The stalemate over COVID-19 transit money ends, but it will cost NJ$1 billion – Community News
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The stalemate over COVID-19 transit money ends, but it will cost NJ$1 billion

After a 10-month stalemate, the three-state governors reached an agreement to distribute $14 billion in federal COVID-19 transit aid, but it will cost New Jersey $1 billion what the state would have received with a federal formula.

The New Jersey, New York and Connecticut deal was announced by governors Tuesday morning and will send $10.85 billion to New York, $2.66 billion to New Jersey and $474 million to Connecticut.

But it comes at the expense of New Jersey, with the state receiving about $1 billion less than the $3.6 billion it would have received with the same federal formula 47 other states used. That $3.6 billion figure is based on NJ Transit estimates made in October.

A joint statement by the three governors aimed to break the stalemate so that funding could flow quickly to the region, but it remained silent about which formula was used and which states gave up funding.

A spokesman for the governor had no immediate answers to questions about the agreement and how it might affect NJ Transit.

States have already missed a September deadline to submit grant applications for FTA revisions to keep the funds flowing. A retired Federal Transit Administration official said the transit agencies won’t see the money until December at the earliest.

“It is very sad that all involved transport agencies will have to wait until December or January 2022 to recover costs incurred going back to March 2021,” said a retired FTA Region 2 official and transit attorney.

“The lessons learned are that NY, NJ and Connecticut or NJ Transit and MTA need to learn to interact with each other,” he said.

The funding will offset revenue losses from declining passenger numbers after travel bans and homework assignments decimated the ranks of commuters during the early days of the pandemic.

While highway traffic has recovered from pandemic lows, transit systems across the country have seen a slower recovery as companies continue to let workers work from home, fueled by the Delta variant and other factors.

“The New York City region and the three states cannot fully recover from the pandemic without our transportation services effectively and efficiently transporting millions of people in and out of New York City every day,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “As a result of a series of productive discussions with my fellow governors, I am pleased that we have reached an agreement that will benefit everyone.”

The first federal aid, under the CARES Act, enabled NJ Transit and other agencies across the country to maintain regular service levels and redeploy buses and train services to transport essential workers who continued to drive to jobs. that could not be done remotely.

NJ Transit officials carefully raised federal CARES bill funding to cover those costs, extending the funds through fiscal year 2022, which began July 1. In October, NJ Transit officials said they had fully absorbed the CARES act funds.

“Nothing is more important to the economic recovery of our region than our mass transportation system. With this agreement, we are ensuring a reliable and safe commute as employees return to their offices,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “I thank President Biden, Chairman Pelosi, Senate Leader Schumer and the New Jersey Congressional Delegation for their leadership on this matter, and Governors Hochul and Lamont for working with New Jersey to strengthen our region’s transportation networks.”

The agreement ends a stalemate since December 2020 over the funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) and since March, when the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was passed.

Typically, those funds are allocated to urban regions based on population, but New York MTA officials argued that it had a greater loss than New Jersey or Connecticut and should receive a greater amount than the federal formula gave.

The agreement could affect the distribution of future federal funding from NY/Northeast NJ urbanized area, Penner said.

“Using this new formula sets a precedent.” he said. “Will the MTA agree to go back to using the traditional formula, or will they push for using this new formula?”

The settlement and funding “recognizes that the three-state area was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and provides the resources needed for the largest subway, commuter train and bus services in these states to avoid layoffs, furlough and severe cuts in service. This funding will help support their longer-term recovery and sustainability,” the statement said.

The joint release did not mention how New Jersey plans to cover the missing $1 billion.

Last week, on Nov. 1, Murphy said, “We’re going to make sure we get our fair share as we always do, whether it’s for our commuters or for the state budget and the resources that are rightfully ours.”

On August 12, Murphy sent a letter to US transportation company Pete Buttigieg to help resolve a stalemate with New York. New Jersey and Connecticut officials agreed to allocate funding using Federal Transit Administration formulas.

New Jersey and Connecticut had agreed to split the funding according to the federal formula. The FTA cannot instruct states to agree on a specific formula.

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Larry Higgs can be reached at: [email protected].

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