US Government Issues $1.69 Billion in COVID-19 Relief Funding to Amtrak

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has announced 1.69 billion USD in relief funding for Amtrak as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Transportation Secretary announced on 27 April that the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration would make more than 1.69 billion USD available to Amtrak as a relief payment to compensate for impacts suffered from the coronavirus pandemic. This funding will be provided under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Pete Buttigieg said:

“Help is here. The President’s American Rescue Plan is already delivering for workers and the traveling public. This new assistance for Amtrak will get employees back to work and restore service on routes across the country, at a time when this help is urgently needed.”

In 2019 Amtrak had its best year, then faced an unprecedented drop in passenger numbers in 2020. Consequently, the operator furloughed employees and cut the number of services it was running. The funding will mainly be used to offset the loss of ticket revenue, which Amtrak needs to operate its trains and maintain its infrastructure. Amtrak has already started bringing furloughed workers back. Long-distance services will resume in late May.

Of the 1.69 billion USD, 969,388,160 USD are earmarked for the Northeast Corridor, and 728,611,840 for the national network.

Amit Bose, FRA Acting Administrator, said:

“The timing of this funding is essential to helping ensure that Amtrak is able to quickly return to service supporting the Nation’s transportation needs and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For our part, we are committed to transparency and are requiring enhanced reporting from Amtrak to show how funding from the American Rescue Plan is being efficiently and effectively used to respond to present challenges.”

The grant agreement between Amtrak and the FRA requires the railway operator to report the number of furloughed employees recalled to service and provide a schedule for its expected recall of all furloughed workers.

At least 109.8 million USD of the funding package will go towards helping states and commuter railroads cover their share of capital costs associated with using the Northeast Corridor.

174 million USD must go towards offsetting amounts that states are required to pay for covered state-supported routes along the national network. Therefore, this funding will help states by covering their share of costs to have Amtrak run state-supported services.

Up to 100.8 million USD will go towards debt relief, which Amtrak incurred before 11 March 2021.

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