Yesterday, U.S. House Committee on Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey introduced H.R. 6800, the HEROES Act, a fourth package of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response emergency funding. The bill includes $15.75 billion of emergency funding for public transportation. The House is scheduled to consider the bill on Friday, May 15. APTA is aggressively working to ensure that Congress and the Administration provide additional emergency funding to public transit agencies to help offset the additional costs and lost revenue related to COVID-19. Please click here to view APTA’s May 7, 2020 letter to Congressional Leaders.
The bill provides $11.75 billion of formula grants to 14 very large urbanized areas (urbanized areas with populations over 3 million). Eighty-five percent of these funds are distributed by the State-of-Good-Repair formula (49 U.S.C. § 5337) and 15 percent of the funds are distributed by the Urbanized Area formula (49 U.S.C. § 5307). The 14 urbanized areas are: Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA-NH-RI; Chicago, IL-IN; Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX; Detroit, MI; Houston, TX; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA; Miami, FL; New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT; Philadelphia, PA-NJ-DE-MD; Phoenix-Mesa, AZ; San Francisco-Oakland, CA; Seattle, WA; and Washington, DC-VA-MD.
The bill also provides $4 billion for Emergency Relief grants to transit agencies that require significant additional assistance to maintain basic transit services. These funds would be distributed through an application process and requires the Secretary of Transportation to make awards within 120 days of the date of enactment. The bill requires applicants for Emergency Relief grants to provide estimates of financial need, data on reduced ridership, and a spending plan for the funds. The bill directs the Secretary to give priority to public transit agencies with the largest revenue loss as a percentage of their operating expenses. Not more than $750 million of the Emergency Relief funding is available for intercity bus providers for workforce retention and employee costs associated with providing these intercity bus services.
Like the CARES Act, the funds are available for both operating expenses and capital expenses. These operating expenses are not required to be part of state-wide or metropolitan transportation improvement programs or state-wide or long-range transportation plans. The federal share for grants made available under the bill is 100 percent. The bill does not allow the Secretary to waive prevailing wage or labor standards (49 U.S.C. § 5333).
However, the bill also includes a new limitation on both these funds and CARES Act transit funding. It directs that, to the maximum extent possible, these transit funds and CARES Act transit funds shall be used for payroll and public transit service, unless the recipient certifies to the Secretary that it has not furloughed any employees.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Section 200009 of the bill requires the 51 largest transit agencies (i.e., agencies that serve an urbanized area with a population of 500,000 or more and provide a minimum of 20 million unlinked trips) to require passengers to wear face masks or coverings while on board public transportation vehicles; provide masks or face coverings, gloves, hand sanitizer, and wipes to employees who interact with passengers; ensure vehicles and facilities are cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized frequently in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines; and establish guidelines for notifying employees of a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis of an agency employee. If public transportation agencies are not able to acquire the appropriate PPE and cleaning supplies, they must publicly document their actions to obtain the supplies and continue efforts to acquire the supplies. These requirements remain in effect for the duration of the National Emergency declared by the President. Please click here to view the 51 affected agencies.
Hazard Pay Heroes Fund
Division Q of the bill creates a $180 billion Heroes Fund to provide a hazard pay supplement for essential workers. Employers that apply for and receive grants would pay essential workers $13 per hour of premium pay, in addition to regular wages (up to a limit of $10,000). The definition of essential work includes work with potential exposure to COVID-19 because of regular in-person interactions with the public. Many different sectors are included in the definition of “essential work”, including “any services in public transportation” and “any private transportation of people.”
Payroll Tax Credit for Paid Leave
Sec. 20225 of the bill amends the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to allow state and local government entities (including public transit agencies) to be eligible for a payroll tax credit for the newly required COVID-19 emergency paid sick and family leave. Under the FFCRA, certain public and private employers are required to provide their employees with emergency paid sick and family leave, but the Act only allows private employers to receive the payroll tax credit. This provision is identical to H.R. 6643, the “Supporting State and Local Leaders Act”, which APTA endorsed.
Small Business Grants and Loans
The bill provides $10 billion for emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Program. The bill also modifies the Paycheck Protection Program that was established in the CARES Act. It extends the covered periods for borrowers from June 30 to December 31, 2020; requires 25 percent of funds to be used for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees; eliminates the requirement that 75 percent of funds be used on payroll; and expands the safe harbor for borrowers who cannot rehire employees in the prescribed timeframe. Please click here to view a Fact Sheet prepared by the House Committee on Small Business.
Please click here to view a summary of the bill prepared by the House Committee on Appropriations. Please click here to view the bill.
CALL TO ACTION
We urge you to contact your Members of Congress today to applaud House efforts to include $15.75 billion of public transit funding in H.R. 6800, the HEROES Act, and urge them to include additional COVID-19 emergency transit funding (as outlined in the APTA proposal) in the final legislation.
To contact your Members of Congress, please call 202.224.3121.