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ATU applauds Congressional passage of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $25 billion for critical emergency transit funding

Strong first step, but more support needed for transit systems

Silver Spring, MD – For providing a lifeline to public transit workers and riders, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) praised Congress’s passage of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, with $25 billion in emergency relief for public transit systems. That is funding that should be used to keep transit workers safe on the job and keep service on the streets for people who rely on transit for essential services.

“Since the coronavirus pandemic began, transit workers have put themselves in harm's way in service to their communities, often with little or no protection from COVID-19,” said ATU International President John Costa. “With this money, agencies should immediately purchase and deliver the critical safety protections our members need to continue to provide strategic transit service for our communities, and they should use it to prevent layoffs at transit agencies that have had to reduce service.”

As in hospitals, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies have been in short supply throughout the nation’s transit systems.

“Our first member died in Washington State, and two TWU brothers passed away in New York City from COVID-19,” Costa continued. “Each time a passenger coughs just a few feet behind them, our bus operators’ hands grip the wheel a bit tighter, and their whole body trembles, knowing that the virus may be on board, too.”

With ridership at a fraction of normal levels and sales tax revenue generated by local businesses gone, transit agencies are already laying off ATU members in waves.

“These layoffs should stop immediately! There’s no reason why any transit worker should lose their job and be added to the three million Americans who hit the unemployment line this week. So long as there are people to be moved, vehicles to be repaired, masks to be sewn, surfaces to be sanitized, there is work for transit employees to do,” Costa continued. “The bill requires the Federal Transit Administration to distribute the funds within seven days. The agencies need to hold steady until April 3. Relief is on the way.”        

The bill also provides important relief for American families, including expanding and reforming the unemployment insurance (UI) program, which is critical for laid off workers in every industry. The extended UI program in this legislation increases the maximum unemployment benefit by $600 per week and ensures that laid-off workers, on average, will receive their full pay for four months, instead of three.

The bill also provides American households with direct payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per qualifying child, with the amount reduced for households with income above $75,000 or $150,000 if filing jointly, as well other tax benefits.

“We are extremely grateful to Senate Democrats -- Leader Schumer and especially Senators Menendez, Brown, Van Hollen, Casey, and Durbin -- who helped push these provisions forward for transit workers. We also recognize Representatives Garcia and Moore, who wrote a key letter in support of transit that was signed by dozens of House Members. And the funding would not have been included without the strong support of Chairman DeFazio, Chairwoman Norton, Chairman Price, Chairwoman Lowey, Rep. Sires and Speaker Pelosi,” Costa said.  “This bill will provide much needed help for better protections for our members, service for transit agencies, and financial assistance for our families, but this is just a start. There is much more work to be done.”