A coalition of labor unions representing employees and customers of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the biggest transportation network in North America, issued a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer calling for additional federal funding for the MTA in the next COVID-19 relief bill. The MTA has exhausted the $3.9 billion it received from the CARES Act and needs an additional $3.9 billion to get through 2020. The letter comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a COVID-19 relief bill last week that contained no funding for mass transit.
The full text of the letter follows.
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer,
Thank you for your leadership in helping New York weather the ongoing crisis we face, particularly in passing the CARES Act. Now, with cases of COVID-19 progressively declining, we are focused on the future of our city and region. True to the New York spirit, we are fighters. We will not give up until we get what we need to succeed, and at this historic moment that is a strong and robust mass transit system. The next few days are critical—we need your support now to ensure that millions of New Yorkers have access to public transportation well into the future. Alarmingly, the current Senate bill has no transit funding, despite the fact that our buses, subways, and commuter rails are the backbone of this city. Public transit is critical for getting people back to work, school and home again, and it will be the driving force of our economic recovery.
To protect the MTA now in its hour of need is to prioritize the needs of New Yorkers hit hardest by the pandemic—the thousands of workers who tragically lost their jobs and the thousands more who kept working because they could not afford to shelter-in-place.
It is no surprise to us that it often falls on our union brothers and sisters to keep the city going in times of crisis, whether it is caring for the sick, keeping grocery stores stocked and open, or operating trains and buses. That is why we have banded together in solidarity—we know that our recovery is intertwined. But we can only move forward, literally and figuratively, by preserving public transportation. Because without a functioning MTA, there is no recovery.
The agency’s budget has been strained to the bone by running essential service while dealing with unprecedented declines in ridership, farebox revenue, and supporting taxes and subsidies. With the emergency aid directed to the MTA under the CARES Act set to run out this month, another injection of federal funding is the only solution. The well is dry. We need the U.S. Senate to act now and include an additional $3.9 billion for the MTA in the upcoming HEROES Act.
Time is of the essence. New Yorkers’ safety and commuting ability hinges on this support. If the Republican version of the Senate bill, which unconscionably has no funding for public transit, is enacted, New York will be devastated. Other options to cut costs would be disastrous for New York City. Service reductions, fare hikes and layoffs to cover continued operations through 2020 and 2021 are a non-starter. These actions would only shift the burden of this financial calamity to riders and workers, who disproportionately come from communities hardest hit by both the virus and the economic crisis.
We know you have been champions of public transportation throughout this public health emergency, and we greatly appreciate your efforts thus far. We urge you to continue to stand strong and we are with you every step of the way.