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COVID federal relief package could help Metro's budget crisis

More than $800 million of federal relief will go toward the DMV to help keep public transportation afloat.

WASHINGTON — More than $800 million of federal relief will go toward the DMV to help keep public transportation such as the Washington Metro Transit Authority (WMATA) afloat, according to U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D- VA). 

In a tweet Monday afternoon, Warner said the money will ensure services that have been essential for federal government and frontline workers will survive. The money is part of the $900 billion federal stimulus package approved by House and Senate leaders late Sunday night. 

RELATED: Congress seals agreement on COVID relief, government funding

If the new bill passes, it would be the second pandemic relief package after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES)  Act, which provided $877 million to WMATA in May.

The additional funding comes at a time when Metro is experiencing a historic budget crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent meeting, WMATA officials announced a $500 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year. 

RELATED: Metro considers closing 19 stations, slashing weekend service due to 'historic operating budget crisis'

Metro said it is considering a variety of major changes including shutting down 19 stations that were originally closed in March, eliminating weekend train service completely, weekday service every 30 minutes and service stopping at 9 p.m. Monday- Friday. 

Part of the cuts could cost $60 million, which would include salary freezes and layoffs. The agency reported it may lose 2,400 jobs as a result. The changes will be considered in March and could take effect in July if it passes.

The latest pandemic relief, if approved, could prevent these massive changes to Metro and help relieve the current $177 million deficit this budget year. Prior to Warner’s tweet, WMATA spokesperson Ian Jannetta said the agency would provide more information once it sees the final language of the bill. Once enacted, the Federal Transit Administration has 30 days to allocate the funding and provide further guidance, similar to what happened during the CARES Act.

Officials are also keeping an eye on the future of the Omnibus Appropriations Act in the House and Senate this week, which includes $150 million in Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act money to support WMATA’s capital program.

The pandemic relief bill proposed $14 billion in funding for public transit. The amount is a fraction of the $32 billion transportation leaders say is required to keep the whole industry from derailing. Congress provided $25 billion for transit agencies when the CARES Act was passed.

RELATED: The second stimulus check: When to expect it, how much you will get

RELATED: What is in the new $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill?

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