemic, it has become vital as more than thirty percent of essential workers depend on these public transportation services to get to work at hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, and more. These essential workers are the backbone of our economy and without them we would experience more shortages of essential goods in our stores and food on the shelves,” the lawmakers write.
They point to the devastating impacts COVID-19 is having on our regional transportation networks, noting, “People are hurting and with budgets so severely strained, we are at a breaking point where a dire situation will only worsen with forced service cuts and additional layoffs. Just last week, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) released their FY22 budget proposal which includes draconian cuts to rail and bus service and an additional 2,400 layoffs on top of the 1,200 layoffs they must do now during their 2021 Fiscal Year. WMATA is not an outlier – their proposal is yet another example of the type of cost-cutting measures that transit agencies across the country have to undertake without additional funds from Congress.”
“The House-passed updated HEROES Act included $32 billion for transit emergency relief and distributed those funds using existing funding formulas. These funds won’t meet the full need, but they would provide a stopgap to prevent layoffs and drastic service cuts at this time. We urge you to include these funds in any upcoming COVID-19 relief proposal. Transit plays an essential role in our economy and we simply cannot afford to wait,” the lawmakers conclude.
The full text of the letter is available here and below.