With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid signed by President Biden, $30.5 billion of the $1.9 trillion package was earmarked for public transit.
While the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (ATL) will divvy up the money for metro Atlanta transit agencies, using the math intended in the plan, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) can expect approximately $284 million in emergency funding.
“MARTA appreciates the federal government’s recognition that transit is an integral part of the post-pandemic economic recovery of this country,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. “This funding helps in our continued preparation for the anticipated return of customers as vaccine distribution widens and life returns to pre-pandemic levels of activity. In the coming weeks, I will share more details about how this funding will be of great benefit to our customers, our essential employees, and the greater regional economic health.”
As part of the third infusion of federal aid that transit agencies have received since the pandemic began last March, public transit stands to receive more COVID-19 relief funding than any other mode of transportation. Congress reached the total funding amount by providing every transit agency with 132 percent of their 2018 operating expenses.
“This pandemic has challenged MARTA in ways we never imagined, and I am proud that we were able to continue providing an essential service to the region over the past year,” added MARTA Board of Directors Chair Rita Scott. “I believe we will emerge stronger on the other side of this historic public health crisis.”
To date, MARTA has received $331.5 million in federal aid as part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA).
MARTA used $83 million to shore up COVID-related losses in 2020, is using $150 million to fund operations in fiscal 2021, and held $65.6 million for fiscal 2022. Surpluses were placed in a sales tax reserve, which is expected to reach $272.5 million at the end of fiscal 2021. These reserves will help offset potential deficits through 2025, giving the economy and ridership time to recover.
Parker and the heads of other U.S. transit agencies met virtually to discuss in more detail how this latest funding will be split among formula, emergency relief, and capital investment grants, and how the key requirements of the American Rescue Plan differ from the two previous relief acts.