The State of New Jersey was awarded $1.7 billion by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to shore up its mass transit system from the economic upheaval caused of the coronavirus pandemic, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ4) announced on Friday.
“This emergency funding can be used to help NJ Transit get through the ongoing coronavirus turmoil and help pay for the most basic costs to operate, maintain and run our public transportation system,” said Smith, whose district includes the Hamilton Transit Station and the NJ Transit North Jersey Coast Line that runs from Bayhead, Ocean County through Monmouth County northward, and other rail lines and facilities used by commuters. “That includes such expenses such as driver salaries, fuel, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. Mass transit is an integral and crucial component of our state economy, and will be an important part of the recovery for working families, travelers and general business activity. We will get through the current crisis and when we do, public transportation will be at the forefront.”
The funding is part of the $2 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security)Act signed into law by President Trump on March 27. The $1,758,430,844 award to New Jersey requires no State matching funds.
Smith signed multiple letters urging congressional leadership to include assistance in the CARES Act for public transit systems and their workers, including a bipartisan letter led by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) that focused on the needs of NJ Transit; a letter on March 22, 2020 supporting funding for Amtrak, and; a third letter supporting the mass transit workforce.
The CARES Act is Phase III of the federal response. Smith supported Phase I, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020—which provided $8.3 billion for treatment and prevention measures, as well as Phase II, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—which provided paid sick leave, family medical leave, free testing, and expanded unemployment benefits among other provisions to help working Americans. The CARES Act is also providing direct financial assistance of $1,200 for individuals making under $75,000 per year, $150 billion to assist state and local governments, and $600 extra per week and an extension of unemployment benefits for four months.