Media Center

Dec 21

ATU welcomes transit funding in COVID Relief Bill, but GOP pulled off a “Highway Robbery”

Transit Union blames Senate Republicans for shortchanging transportation workers,
urges Georgia voters to change Senate leadership

Silver Spring, MD – Struggling transit systems across the country will receive much-needed relief in the end-of-year $900 billion COVID package passed by Congress, says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the largest union representing transit workers in North America. Although, the last-minute cuts to critical transit, motorcoach, and school bus funding were “short-sighted and harmful.”

The final bill included $14 billion for public transit and only $2 billion for the motorcoach and school bus industries.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our members have been heroes on the frontlines providing critical transportation to keep their communities moving. We have lost 101 brothers and sisters to this deadly virus,” said ATU International President John Costa. “This new aid is welcome and will be critical to stave off layoffs and restore service for riders. However, let’s call it like it is. This was literally a highway robbery, and the suspects are the Senate Republicans.”

With CARES Act funding running out, struggling transit systems have been slashing service and thousands of transportation workers have been laid off. The coronavirus has also devastated the motorcoach and school bus industries, which received no funding in the CARES Act.

The bipartisan coronavirus stimulus plan announced earlier this month included $45 billion for transportation, including $15 billion to preserve public transit and $8 billion to save private bus companies -- both motorcoach and school bus. However, despite the annual $40 billion federal highway program, Senate Republicans insisted on cutting $1 billion from transit and a whopping $6 billion from private bus funding in order to provide $10 billion for state DOTs. 

Senator David Perdue, the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, which authorizes the federal transit program, joined Senate Republicans in slashing transit and bus funding.

“Where was Senator Perdue? He is supposed to be looking out for MARTA riders in Atlanta and CAT riders in Savannah,” Costa said. “Instead, he and Senator Loeffler went along with the Senate Republicans. They said no to state and local funding but agreed to back-door highway funds. It’s about as hypocritical as it gets. Georgia voters who care about public transportation should remember who their friends are in the upcoming Special Election.”

In an aggressive Get Out the Vote effort in Georgia, the ATU rolled out an ATU Ossoff-Warnock Express Bus in Georgia for the critical Senate runoff races on January 5. ATU Georgia bus drivers, train operators and other transit workers have also been flooding transit centers to encourage riders to vote in this critical election.

“We look forward to working with President Biden and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to move quickly to take immediate action and get a better COVID relief bill done in early 2021,” said Costa.