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President Donald Trump on Dec. 27 signed a COVID-19 relief package that allots $10 billion for highway infrastructure programs.
According to the text of the legislation, states, territories and tribes may use funds available through the measure for costs associated with maintenance, operations, personnel and “coverage for other revenue losses.” The funding is to remain available until Sept. 30, 2024.
Funds made available for purposes such as maintenance, operations and personnel are not required to be included in a statewide transportation improvement program or a metropolitan transportation plan.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials commended the relief legislation. State departments of transportation urgently need financial relief, as the pandemic has resulted in steep revenue losses. Many states instituted stay-at-home orders in hopes of diminishing the impact of the pandemic, triggering a sharp drop in overall traffic levels and associated fuel tax revenue.
“This COVID relief bill enables state DOTs to stay on track and support the efficient movement of critical goods and services as they maintain their transportation systems,” AASHTO Executive Director Jim Tymon said. “Furthermore, this timely federal support will help state DOTs to retain their institutional capacities and to be prepared to deliver future infrastructure investment driving economic recovery and growth.”
Congress approved the appropriations package, including a bill offering $900 billion in COVID-19 relief, on Dec. 21 after months of negotiations. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislative package by a 359-53 vote, while the Senate approved it 92-6. Besides the relief bill, the legislative package includes annual government funding for fiscal 2021 and other miscellaneous provisions.
Trump signed the 5,593-page piece of legislation after days of delay. In a statement released Dec. 27, Trump indicated he wanted “far less wasteful spending” and more money directed to Americans. Trump also noted he plans to send a version of the bill outlining the items he would like to remove from the legislation back to Congress.
“I will sign the omnibus and COVID package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” Trump said. “I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for [the Paycheck Protection Program], return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution and much more.”
In support of small businesses, the COVID-19 relief bill includes $284 billion for first and second PPP loans, expanded PPP eligibility for local newspapers, television and radio broadcasters and $15 billion for movie theaters and live venues.
The package also includes authorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which supports water-related infrastructure such as ports, harbors and inland waterways.
Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), who serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the legislation includes provisions to improve dam safety and ensure proper dredging activities.
“Safe and secure water infrastructure is crucial to ensuring that our country and our economy keep moving forward,” Brownley said.
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