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Federal COVID Funds To Aid GCRTA Expected To Be About Half Of CARES Act

RTA plans to use its COVID relief assistance to pay for expenses brought on by the pandemic. [Tim Harrison / ideastream]
An RTA bus stop as a bus approaches the Detroit-Superior Bridge in Downtown Cleveland.

The federal COVID relief package includes $14 billion for public transportation agencies around the country, and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is anticipating between $50 to $60 million to aid in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s less than half what the agency was awarded from the CARES Act in the spring. But the money will help the transit agency to recover from losses in fare and sales tax revenue, said Deputy General Manager of Engineering and Project Management Mike Schipper.

Ridership is still just half the normal rate, Schipper said, and the transit agency anticipates those numbers will stay low as work-from-home policies continue in the Cleveland area.

“Even though the vaccines are starting to roll out, we fully expect that it’s going to take most of 2021 for us to recover both on ridership and on fare revenue,” Schipper said.

Estimates of how much RTA expects to receive from Washington are based on early drafts of the stimulus package, he said, and may differ in the final version. Prior to the passage of the COVID relief bill, the transit agency joined others across the country in a call for more assistance from the federal government.

RTA will use the additional funding to help cover the cost of enhanced cleaning and other expenses brought on by the pandemic, Schipper said.

“Certainly, this is going to provide us the ability to really be strategic in how we move forward coming out of the pandemic,” Schipper said.

The CARES Act funding has provided RTA with increased financial stability for the next two years, he said, and the new stimulus will extend that security through 2023. RTA’s Board of Trustees approved a budget for 2021 earlier this month.