Federal funding program will offset lost revenue, costs associated with COVID-19 response

Decisive action from the federal government has made available critical funding to support transit services for communities nationwide, including up to $93 million allocated to the San Antonio area.

Funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, will help ensure that VIA Metropolitan Transit can continue essential service during the current public health crisis, including running bus and paratransit service, additional cleaning and disinfecting of vehicles and facilities, purchasing of personal protection equipment (PPE) for front-line employees, and other crucial activities.

Congress provided $25 billion for transit across the country in the Act. This includes up to $93.3 million available for the San Antonio region. These funds can be used to help offset added expenses, such as wages to sustain staff, supplies and equipment as well as recover lost revenue from plunging sales tax collections and VIA’s fare-relief program.

VIA stopped collecting fares on March 21. It extended the program through April 30, to eliminate the need for passengers to touch the fare box, interact with the operator, or crowd the door when boarding. The move helps promote social distancing and further protects customers and employees.

“We’re thankful to our congressional delegation and the federal administration for prioritizing funding in the CARES Act that supports the essential services public transit provides, especially during this crisis,” VIA President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt said. “In San Antonio, this funding will help ensure that VIA can meet the essential mobility needs of our community and be poised to play an important role as our city and economy go into recovery.”

The funding apportionments are not a one-time boon for transit agencies. Instead, they will be allowed to draw up to the amount allocated per region for costs associated with COVID-19 response and recovery. The money can’t be used to expand or enhance service, rather is meant to maintain existing service and staffing levels that are threatened by severe revenue losses.

Public transit is a critical lifeline for millions of Americans. This legislation will provide much-needed support to the transit systems working tirelessly to provide essential services for health care workers, first responders, and grocery and pharmacy workers, as well as medical transportation for kidney dialysis, cancer treatments and other critical care. That includes the over 36 million passenger trips—up to 122,000 a day–VIA delivered in 2019.

Ridership has been dropping at VIA and across the country as more people follow local and national orders to stay home and only make necessary trips using public transit. On Monday, April 6, VIA will begin implementing temporary schedule changes in response to reduced demand for bus service. The VIAtrans paratransit service and VIA Link on-demand service will not be affected.

For more information about these changes and VIA’s COVID-19 response, visit VIAinfo.net/covid-19.