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The incoming administration is calling on Congress to approve emergency aid for transportation programs as part of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.
President-elect Joe Biden’s economic assistance measure aims to remedy funding woes across commercial and passenger corridors, as well as reinforce supply chains in states and municipalities.
Congress, which will be led in both chambers by Democrats, has yet to outline a schedule to consider Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The congressional schedule, thus far, includes consideration of Biden’s Cabinet nominees, legislation linked to budgetary policy and outgoing President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.
Specifically, Biden’s plan proposes $20 billion in relief for transit agencies to assist with upgrades and connectivity improvements. The country’s public transit systems are “critical for a robust and equitable economy recovery,” the plan noted.
“This relief will keep agencies from laying off transit workers and cutting the routes that essential workers rely on every day while making these transit systems more resilient and ensuring that communities of color maintain the access to opportunity that public transportation provides,” per the plan.
Additionally, the plan would dedicate $130 billion for school reopenings. That proposal would help fund efforts to increase transportation capacity for bus access. Also, $1,400 in direct payment assistance would be provided for hard-hit households.
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There would be $350 billion for state and local governments to ensure public workers remain employed; $160 billion for a nationwide vaccination program; $30 billion in rental assistance; and $25 billion for child care, food assistance and emergency paid leave.
A subsequent relief package will be structured to focus primarily on climate change provisions, administration officials have indicated.
“It’s time to stop talking about infrastructure and finally start building it. Millions of good-paying jobs that put Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges and ports to make them more climate resilient, to make it faster, cheaper and cleaner to transport American-made goods across our country and around the world,” Biden said Jan. 14.
He continued, “Imagine millions of jobs in our caregiving economy to ease the financial burden of caring for young children and aging loved ones. Let’s make sure our caregivers, mostly women, women of color and immigrants, have the pay and dignity they deserve.”
On Capitol Hill, Democrats, who manage affairs in the House of Representatives and also are poised to take control of the Senate, welcomed the economic relief proposal.
“Our country is still suffering some of the highest rates in the entire world of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. These proposals by the Biden-Harris administration will be critical to getting our country through this challenging period and toward a period of recovery. We echo the president-elect’s call for bipartisan action on his proposal and hope that our Republican colleagues will work with us to quickly enact it,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“I am relieved that we will finally have a partner in the White House who takes this unprecedented health and economic crisis seriously. There are pressing needs that have been unaddressed for far too long as hundreds of thousands died, tens of millions were infected, and millions lost their jobs,” added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chamber’s next funding leader.
Among the groups praising the economic aid package was the American Public Transportation Association. Its president and CEO Paul Skoutelas observed, “The proposed emergency transit funding included in the American Rescue Plan is vital to the industry’s survival and will help prevent massive labor cuts and drastic service reductions.”
He added, “Public transportation has served an essential role during this pandemic and is an indispensable part of the social and economic recovery of our communities and our country.”
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