Update: COVID 2.0 Relief & FY21 Appropriations Legislation

12.20.20 Legislative Update

Today (December 22, 2020), President Trump is expected to sign a sweeping series of bills passed by Congress last night to deliver more than $900 billion in COVID relief across a number of sectors, along with the full set of Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bills. Included among the legislation is $14 billion in additional emergency assistance for transit systems and the Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations for all federal funding transit programs for the coming year.

(The full bill is available here; T-HUD appropriations begin on page 1602 and transit COVID relief begins on page 1914)

There’s plenty of details still to comb through and the overall level of COVID relief falls far shy of the industry’s urgent needs, including several states in our region that will receive no additional emergency funding. SWTA does not consider this result sufficient and will continue pressing for continued COVID relief with the incoming Congress and Biden Administration in early 2021.

However, I wanted to call your attention to a few of the highlights:

  • The COVID emergency assistance will be distributed as follows: $13.3 billion through 5307 (urban); $50 million through 5310 (specialized); and $679.6 million through 5311 (rural). Note that the urban & rural program funding includes a excessively limiting percentage cap of 2018 NTD operating + any money already received from the CARES program, meaning that if a metropolitan region (urban) or state (rural) is over that 75% threshold, they are not able to receive any additional investment under this new legislation.
  • In the THUD appropriations bill, bus funding programs saw significant increases from their FAST Act-authorized levels. According to The Bus Coalition, Congress added a combined $408 million to the section 5339 and 5311 programs, over and above the authorized levels. This is an ongoing legislative priority for SWTA – great news for bus operators everywhere – and continues the trend of annual growth in bus funding through the appropriations process.
  • Included in the Ways & Means provisions as part of this legislative activity is a 1-year extension of the the alternative fuels tax credit, another key priority for systems across the SWTA Nation. It’s inclusion here is the direct result of SWTA members’ engagement with their state congressional delegations—great work!
  • Now codified among the Medicaid statutes is a provision that preserves the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) benefit as part of the Medicaid program, along with a stipulation that public transportation providers must be included in the process. A broad coalition – led by the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), which included SWTA – stressed the importance of legislatively codifying the benefit in recent years. We’ll have more details on this provision in the new year.

We’ll hosting a federal legislative & advocacy strategy session open to all SWTA members in mid-February, 2021 as part of our Virtual Annual Conference that will offer opportunities for your input in shaping our 2021-2022 Legislative Agenda and objectives for reauthorization of the FAST Act. You’ll also craft our approach in engaging members of Congress and the Biden Administration to ensure our legislative and policy priorities are realized.

Please feel free to connect with SWTA Executive Director Rich Sampson directly at rsampson@swta.org or 225.270.0855 with any questions or concerns about this significant legislation, as well as our advocacy efforts in 2021. In the meantime, best wishes for a joyous and safe holiday season for you, your families and colleagues!


Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas

Related Links

SWTA Legislative Agenda 2020-2021
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