The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will allot Amtrak more than USD 1.69 billion to provide COVID-19 relief funding helping the company’s business operations, workforce, and state funding partners. The funding is provided under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“The President’s American Rescue Plan is already delivering for workers and the traveling public. This new assistance for Amtrak will get employees back to work and restore service on routes across the country, at a time when this help is urgently needed”, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said.
After experiencing its best year in 2019, Amtrak has faced an unprecedented decline in ridership since the start of the pandemic, which led the company to furlough employees and reduce service levels in response to revenue shortfalls.
Funding from the American Rescue Plan will be used primarily to offset the loss of ticket revenue that Amtrak uses to operate its trains and maintain its infrastructure. Amtrak has begun recalling furloughed employees and plans to restore long-distance service starting in late May.
FRA has obligated USD 970 million for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and USD 728.6 million for the national network of state-supported and long-distance intercity passenger routes as mandated by Congress to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.
“The timing of this funding is essential to helping ensure that Amtrak is able to quickly return to service supporting the nation’s transport needs and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FRA Acting Administrator Amit Bose.
In the grant agreement with Amtrak, FRA requires the rail company to report on the number of furloughed employees recalled to service and provide a schedule for the expected recall of all furloughed employees.
As part of the relief funding package, at least USD 109.8 million will be used to help states and commuter railways cover their share of capital costs associated with using the NEC.
In addition, USD 174 million must be used to offset amounts that states are required to pay for covered state-supported routes along the National Network.
The American Rescue Plan provides up to USD 100.8 million for debt relief that Amtrak incurred before March 11, 2021. Under the American Jobs Plan recently announced by the President Joe Biden, proposed a USD 80 billion investment to address Amtrak’s repair backlog, the NEC modernisation and electrification works.