President Trump signed a continuing resolution (CR) that funds federal government programs on today, October 1, through December 11 which included an extension of the surface transportation bill (FAST Act) one additional year. Senate passed the CR late on September 30 by a vote of 84 to 10. The House passed its CR, which included a one-year extension of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act, on September 22 by a vote of 359 to 57.
Key for transportation is that the FAST Act extension includes an additional $13.6 billion added to the Highway Trust Fund. Additional provisions include:
- An extension of FAST Act funding and provisions from FY 2020 to all of FY 2021.
- A $3.2 billion transfer to the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.
- Suspension of the Rostenkowski fiscal solvency test for the Mass Transit Account for FY 2021. Without suspending that “test” – crafted by the late Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D), who served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the 1980s – significant reductions in transit obligation funds would occur in FY 2021.
- An increase to the “multimodal cap” within the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America or INFRA discretionary grant program from $500 million to $600 million.
- An extension of 2017 and 2018 Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program obligation deadlines through September 30, 2021.
Second COVID Relief Bill in the Future?
House leadership unveiled a new version of their HEROES Act, which would be the second vehicle for delivering pandemic relief. The Cares Act is delivered a $248 million lifeline for Missouri Transit providers on March 26 which including $25 billion in transit funding for rural and urban areas across the country. Here is what is proposed for transit in the second bill:
- A supplemental appropriation of $32.0 billion to the FTA. These funds could be used to cover up to 100 percent of the cost of the transit projects they support, just like the CARES Act grants.
- $18.5 billion (57.8%) of that amount would be allocated along the lines of CARES Act formula allocations to Section 5307 urban transit recipients.
- $2.5 billion (7.8%) would be allocated to existing recipients of Section 5309 capital investment grants.
- $250.0 million (0.7%) would be allocated to Section 5310 grantees.
- $750 million (2.3%) would be allocated to Section 5311 grantees.
- At least $10 billion (31.2%) would be available for discretionary pandemic relief grants from FTA, with specific language about making a portion of this funding available to some intercity bus operations and other private sector providers of public transit.
- Transit funding under this version of the HEROES Act could be used for any activity eligible for Section 5307, 5309, 5310 or 5311 funding, but there would be a nonbinding statutory priority on helping affected transit providers make up for lost revenue, cover their payrolls, and address their operating costs.