NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s subways and commuter rails are getting a big chunk of federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Wednesday the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has received $6.2 billion, part of more than $14.5 billion in overall federal relief aid.
Schumer said he pushed to have the funds disbursed in a lump sum rather than given out gradually in much smaller amounts, as is customary.
“We are grateful to Senate Majority Leader Schumer, the New York delegation and Governor Hochul for their consistent support of mass transit,” MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said in a statement Wednesday.
Lieber joined the PIX11 Morning News on Thursday to speak more about the grant and how the money will help the MTA improve service.
“It’s offsetting the incredible economic hit the MTA took…At the low point of COVID, when we had 10 percent of ridership, when no one was riding, we kept running robust service. We kept running pretty much close-to-full service right through the pandemic,” Lieber told PIX11.
The MTA chief said that the funds won’t just help maintain transit service, but will help the agency fix and improve the mass transit system.
“In the near term it has allowed us to maintain a balanced budget and to avoid near-term fare hikes,” Lieber assured.
The MTA has projected it will have a $1.4 billion budget deficit by 2025, the residual effect of losing more than 90 percent of ridership on subways, trains and buses at the pandemic’s height.
According to Lieber, transit ridership is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels due to the ongoing pandemic and then the omicron surge.
Lieber said ridership was actually back up to 60 percent of pre-COVID levels in early December, but has since dropped back down to around 40 percent after cases spiked again with the new variant.
“What I’ve said to our colleagues in the legislature and other parts of government is, we need a long term plan,” Lieber said. “The ridership should not have to bear the cost of the budget gap opened up by COVID.”