MTA to get most of $14 billion COVID-19 relief package for tristate transit agencies
A compromise reached by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will see the MTA get more than $10 billion out of a $14 billion COVID-19 relief package for transit agencies, officials said Tuesday.
The deal ends a dispute between the three states as to how to divvy up funding from the federal government’s second coronavirus bailout bill, passed in March.
New Jersey sought to use a federal funding formula that took into the account the population of each state’s urban region. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority argued that the money should be apportioned based on need, and that its agencies — including the Long Island Rail Road — had been hardest hit by the pandemic.
"We compromised," MTA acting chairman Janno Lieber said at a Manhattan news conference Wednesday morning. "That’s the way it works in the real world when you have strongly held views."
Under the agreement, $10.85 billion will go to New York — about $10.1 billion of which will go to the MTA. New Jersey will get $2.66 billion — about $1 billion less than it originally requested. And Connecticut will get $474 million.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer negotiated the deal with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Monday night, a Schumer spokesperson said.
In a statement, Schumer said the funds "demonstrate the vast need the pandemic created and the mass transit crisis that has faced both riders and workers."
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, in a statement, also credited "a series of productive conversations with my fellow governors."
"The New York City and tristate region can't fully recover from the pandemic without our transit agencies effectively and efficiently moving millions of people in and out of New York City each day," Hochul said.
The pandemic dealt the MTA a devastating blow, as ridership and other revenue sources plummeted, resulting in a projected $4.8 billion budget gap this year alone.
The MTA hopes to get further COVID-19 funding from a $2.2 billion competitive program.
Lieber said Tuesday that the authority also stands to get about $3.5 billion in federal funding from President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed Friday. He said the money will go to a "wide range of different projects," including those addressing accessibility at stations, making buses more environmentally friendly, and advancing the Second Avenue Subway megaproject. He said a separate $24 billion pool of funding for the Northeast rail corridor could benefit projects including the modernization of Penn Station.
Lieber also weighed in on Tuesday on several recent developments involving current and former LIRR employees accused of overtime and wage abuse. Last week, one former LIRR supervisor, John Nugent, was sentenced to 5 months in jail and another 5 months' home confinement after admitting to collecting more than $34,000 in bogus overtime.
Then on Monday, the office of the MTA Inspector General revealed that three LIRR foremen had been suspended for stealing thousands of dollars from the railroad by claiming they were working overtime, even when they were caught on surveillance spending time at home.
"It’s not just an outrage when people rip off the system, but it hurts everybody. It gives the honorable workers at the Long Island Rail Road … a bad reputation," Lieber said. "We’re not going to put up with it. And we’re going to continue to come down on it."